As the economy deteriorates in the wake of the epidemic, millions of additional working families need help and discover a harsh reality: Privatization of public services has never been about ‘efficiency’ .

Whether it is utilities, health care, energy, housing, pharmaceuticals, incarceration, transport, the military or social services, “privatization” is a matter of course. euphemism repeated by industry, government and the media masking a more precise term: “institutionalized corruption”, in essence, influential individuals and industries demanding higher subsidies from taxpayers while burdening troubled families with outstanding debt. high interest rate for essential public services that are often cut or denied. Corporate legal jargon of “privatization”, secrecy, subterfuge, limited liability and frivolous “customer calls” are the “moats” protecting government and industry from accountability to “We the people” , described by Emory University researcher Carol Anderson as “Organized Abandonment Solved by Punishment.”

Keeping corruption institutionalized requires keeping the public uninformed and then blaming victims for their ignorance, illustrated in the following example:

Despite recurring deaths, destroyed homes, broken businesses and families (most recently in San Bruno and Paradise), California residents remain oblivious and oblivious to the age and location of obsolete utility infrastructure in the home. and at work. As a result, 87,000 Californians (represented in almost every city) damage a dangerous underground utility every year.

The California Public Utilities Commission requires utility operators to “educate” the public through a “public awareness program”; yet PG&E’s (taxpayer-funded) multi-million dollar media campaigns, brochures, billing inserts, websites and emails are misleading and misleading; for example:

1) The PG&E notices state, “California law requires contractors to use this (USA 811)… service”. In fact, PG&E holds “anyone” liable for damage to an underground utility, which it called “811” (unless it is proven that “811” was wrong).

2) Damaged gas lines are typically 3/8 inch polyethylene tubing the color of most tree roots, buried only 12 inches underground without protective shielding.

3) Proximity to a shallow surface due to current erosion, previous owner’s landscaping, or improper installation can lead to premature decomposition within 4-10 years.

4) No inspection is carried out after installation which can span several decades.

Why spend millions on subterfuge? California’s multibillion-dollar utility giants enjoy a monopoly on repairs, charging between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 for less than an hour of labor to repair damaged gas lines. Some repairs are billed several times as much. Repairing, rather than updating, decades-old infrastructure makes future injury more likely, providing this “golden goose” with many more eggs to lay, both compensating and delaying utility replacement costs for its aging gas lines.

Unlike municipal utilities, a whistleblower or subpoena is required to find out how private utility repair bills are calculated; or the actual number of incidents per year; or how many hundreds of millions of dollars these incidents generate over the decades.

PG&E says, “There is no… an appeal process…” without mentioning that incident damage complaints can be filed with the CPUC. After the routine CPUC rejection, plaintiffs have 15 days to submit a “Request for New Evidence Review” where most of the following laws can be used to combat Utility Corporation’s illegally inflated repair fee for the repair. obsolete and unsafe infrastructure (Note: Long-delayed utility response times can potentially consume the two-year small claims limitation period):

California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 5, Chapter 12; Code of Federal Regulations Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter 1, Subchapter D, Part 192, Subpart G; CPUC 328 codes; 451; 961 (C); 961 (d) (9); 961 (d) (1) (e); 961 (d) (4); General Order of the CPUC 58 (a) (22) and 121-f, subchapter C, section 142.1; NGSAP, task 10 and task 16; California Civil Code 3479-3481; Section 13001 of the California Health and Safety Code; California Penal Code 370-372.

In addition, the utility’s “quarterly damage reports” sent to the CPUC reveal that only half, or less, of the damage charges billed are reported to the CPUC. Underreporting of incident income means utility repair and administration costs may be overestimated, resulting in higher utility rates for customers (a ‘win-win’ for shareholders) .

Municipalities could dramatically reduce the 87,000 annual excavation incidents in California, save lives and property; protect the health and safety of residents, business owners, contractors, the general public and utility workers by requiring the identification, age and location of underground utilities with each transfer of ownership. Providing this essential information to new landlords and rental occupants would not only reduce dangerous and costly incidents, but would increase local employment while dramatically decreasing the “811” bureaucracy and the “Consumer Directorate” of the CPUC dealing with victims’ complaints. . Calls to the municipality’s “911” would also decrease.

Over a century ago, former Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson correctly predicted, “If the public doesn’t own all the public service monopolies… they will own you over time. The first step in reversing institutionalized corruption is to overcome cynicism and apathy by rejecting victimization and exposing injustice in our individual lives and communities.

George Clark is a resident of Eureka.