Grassroots Coalition Urges Referendum For More Accountability, Cost-Savings, and Transparency from KUB
Knoxville, Tenn. – A coalition of bill payers and community groups seek more Accountability, Cost-Savings, and Transparency from the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) and are campaigning for an amendment on November’s ballot to enact just that.
KUB has been a long-time, trusted community partner, yet it appears KUB’s leadership is losing touch with the people it serves. The grassroots campaign ‘ACT on KUB’ launched today to support a package of practices that would help KUB governance better implement accountability and transparency for its customers. As many Knoxvillians are struggling to keep the lights on and bills paid, the ‘ACT on KUB’ coalition wants KUB to be looking for solutions to lower bills while prioritizing the “public” in their role as a public utility.
The coalition seeks to require broad, basic principles to ensure more Accountability, Cost-Savings, and Transparency by:
- Saving customers money by limiting unjustified fees so that mandatory charges are based on KUB’s actual cost of providing service; limiting expensive contracts with high dollar public relation firms.
- Requiring transparency on customers’ bills by requiring all utility bills to be broken out by line items; holding public hearings with supporting documentation for all future fee increases.
- Increasing accountability with designated commissioner seats for a low-income advocate and an environmental advocate, opening the door to more diversity in commissioner nominations, shorter KUB commissioners’ terms, better representation, and more public-accessible to KUB board meetings.
If approved by Knoxville’s City Council, Knoxvillians will have an opportunity to vote in November on an amendment to Knoxville’s City Charter. This amendment ensures KUB is responsive to the concerns of its customers, local organizations, and elected officials to be more accountable, promote cost-savings, and prioritize transparency to the people it serves.
This proposed amendment is sponsored by City Councilmembers Seema Singh, as the lead sponsor, Amelia Parker, and Lauren Rider. Additional Councilmembers may add their sponsorship before the proposal is considered. Staff members from two of the coalition groups, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund, are meeting with additional City Councilmembers to ask for their sponsorship of this measure before the Council considers the proposal.
Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Dr. Stephen Smith, stated: “We want to put the public back in KUB’s role as a trusted public utility. We are asking the Knoxville City Council to allow the citizens of Knoxville to vote in November on a targeted set of simple, common-sense reforms to the Knoxville City Charter that assures our city-owned utility operates in a manner that keeps KUB’s leadership in close contact with the people they are empowered to serve.”
Councilmember Seema Singh, stated, “KUB is a public entity. If the voters pass the amendment, it will be beneficial to KUB as well as its customers. With the added transparency we can know that KUB is working with us for equity in cost savings, reliable service for all customers, and are partners in sustainability.”
Councilmember Lauren Rider, stated, “Utilities are a necessity, for everyone. Ensuring a public and accountable process for fee changes and KUB policies is an easy and reasonable step we can take.”
“The people of Knoxville deserve more control over the resources we depend on, especially the resources we already own. ACT on KUB will build a foundation for more equity, justice, and self-determination over our publicly-owned energy in Knoxville,” said Bri Knisley, Tennessee Field Coordinator at Appalachian Voices.
Reverend Calvin Skinner, Co-founder, and Convener of One Knox Legacy Coalition said, “We join SACE and the other community advocates, appeal to KUB for more accountability, transparency, and lower costs. As KUB and our elected officials move on these reforms, all of our communities in Knoxville may be in a better position to thrive.”
“With a looming deadline for KUB to restart service disconnections in the middle of a pandemic, we are glad to partner with SACE and others to bring more layers of protection and energy equity to our most vulnerable residents in this precarious economy,” said Stefen White, Chair of Community Voices’ Affordable Utilities Council. “Our efforts now are to ask the people at large whether these changes make sense to them,” White continued. “So we ask City Council to make that possible with their vote to put these proposals on the ballot this November.”
“Low-income ratepayers and communities deserve affordable energy and a public utility responsive to their needs,” said Erica Davis, President of the Board with Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment, she continued, “This proposed amendment would offer much-needed reforms to make KUB leadership more reflective of its customer base and give KUB ratepayers more control and transparency over their energy bills.”
In addition to supporting the proposed amendment to the Knoxville City Charter, KUB customers are encouraged to visit the campaign website, ACTonKUB.org to learn more about the amendment that will ensure KUB is accountable for how they make decisions and spend ratepayers’ money.
‘Act on KUB’ will also serve as a hub for Knoxville residents to commit to voting for the amendment in the November election and provide voter education resources to ensure customer voices are heard at the ballot box.
About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at cleanenergy.org.
About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund
The SACE Action Fund is the political arm of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a non-partisan, nonprofit (c4) organization striving to make clean energy solutions a top priority for our region’s elected leaders. SACE Action Fund engages in public education, legislative action, and electoral accountability here in the Southeast. Learn more at cleanenergyactionfund.org.
About Appalachian Voices
Appalachian Voices works at the nexus of the ongoing shift from fossil fuels to clean, 21st-century energy sources — we fight mountaintop removal coal mining, fracked-gas pipelines and other harms to the people and places of Appalachia, and we advance energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and other economic solutions that create community wealth and sustain Appalachia’s mountains, forests and, waters. Learn more at appvoices.org.
About One Knox
One Knox Legacy Coalition (OKLC) seeks to amplify the social justice voice through addressing economic and social empowerment. OKLC is a nonpartisan initiative to educate, engage, and mobilize voters in the Black community using proven grassroots organizing, marketing, and turnout strategies. Partnering with faith-based and civic organizations, OKLC convened events to enhance voter engagement and mobilization since launching in 2017 such as: Ujima Rally at Kuumba Festival, OKLC Voter Empowerment & Engagement Weeks and The Community Empowerment Think Tank. Learn more at oneknoxlegacy.org.
About Community Voices |
Community Voices is a partnership of non-profit, non-government agencies, churches, businesses, and individuals based in the Heart of Knoxville, who are working together to empower inner-city residents to understand and collectively address issues they self-identify to be critical, priority concerns of justice and equity in their communities. Learn more at communityvoicesknoxville.org.
About Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM)
SOCM (pronounced “sock-em”) is a member-driven organization that utilizes civic involvement and collective action. Our mission is to empower Tennesseans to have a greater voice in determining their future. We work for social, economic, and environmental justice for all. Learn more at socm.org.