The ACT on KUB coalition, which came together in the summer of 2020, is a collaborative attempt among partners to bring more accountability, cost-savings, and transparency to KUB, the utility provider for the city of Knoxville. You can read more about the events that led to the formation of the ACT on KUB coalition here. The coalition’s primary strategy was to pass an amendment to the section in Knoxville’s city charter that governs KUB, and while this effort to amend the charter was not successful, Knoxville City Council did adopt a resolution that addressed many of the concerns raised by the coalition, including our request to bring a voice onto the KUB board that would represent low-income interests.
At its December 1st meeting, Knoxville City Council voted to approve Mayor Indya Kincannon’s annual nominee to the KUB board, Claudia Caballero. Caballero is a Honduran American and the President and CEO of Centro Hispano, which is a nonprofit organization based in Knoxville that works to promote empowerment and civic participation through education, workforce development, youth and family engagement, and community-strengthening initiatives in the Latino community. Caballero will begin her 7 year term on the KUB board in January of 2021.
Members of the ACT on KUB coalition met via Zoom with Caballero this week, where she discussed some of her thoughts about KUB, as well as her background with Centro Hispano. The organization does a great deal of work with low-income communities, and one of their goals is to see the Latino community thrive culturally, educationally and economically. While Caballero is not currently in the low-income bracket herself, she has spent years working to support low-income communities, and she says she plans to continue doing so as a KUB board member, while also lifting up the voices of those community members.
Removing Barriers to Enable More Participation
One of the concerns raised by the ACT on KUB coalition is that board meetings take place in the middle of the day on weekdays. In our conversation, Caballero agreed this can be a barrier for people who don’t have a flexible work schedule. She also said that she looks forward to learning about the current fee structure and how it affects low income families, many of whom she works with in the Latino community.
While Caballero does not have specific experience working with utility companies, she said she plans to ask lots of questions and will be an environmental advocate. She said that one of her main priorities will be to educate KUB customers about low-income weatherization services, because, in her experience, the people who need these services most do not always receive the information to take advantage of them, such as a household she once visited that was very poorly insulated, had issues with pipes freezing, and had utility bills that were as high as $600 per month during the winter, in a 2 bedroom trailer. Caballero expressed that, in her mind, education and communication are the keys to giving people the tools they need to overcome this type of inequity.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy stands ready to support new KUB board member Claudia Caballero in her efforts to bring more accountability, cost-savings, and transparency to KUB.