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OneRouge Community Check-In: Week 202




It seems like only yesterday that the CAFÉ coalition was jolted into action by the possibility that there would not be a summer EBT program for Louisiana school kids. In truth, that was back in January. And since then a lot has happened.


First, we confirmed that there won’t be a summer EBT program, but there will be a feeding program. Second, EBRPSS, the City-Parish, and the coalition have come together in a community collaborative partnership to address the need.


Want to know more about it? Of course you do!


Learn with us and our featured speakers as we talk “Summertime and the living’s easy: connecting families to feeding programs”



  • Davante Lewis- Office of the Commissioner, District 3, talked to us about the Entergy vote at LPSC happening Friday, 4/19/24

  • UPDATE: Public Service Commission Live Stream - April 2024 https://www.youtube.com/live/n9OVuA5TG2c?si=o3fv6ihaeVyN3wba

  • Vote at 3:38 with amendments PASSED Entergy got the $1.9M Foster Campbell no Chair Mike Francis yes Craig Green yes Davante Lewis no Eric Skrmetta yes


 

Notes

Pepper Roussel:  Happy Friday. Thank you all for being here on this one Rouge Friday. We are always happy to see your faces and to have you spending part of your Friday mornings with us. I often get the. The side I from folks when they ask what time does the call start and I say 8:30  and I've got to remind folks that, and I gotta remind folks that when we started, whoops, nobody had anything to do on Friday mornings at 8:30. So 8:30 was not a hardship. 8:30 now is start of the work day, but that's alright, because we are starting it together. And speaking of being together, better together I see that Nichola Hall just entered the room. Hope Hickerson is on the phone. Also in the space juggling and multitasking, but what we are going to do is to circle back to where we are, what's going on extending the conversation we just had ten seconds ago about what is the new fresh hell that we've got going on in Louisiana. Yay!  Summer feeding. Nichola, you're up.  


Nichola Hall: All right. Good morning, everyone. Oh, and happy Friday. Bye bye. And yes, trying to squeeze in  multiple things to make sure that we are accomplishing everything. So I'm going to remain off camera because I don't want to get anyone nauseous while I'm moving along. But I'm a rock star, so I can shoot through this within my 10 minutes or maybe five. Okay. So update for summer reading for EBR child nutrition. We are excited to share that we are moving along trotting along, I should say. So currently, as of maybe 2 days ago, we have about 90 sites 46 are school sites and 44 organizations and we're still accepting applications. Anyone. Or any organization feels like they would have. They will have enrichment programs. Please share out that we are still accepting applications. We did work on our press release. It's not ready to go out as yet, because this is a collaborative effort between the mayor's office and also One Rouge cafe, but it's not ready to go live as yet. We're still working on some kinks. There are some things that came up. We call them artificial barriers or challenges. And over the last few weeks, we learned of one of the most crucial things that would have disrupt the program, and that is lunch applications for sites and that we're working through that the solution, even though LDOE decided that any site that is earmarked to charge in kids for summer camp or summer program, we have to now as the sponsor EBR initiate some type of lunch application. So the solution is to, yes, we still want to feed kids, but we want to remain compliant. So for where I stand is to be able to identify someone to stand in place as a compliance officer to go out and just just manage a lunch application along the way. If we have any disruption, any type of red flags, we will shut it down because it's very hard to manage. But at the same time, we don't want to create additional barriers to not feed kids. Rural sites, they gave us four sites that we could only utilize. We're just going to utilize northeast. The other sites Advantage Charter. Brownsville, White Hill, White Hills are like 2. 5 miles away from Baker. So it's productive to do that. So all efforts in terms of rural sites will be focused around promotion for parents to pick up at Northeast Elementary. We're doing two days pickup meals and we call them brunch kits Monday for three days. And Thursday for 4 days, but that's going to be pretty interested in fun. We cannot do congregate and non congregate feeding at the same time. We got to separate them once again. Artificial barriers whenever the summer EBT thing wasn't working out and the state decided not to participate. Then here comes all these little different tricks.  To get things done, but we are moving along the way. With that being said, that's like what the overall process thus far. I want to share that we have identified 19 sites as of 2 days ago that potentially are will be collecting fees and we've been working with them, on the phone, showing up, Doing door knocking to help them with that process, because we do not want to discourage any organization to participate in our feeding program. All right. Pepper. That's me.  


Pepper: All right, so there were a couple of things that you. Wait, whose voice was that?  There were a couple of things that you mentioned and I want to expound upon those for those who are not living and breathing this every moment of every day. What do you mean when you say congregate versus non congregate feeding? I didn't realize that these were all happening at churches, so I just need a little bit of information.  


Nichola: Yeah, so congregate feeding kids have to literally stay in one location and consume the meals. They cannot take the meals away from the site, from the registered site. This is where the box meals come into.fruition as a solution. The unfortunate thing is out yonder. It's five miles away from here for folks to pick up box meals. But if we do have congregate feeding, we cannot have non congregate at the same time. In addition to that to help to streamline the process and to provide more access, we're doing meals on the go, which means that we're going to be setting up locations at libraries and Churches housing facilities, wherever there's a need for kids, we will be there with a picnic table or picnic tables because we do think that we're going to feed more kids this summer. And once again, it's just being out in the community and create more access, even though the barriers exist, we're creating more access for kids. So hopefully that helped to provide some context. 


Pepper: Yeah, it did actually. And when you  also mentioned that there's some summer camps that are paid help me understand what is the, what should a parent or even a child who's showing up to a summer camp that's paid that's put to end that summer camp is participating in the summer feeding program, which should be expected so far as a process is concerned. 


Nichola: So we're just literally will be working strictly with. I'm sorry, strictly with the site. So if the site is charging the parent for summer participation for summer program that USDA slash LDOE is informing us that we need to be able to charge, identify which students are free, reduced or full pay through a lunch. Application process, but we're not involved in the parents at this point right now is just identifying these sites and see if they need us to be involved in the process. Because once again, it's going to be 1 more layers of us going in there requesting parents during the registration process to fill out these large application, right? So for us, it's just trying to figure what's the path of least resistance where we're not creating additional resistance. Anxiety for folks. I want to make sure that we are in a supportive capacity versus more requests of compliance paperwork. 


Pepper: That's a, there's a question for you in the chat already about speaking of compliance. How do we streamline the process for the summer feeding sites in order to comply with the new regs? 


Nichola: I'm sorry, could you repeat that question?  


Pepper: How can we streamline the process for summer feeding sites to comply with the new regs?  


Nichola: Communication.  So this is where One Rouge Cafe and working collaboratively with the, with communities organization is to spread the word. We're doing the best we can with building out. Our FAQ, we do have an FAQ that we utilize internally to help to facilitate that conversation, but it's going to take a lot of marketing, branding having one central message. In addition to that, we have training for community sites to make sure that they are aware of these compliances and then. Another layer, the site monitors, these are supervisors, they're assigned to multiple locations and they have to go out and do site visits and report back any  issues, noncompliance issues for us to address it. So that's the best way from my experience in my past life, the best way to to address these is to make sure we're being upfront, transparent, proactive, and put measurements in places to be able to address when concerns come up and to provide solution right then and there. 


Pepper: Thank you. So speaking of communication, that is exactly why we are looking at the city to find out how it is that they are helping get the word out and share and what it is that they're actually sharing. Thanks to Kelly Rogers for agreeing to stunt double this morning in case Hope I can't actually come off mute, but we'll ask the question. Hope are you available. 


Hope Hickerson: I am. Come off camera, though, because I'm driving and I don't think anybody. 


Pepper: It's fine. It's fine. This is what we do on the Friday morning. We started off talking about how at eight, 8:30 in the morning, nobody had nothing to do in 2020, but now we are 2024 people do. So please share with us the communication portion of things. What. How and what should we expect around communication for these summer feeding sites from your perspective?  


Hope: So we are this, it actually is all happening. Our website redesign and mapping out all the summer feeding sites is all happening at the same time. So we'll be able to, there will be a place where families, parents, Anyone can go and find any sites through our mapping system on the website. They'll also be able to find other resources, anything, any other information we want to put out there, we can put on the website as well. Going through a complete redesign phase right now. It's going to be great. It'll be one stop where people can just click and find what they need. 


Pepper: Ooh, I like that.


Hope: On the Healthy BR website. 


Pepper: All right.  But that's just for the feeding sites or is that is it a different special kinds of feeding sites? I'm slow sometimes, and it's early man, so you gotta help me out. 


Hope: No, I get, no.  Nichola graciously provided us a list of school feeding sites, non feeding sites, sites that have to be paid, that have to pay, that don't have to pay. It's a very comprehensive list. I've also been in contact with the Department of Education to get a list of charter schools. That will be added to the list, so they are compiling,  they're compiling that list now. I, they did tell me, they were like, we don't really have a list for you yet, we're working on it. But we don't have it ready for you yet. And I was like that's fine. Just get it to us when you can. We'll add you to the list.


Pepper: So sweet. We've got a little bit of chatter in the chat about congregate versus non congregate dine ins versus to go orders. The non congregate meals are the big box pick up, bunch box pick up, bunch. That's, that doesn't even flow, Nichola Hall. Lunchbox pick up and they can't offer the same model at both sites. Is there any sort of distinction on this map? And is this map interactive? Where it is that you can find your to go order versus where it is that you're dining in? Can you make a reservation? Help me? Yeah, what do we do? 


Nichola: Yes, but going back to that compliance question and building out that awareness,  we do have a flyer that will be shared out once we receive our approval from the state that our application. So we have this monstrous application that we have to submit. Once we get that approved by the state, we'll supply this or share out this flyer with a QR code where parents could scan. And reserve their box meals. So we're help to reduce food waste and to enforce our efforts around making sure that we maximize our feed in as much as possible. So that information is forthcoming.  


Pepper: That is phenomenal. So I hope while we still have you and I think Nichola, you got to bounce. You've got another thing about five. Yeah. I want to make sure that I do hit a couple of high notes around the summer feeding. The development of the website. I'm going to go to the website that is coming through the city and so the city to help me understand that the role more completely that the city is playing versus EBR PSS and cafe generally while we are discussing the the feeding program and go. 


Hope: Well, from our standpoint, we are providing the mapping, I'm like the place where everybody can go to find where these sites are. We will also help with any marketing, any education, any other information that needs to go out. We can also provide on our website as well. So that communication piece as far as finding out where to go that we are helping to take care of that. And we help EBR and the mayor's office saying we like, exactly who I am.


Pepper: Yeah. And just asking stupid questions. Where does that information come from? Are you mining it yourself? Are people telling it to you? Or are they giving it to Nichola and she's passing it off? How does this work?  


Hope: I'm not sure how Nichola is receiving it. I know they have their process. Nichola, I'm getting it from Nichola. Also, the charter schools, I'll get it from either Department of Education if they can get it to me.  Depending on when they can get it to me, or maybe I might have to circle back to Niccolo and myself as well on that too. I don't know.  


Nichola: So the information is gathered that we provide to hope for the mapping process it. We compile this information or pull this information from the application. We had a questionnaire that was sent out. I send this out a few times and I know Ron. One was cafe coalition shared this out on several different platforms. So we gather the information that Hope needs for the mapping. It's coming from an application that we need EBR child nutrition needs so we can compile all the necessary information from this big monstrous spreadsheet. to submit to the state as a sponsor. So it's not multiple organizations submitting applications to the state. It's just we are the one EBR Child Nutrition completing one application and we are collaborating with all these different organizations. So the information we're receiving or have received came from an application process that we built out ourselves from Child Nutrition. Hope that provides clarity.


Pepper: It does indeed. Thank you, ladies. Both. We are going to circle back to this conversation. And just a little bit, we're going to give hope a little bit of time to land wherever it is that she's going to be working from this morning. Nichola a minute to go and do her discussion presentation, her chitter chatter without the pips of which I am 1, and I'm feeling some kind of way about not being invited to whatever this spot is that you do it today. But that's all right. We will get the band back together another time and using this as an opportunity to remind everybody that the way we got here was simply that our Governor Landry decided that he would not opt in or allow, or he would not opt Louisiana in to summer EBT feeding programs through that actually was coming with the USDA money. The call to action that happened was really to ensure that we did have some sort of a way and a path for coalition members our constituents to be able to ensure that they're they themselves, but also their kids will be fed, but there have been a number of other things that have popped up over the past couple of months that we've been in legislative session feels like years. But it's only been a little while and one of the things is there is an interchief proposed 2 billion rate hike that we have asked Davante Lewis to come and share information about because I am not entirely sure what this means to me although it looks scary. Davante, if you wouldn't mind coming off mute, letting us know who you are, what you do, what we need to know about this rate hike. 


Davante Lewis: Absolutely. Good morning, everyone. For those of you who may not know me, I'm Davante Lewis. I serve on the Public Service Commission for the 3rd District, so I represent half of East Baton Rouge Parish, majority of the River Parishes, and then almost all of Orleans on the Commission. And so today we are in about a just shy of an hour taking up a 1.9 billion rate fee increase that energy has proposed. And so I'm going to step back really quickly. Tell you the background and then tell you what this vote is about today and why I'm actually outraged by it. As many of us have dealt with hurricanes and storms for quite some time since 2005 after hurricane Katrina, we have given 7 Billion dollars to energy and other utility companies with 100 percent interest. To rebuild their infrastructure, 7 billion since 2005. However, as we saw in hurricane Ida, the system, the grid is still not reliable our utilities in the state of Louisiana on what week on our reliability scorecard that the national government looks at has the worst Plan. The commission started to say we have to do something better. We started making rules and looking at how their polls are maintained, how they invest, but Intergy decided they wanted to play fastball and get around our rules. So they introduced their own resiliency proposal. Originally, it was a 10 billion two phase proposal that they introduced 16 months ago to build what they call a stronger grid. And they use this very ambiguous term of resiliency. But all of this was just improving the infrastructure that we constantly pay in our bills.  We were supposed to, under our procedure, have a public hearing about this in two weeks ago, or excuse me, last week in April, to have Entergy present their case, have to answer questions, have facts, witnesses, engineers. It was gonna be a trial, right? We do trials at the commission. About two months ago, Entergy came to the commission and said, Hey, let's pause that trial so we can talk to other people and come back up with a better plan. On Monday, Entergy filed Monday at 3:57 I know the email very well. Intergy filed a 1.9 billion plan that has not been vetted, that has not had the hearing, we haven't been able to call the expert witnesses. And fast tracked it and had one of my fellow commissioners add it to the agenda Wednesday night for it to be voted on this morning. So this 1.9 billion increase would be a separate fee on your bill. So this wouldn't even go into your rates. It would just be a standard fee that would probably somewhere between by time you get to year five and of spending they are picking this up under a rule procedure. So they are asking the commission, one to suspend the rules to hear this proposal without having it being vetted and to vote immediately. And you want to say, why do they want this? They have a, they have their shareholders earning call on April 23rd. And if we vote on this and we change some of the liability that they've written in the agreement, the shareholders today would make 90 million simply by us adjusting some of the spending out of their rate base and calling it an asset. And so I'm outraged. I am just. Furious is not even the appropriate word to use about disrespecting the process, not informing the public and playing a very sneaky game. But this is being called a win for Louisiana and resiliency when it is not. When you look back at what Florida did, Florida passed rules that required them to have storm, Readiness plans, Florida required them to have pole viability and a pole tracking system to ensure that they are placing all those broken wooden poles that you see around North Baton Rouge and in the river parishes. And this proposal has none of that. It is a cash cow that the commission looks like we're about to hand to Entergy in the sense of building a stronger system. Now, you're gonna, if you may hear some press that's saying this is all about hurricane season, I want to remind you the first project, hurricane season starts June 1st. The first project that is identified in this plan will not even be starting to be built until January of 2025. January of  2025. So we are not this vote today as you may start to hear has nothing to do with hurricane preparedness because not a single dollar would be planned. But then what they did is they put in a provision that says the commission at any given moment can come and stop a project as to say we're going to, we're going to, we're going to have skin in the game. You're going to be able to tell us. No. But when you read the details was, Many of you on this call know I do, and I've been up all night reading this plan. They have a provision that says you can only stop a project if a notice to proceed doesn't go out. And notice to proceed is their intention to a contractor to do a project. So while we have an opt out clause, there's no identification of how they're going to handle notices to proceed. Who's to say on January 1st, every year, they don't send out all their notices to proceed. So then when we come back and review, let's say, God forbid, we have a horrible hurricane next year  and we come back, guess what, we can't stop this spending and then they get to come back and ask for recovery dollars for all the infrastructure that they lost. And so this is, if you got some time between now and 10 a.m., blow up your commissioner's office email and let them know this is unacceptable. But that is, that's really what's happening. And I'm just, I am outraged as you can see from my statements that I've posted on social media about this rush nature of this, the lack of transparency, we can put the merits of the 1.9 billion dollar plan aside, just the fact that you introduced this on Monday, you put it and you told the public you would vote on it on Wednesday and you're trying to approve it on Friday, ok. Is a slap in the face of the people of Louisiana and is the most disrespectful thing we can do when we are telling them, this is you. Entity is not paying for this resiliency plan. We are, this is going to be on your bill every single day for the next six years. And so I'm really really mad about it, but I, but I see the chat is blowing up. So I'll stop to answer some questions and see what people are talking about. 


Pepper: Let me just start by saying you making my nerves bad. It's too early on this good Friday morning to have chosen this much violence. Now, I will say I often wake up choosing violence, but this is just out of hand. I have a series of questions, and yes, we are going to get to the chat, but first and foremost when I look at my bill after every hurricane season, I see the fee for my actual service. I see the fee because I lost service. I see the fee because they restored the service that I lost and I see the fee that they want to make the service better so that I don't lose it. But then I see a fee that if I happen to lose it again, they're going to charge me some more. So help me understand, is this  And then a fee just for funsies. Help me understand this whole fee situation. Is this on top of like, where does this additional $1.9 billion come from? It, and is it just for six years? Because it feels these fees go on, especially the ones that are just for funsies and don't ever come off.  


Davante: No you're gonna, so you're gonna, you're gonna see another fee if this passes today.

It's gonna be another lot. And as I said, I guess this phase is for six years. But remember their original proposal that they are talking about that they filed 16 months ago was for 10 billion.  This six years is for 1.9, so this is going to be, I think, a perpetual fee that they try to do, and they'll come back and they'll do another 2.5 for the next five years, and they'll come back and do another 3. 7 for the next five years. And why are these fees so complicated not to get too technical is because these fees live outside of their rate. Think about it, think about what, when we make rates, I guess the easiest thing to think about the groceries you know how you go to the store and you buy some granola bars and they're 5.99. That's the rate for the granola bars. But then you have your state sales tax and your local sales tax. And then your maybe service charge or your plastic bag fee, right? And then so that 5.99 actually turns into 7.85. That's what's happening here is the reason they like these fees is because they do not go into the evaluation of their rates. So when we look at the product and how much it costs you to serve, And get your utility, your electricity. These fees don't go in that evaluation because they live outside of it like a tax does. So when I'm making a determination of Entergy's over earning, it's very hard because the fee is outside of rate base and that's why they like it. They could put this in their rates. They could really say no, and we do, there's already $5 billion. They have a rate case in front of us, a rate hike that they're proposing. They already included $5 billion of distribution and transmission buildup, which is the exact same thing they're proposing in this 1.9 billion. And then on top of that, you are already paying when you look at your maintenance fee.  You're already paying for them to maintain their poles and their wires. So you're going to pay once to maintain their poles and their wires. You're going to pay another five billion dollars in your actual rate and then you're going to pay 1.9 billion outside of the rate. This is just a such money grab that is that just is so unpredictable And I just don't get why my colleagues don't see it as that. 


Pepper: Yeah, I got a whole lot of other questions that are probably not fit for the public. But anyways, there's a question in the chat. What are the options for neighborhoods or parts of urban areas to join energy cooperatives that are existing in Louisiana and move away from Entergy altogether? 


Davante: Yeah. So if you are in an electric co-op, like around DemCo or Sika we do have a provision at the commission that says an incumbent utility, including the Cooper Cooperatives have 300. They have first right of refusal within 300 feet. Sadly, the way the law structured in the way the compact is right now, energy has a monopoly on you. And unless you move into a territory, or you move  by electric co-op, you can't create a new electric co-op, for instance, let's say you wanted to create a neighborhood co operative agreement, you would have to create it.  Away from energy by 300 feet, our entergy would have to refuse to then serve you to then you can create it, which I highly doubt they would. And so right now we don't have choices, but I'll tell you the. The truth. Louisiana is looking at whether or not we break that monopoly. We have an ongoing proceeding that we are hopeful to get done by the end of the year, that will make a determination whether or not we should allow you to be able to choose your utility provider yourself, rather than. Rather than be, it be chosen for you. Now, it's a little bit more complicated than that. There's a lot of consumer protection issues. You can look at some of the disastrous things that have happened with retail choice and Maryland and in Pennsylvania, where they prey on the elderly, they prey on black and brown people, give them junk plans and they're not regulated. So there are some concerns to just saying, okay, everybody go find their stuff. But it begs the question of consideration. 


Pepper: Yes, I agree with that. But I do have a question for clarification. You said within 300 feet of energy. Is that 300 feet of the energy office? 300 feet of where I pay my energy bill? 300 feet of an energy line?  Where does this 300 feet start and stop?  


Davante: This 300 feet starts at the service territory. So if there is a distribution line. In a neighborhood, let's say we're building a new development. Let's say we take some unincorporated area and we're building a new subdivision. If there is an energy distribution line within 300 feet of that new development, they have the rights, but that also works for an electric co op.  So if you go back and you look around Baker and Zachary and Baton Rouge are going around parts of Lafayette and Simco, you can create it. But the 300 foot rule means if there's a distribution line within 300 feet of a new development or house, our business, the utility that has that line has the first right. Of customer refusal 


Pepper: Wild and wacky. Also from the chat. You are my commissioner. So do I know you're on board. Should I reach out to other commissioners?  


Davante: I think so. I think for me, what I've been trying to say is look. I am not saying this proposal is bad. I probably, my analysis right now would not lead me to vote for it, but that's my analysis. What I am saying is, we haven't even given the public, many of you haven't heard about this until today, because the public wasn't part of the process. We completely sidelined you all. To ram this through. So I think you should, I think it's incumbent of letting everybody know, right? While we are commissioners for each individual district, we vote on everything. I vote on the electric fees for those who live in North Louisiana and have an electric co op. I vote for fees for those who live in Lafayette and Alexandria who have PLECO. So while. While I am your representative, we all have the same equal vote on the decisions that come before us. And so I think letting your voice be heard in other districts is perfectly fine. 


Pepper: All right. There is so much going on right here. How is it that the vote is coming up in about an hour, less than an hour, you said, and that's at LPSC? Okay what sorts of things we need to have in place that obviously we don't in order to ensure that there is communication. I would love to offer up. Hope and her map to say like where we've got  horrible things popping off, but what should we be looking for? How do we stay involved? How much do I need to do as an individual in order to make sure that I don't just wake up with an extra, 20, 30 on a bill?  


Davante: No, I think you're right. This has been my challenge over the last year being on the commission is that we do not have a good stakeholder engagement constituent process. It's very hard. If you don't know where to look for our stuff, you don't know what's happening, right? And I think that is a bad way government should operate. It's not fully transparent. Like I said, we added this on the agenda on Wednesday. You, if you didn't know to go look, you would have never known. And so we, I'm trying to improve that, but I think the ways to do it is now that, all of our meetings are live streamed and on YouTube. If you go to YouTube and type in Louisiana, public service commission, and I'll drop the link in the chat, you can. You can do it. Yes, our website is horrific to communicate. But if you go to the website and you just click on each commissioners page, there are numbers our emails and our offices. Are listed there, but it's very hard to find the proposals to find the documents. I'm working to make it more user friendly, but I'm 1 of 5. so it's a little bit of struggle. But I think raising that voice. I know this is the late hour and it's great, but I think we need to, at the next meeting, if you are, and it fits your heart and mind to come to our next meeting and say, the public can't participate when you are hiding things the way that we're hiding. I think the commission has to clear. From people emailing our executive secretary, emailing the staff to say, this is not right. I want to be involved, but I can't be involved because you're not giving me the information. And I think that helps us push to be better. And so I'm 1 of those who long believe in the. And the try, fail, try again, fail better model, which means we may not get it right. We may still not make all the change that we want, but the fight and the push continues. 


Pepper: All right, so we've got yet another call to action. Help me  What would be the most and most effective use of the coalition in trying to ensure that not only our individual representatives know how we feel or what we're thinking about, but also moving forward to ensure that we are best operate, operating in the best interest of the the folks that we represent and care for in the city. 


Davante: Yeah, no, I think that's the question. And so much is flowing through my mind. I think figuring out a plan of involvement of what that looks like, what that means, what you want to say is the most important thing. Important. I think it can be reaching out to the commission. Let me know like we look, we are a group of people who want to be engaged in this process and calling out our system and making recommendations of how we should be more transparent. We should be more open. I think this is the old way of open meetings law, right? Where the people usually just put the meeting notice on the door and if you didn't know where the building was and you didn't see the door, you didn't know that there was actually a meeting happening. We live in a 21st century of technology that our website can be more user friendly. There's no reason for it to be as un-user friendly as it has been. And so there are so much other stuff. That I think we can advocate for to say  we may not know all the answers, but we want to be a part of the process. And I think that's what that's the message that we have to get across. 


Pepper: And can you provide a direct link to the energy future ready? Resilience plan phase 1


Davante: I’ll drop it in the chat.  


Pepper: Gorgeous. Also need an email address for your executive secretary, his executive secretary, correct?  


Davante: Yeah, the executive secretary of the commission. I'm dropping his email in the chat as well.  


Pepper: Okay. And before I shift to a couple other questions. Why can't I trust y'all? We elected you. We said we wanted you to talk and represent us. And why y'all how some of y'all just going off and doing what you want to do, letting people raise my rates. Why I got to watch, help me. I'm confused and sad. 


Davante: I think we have to get back to the model of one, the campaign cash that the utilities provide is so Happy Many of when I ran, I said I wouldn't take a dime from them during my campaign. I didn't to this day. I've not had a single check written to me from a utility company. Sadly, I can't say that about my colleagues. And when you're facing reelection, as some of them are next year, you're thinking about that money and you're going to spend this vote as the best interest of the people and whatnot. But I think until we have a real accountability system. And they know that they're not just, they're not just chasing the utilities to give them 5,000 for their campaign. They're talking about 5,000 voters, and 10,000 voters, and 50,000 voters. That's it, but some just, some put their priorities in different places, and I just refuse to do.


Pepper: We're glad to have you on our side. I know that there have been a lot of folks who've dropped some things into the chat. Is the bigger challenge election reform? Manny's beard seems to be on a tear this morning. Is the bigger challenge election reform? Welcome back, Nichola Hall. Yes, we need, and we need people with integrity and not those with selfish intents.


We do need to vote them out. So this is again, just bring it full circle so that these don't sound like disparate consultations. This is all really about understanding how it is that we are and should be engaging within the larger framework of Louisiana. To ensure that we not only have ourselves, but our neighbors, friends and family care for in ways that likely in ways that likely would not otherwise be cared for. T from your colleague, Mr. Francis from our very own Morgan in the chat, I will work to ensure the right to vote. I will fight to stop voter fraud, vote buying and vote stealing. I may just go to him in my email and you should, my darling. You should. So summer feeding, electric, electricity rates. Which really makes me think. Where's Yon? Yon, are you still here? 


Casey Phillips: No, Yon had to go to a nine o'clock. He he said he would like to come back on a subsequent Friday to talk about the Constitutional Convention, which he's paying very close attention to, but he had to hop onto a call for that. 


Pepper: All right, not a problem. My segue is swinging back. Summer feeding as we talked about earlier. That is, is this or we started off with this whole idea of maybe a letter writing campaign. Davante help me understand is it too late for a letter writing campaign? I found out about this whole, this movement from together, Louisiana's email. I that came out yesterday afternoon or day before. I can't remember which the days run together. Time is an illusion, but there's also a lot of chatter in the chat about power coalition and how they have a page for mass action. Is there a place that currently exists that you work with and take information from in order to know what things that your constituents actually care about, or is it really?  Go ahead and no, 


Davante: I publicize every possible thing on all my social medias, and if you go to my portal page of the. Of the of the commission's website. I have all of my emails, my staff's emails, our office numbers, my, I have a PSD cell phone that I created. So constituents can reach me right away. That is in my pocket next to my personal cell. So we try to be as open, transparent and honest as possible. Like I said, this, like I said, we found out they were, they filed this application on Monday. They added it to the agenda on Wednesday, it became public Wednesday afternoon. So this has been very fast and deliberately fast. And so while I may not know the answer of how we can stop it in this moment, I do think it's important if whatever happens today, if we successfully defer this item and not take it up for a vote to give people more time, or if we pass it, I still think it's important for people to say how this is not a process of a public body of people who are elected to represent Louisiana and should act. So I think that message should be loud and clear regardless of what happens today, but let's hope that my colleagues see the light and do what's right. And come on I'm going to take something from my great grandmother when she was singing that old hymnal. I'm going to try to walk them in the light, but we'll see if that happens today. 


Pepper: We are going to give it a shot. All right, so the bigger challenge is getting the public involved. This is the Inside Scoop we would not otherwise know about. That is very true. Thank you. Thank you very much, Devontae, for sharing how it is that the This moved so quickly because it did feel very much out of the blue as in blindsided once again, by the many things that are going on in this particular session. And thank you so much for sharing the message that you sent. This could indeed, if y'all are looking at the chat, this could be something that you change a few of your, or add your personal spin and send to your commissioner. And then there is a question just for clarity sake. How much would the energy bill go up for residents? 


Davante: So it would be at around an 8 increase if you use around 1000 kilowatts. So it's going to vary because it is tied to your usage, but the average person or the average like usage is around. A thousand kilowatt hours is about the amount you consume in your house they monthly. So it would be about an 8 increase. Now it's gonna it's stair stack. So year one, you won't see much of it. It'll be about 57, 58 cents. Year two, it goes up to about 3 and then it continues. And then by the time we get to year five, you're somewhere around 8. 


Pepper: And question that's slightly off topic, but indeed related, what about those folks who are already struggling and receiving assistance in order to get their bills paid? So through a total community action center, or those who are not utilizing their energy services, because they can't afford to pay the bill  has anyone taken into considerate how. Not has anyone. How are we managing to ensure that they can not only keep their electricity on, but also that their bills can be paid? 


Davante: That is a very good question. I have worked tirelessly to try to ensure that any funding goes towards putting aside. A low income component. I fought with them to say, if you're going to push this, at least make a different way for LMI communities. They refused. So I'm continuing to push. I think one of the things we got to do is call our members of Congress, tell them in the next funding bill to change the allocation. Of heating and cooling assistance known as LAHEAP right now, Louisiana really gets, not to be Debbie Downer, but I want to just want to be stark of why we need that funding formula to change Louisiana and has Louisiana has about 600,000 people who would qualify for heating and cooling assistance under the federal program. The number of Louisianians who receive heating and cooling assistance is 59,000. So 600,000 Louisianians qualify. Only 60,000 Louisianians receive the benefits. So 10 percent of the population that actually qualifies to get assistance actually receives assistance. We have to do a better job with that and I've been saying we need to have A moral revolution in energy spaces. We can't just continue to talk about people. So it is a federal program that is known as the utility assistance. How, like, how many of, that, SNAP is the official name for food stamps, but we call it food stamps, so LAHEAP is the official name for the assistance that you can apply for at a community action program to help pay your utility bills. 


Joquina Reed: Davante, is there a link to this program, or how do people find out more about it? Because this is literally my first time hearing about this.  


Davante: So most of Laheap lives under the Louisiana Housing Corporation and the community action programs that Pepper was talking about earlier are where you would go to apply. So in each region, and I don't have them all, but if you go to Louisiana Housing Corporation, they keep a list of the community action programs. Facilities that distribute LAHEAP dollars. So it's a very convoluted system. The money comes down from the federal government to the state.


The state gives it to housing corporation. Housing corporation gives it to these community action programs. These community action programs give it to people. And so each region, each municipality, It's not housed anywhere, but if you go to the housing corporation, you can see the list of all of the community action programs that are the respondents of dollars. 


Pepper: And thank you for dropping that in the chat. Manny. And thank you. Yes, see, this is what's up. I appreciate all chat warriors lots of information and links that are being dropped in over here, but there's something that you mentioned a couple of times, Savante and I had not thought about this until you brought it up. Is that this is. This whole energy situation is under the umbrella of housing. And when many was suggesting that maybe there's a possibility we go off grid, maybe make our own little energy grid  with that. Be something that we could do. I'm not asking you for revolutionary advice or ways to burn down the system. But if there were ways to revolutionize the system and maybe burn parts of the existing down could we leverage some of the existing system in order to free liberate? Those who need help, like standing up these energy farms or the solar farms that we discussed for a long time in New Orleans, proper vacant lots that have been made available for not necessarily when, because we don't have enough wind. And that's something that would be in North Louisiana, but definitely something that would give us options so that we could. Not only use what Louisiana has a lot of, and that's sun, but also to try to make things a little bit easier for us all. 


Davante: Absolutely. I think innovation is key and that's what I'm really trying to push the commission. We're in a place where to pull the curtain back, the utilities make money only one real way and that's building things. When you think about your bill outside of these small fees, the utility company doesn't really make money. They tip, the way they make money is through their assets through their capital, through their investments because your bill is a complete pass through, if you use 1500 kilowatt hour to to electrify your house, you're going to pay whatever that rate is at that moment for a hundred, for 1500 kilowatt hours. So your bill in the most part is a pass through, it's a simple pass through, but where they make the most money is when they build a generation facility, or when they build something, or they build a new asset. Because this money, like they're going to make money off of this because they're going to put this, they're going to bond this, they get a hundred percent bond, which means they are making interest payments off of this. So what we're really trying to say, can we incentivize where you are also a producer of electricity? And I call it from going from the consumer model to the prosumer model, where you have solar on your house. We have solar in community. We are building batteries behind the meter. As you may produce. All of the electricity that you need in your house and more, you power back to the grid and now you get paid just the same way the utility company would get paid because you're providing reliability to your neighbors, to the system. So there are so many ways that we can do it, but we got to break this model. That it's only the utilities job because they've done it for a hundred years. And I asked you, do you feel like we've made progress in the last a hundred years? So all of those options are on the table. I am working tooth and nail form. You're going to see some of these conversations happen in the next few months and then we'll go from there. 


Pepper: Fantastic. All right. It looks like we are going to need to have a full conversation on batteries. Because. We'll have a conversation on batteries. There are some other things, Kina.  


Joquina: Oh, okay. Wow. I got the, while Davante is in this room. Davante, I just looked through the LAHEAP provider directory and I didn't see anything for Rapides Parish. Do you know why?  


Davante: That's  I don't, some, that may be a question for housing corporation. I do know some municipalities  Use it. And I would say Rapides, maybe it may be the city that holds it because Rapides and Alexandria is its own utility provider, 


Joquina: Which is a scam in itself,


Davante: But I knew that those dollars may flow directly through the city, through city hall. 


Joquina: Oh, thank you. This is just depressing. 


Davante: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to depress y'all, but it's the fight. I'll leave you with this because this is how I do it. I am, I'm not an optimist. I'm not optimistic for today 'cause I don't feel good. And optimism is a feeling to me. But what I have and what I'm holding onto is genuine hope. And genuine hope to me means my eyes are wide open. I see, I feel, and I understand the suffering, but I know if I continue to stand up and raise my voice and get other people to stand up and raise our voice, that one day, one day, we will make it. And while optimism is not in this room today, I hope we leave this room with that genuine hope, knowing that we feel and we see the suffering, but the work that we are doing and the work that we want to do will get us over it. 


Pepper: That is a perfect, an absolutely perfect way to say thank you to Davante for you for jumping in for Nichola for Ravel Rausen over here in the chat, even after you shared with us the things that are happening for summer feeding and we'll have all that in the notes. Hope Hickerson did have to drop off. And again, thanks to Kelly Rogers for percent doubling. I want to make sure that we do say congratulations, much love and high praise to Tia Fields for completing Louisiana's leadership program earlier this week and for our very own. Casey Phillips, who was just honored at the Brothers and Sister, Brotherhood and Sister Award, 61st Annual Awards. Well done y'all. Thanks for a very good, but thanks for doing what you do and being here with us and going to open it up to last words. Anybody got important things to say before we move to community announcement.  


Dr. Dina Johnson: This is Dr. Dina Johnson. Hello. Hi, how are you doing, everyone? I'm a member of Together Baton Rouge and Together Louisiana, which is, of course, one of the The the actual organization itself, and we went to the commissioners meeting on other issues of charges that we are getting and are being applied to our bills for energy efficiency. And I thought it would be good for me to share the information. As far as where the commissioner meeting will be streamed. However, I want to, if I can find the information on where you can come together, because the more voices, the more, the better, and the louder we heard. I wanted to share this information with you. So that way, you guys can  come together with us. And so that way, you can make a stronger group than I'm standing up for these issues that we're faced with and being monopolized by energy. 


Pepper: Thank you. Thank you. So I see that you dropped a chapter or excuse me. Yeah, it's a whatsapp chat in the chat. 


Dr. Dina Johnson: Yes, but then you could chat with them and then that way you need the contact information and we can all be on the same page. And that way you can also hear what our plans are as well. 


Pepper: Very good. Very good. Thank you, ma'am. All right. What's going on this weekend in Baton Rouge? 


Casey: I'll jump in the walls. First of all, thank you, Davante. Thank you, Nichola. And thank you, Hope. I know that you're not here, but I'm going to say thank you anyway. And for everybody in the chat whoo, the shadow government is strong in Louisiana not in the light, my friends, not in the light. Thank you. And thank God for invest in Louisiana, aka artists formerly known as the Louisiana budget project for always shine a light on those corners. Tomorrow's Earth Day and we're encouraging everybody to show up show up at BREC Howell Park come out to the farm, and we already have over a hundred volunteers signed up, and we will, there will be art, there will be tree plantings, there will be Harvesting, there will just be all kinds of activities for Earth Day. But just remember that we are part of the earth and it's important to take your shoes off. Even if you can't come out there to the farm tomorrow, take your shoes off and walk in the grass, right? Remind yourself that you're part animal on this planet. And in the fact that in ground yourself back into the earth and the more that you do that, I promise you, the more your anxiety and your stress level will go down. Unless, of course, you're walking through the halls of the Capitol, you may want to just go barefoot there too. But I said, by all means, I said, celebrate Earth Day with us out at BREC Howell Park at the Baton Roots Community Farm.


Pepper: Very good. Very good. We've also got  dropped in the chat. Florida open house  flyer. That's the Florida corridor. And that is having an upcoming meeting on Tuesday, April 23rd, five 3730 at Renew Church on Florida Boulevard. That's formerly the Florida Boulevard Baptist church. I do love treatment advertising anyways, needing your input and feedback. So come one, come all. Nichola?


Nichola: Yes, I'm still on my phone running around like a crazy person, but I want to say major kudos to Casey and Tia. You guys are rock stars and I can't remember the other person you mentioned, but I was driving, but anyway, major kudos. In addition to that, I can never miss an opportunity. I will never miss an opportunity to elevate anything that we're doing EBR. So Spring Fling recruitment and retention event is happening next. Saturday. It is a party. We're not just recruiting, but we're retaining our talent. I will definitely share out the flyer when I do get an opportunity to do but it's going to be a shindig, a fun shindig, and it starts at nine to one o'clock.


Come on down, bring your family, bring whoever you think needs a job. We will help them to secure one. At J. T. A. Jefferson Terrace Academy. Thanks.  


Pepper: What kind of jobs y'all got?  


Nichola: Everything. Teachers, bus operators, child nutrition, cooks,  paraprofessionals. We need mechanics. We have a deficit. Yes. And we will definitely pay for training. Pay training and pay for your CDL. Once again, we got resources. We just need bodies. 


Pepper: Much love.  All right. With that, y'all, we are at the end of the hour. I only asked an hour from you. So please. Oh, thanks. Thank you. What else we got going on? Second chance month. Oh, that's right. That's April 2nd chance month is also having a job fair expo I can't see where this is, but it's in the chat. Oh, here we go. The main library on Goodwood. Wait a minute.  This is Reverend Anderson. If anything is happening at a library, why has she not mentioned this? I don't understand. Is she off living a life that does not include me on a Friday? I feel some kind of way about this. 


Reverend Anderson: Because I'm handling my business. I am celebrating the 28th anniversary of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Center of Louisiana's annual conference. Yeah! Seniors be partying in Baton Rouge this week! 


Pepper: It is good to see you. 


Reverend Anderson: Alright, so it's good to be seen, especially upright. That's all I'm saying.


Pepper: And on that note, we will say goodbye and have a great weekend, y'all. We'll see y'all back here next, next Friday. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Thanks for Thank you. Thank you all. Have a great weekend.


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