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Push for Independent Board to Run Austin Energy

Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin’s Electric Utility Commission voted last night to recommend the City Council put a measure on the November ballot that would allow voters to choose whether to have Austin Energy governed by an independent board, rather than the council.

Phillip Schmandt is the chair for the Electric Utility Commission. He says the change was recommended back in 1996 and is back in the spotlight since the recent vote to increase Austin Energy rates.

Schmandt says many people believe the time and energy required to run Austin Energy is just too much for city council. He also says another advantage of having a five-person board is that representation could include people who live outside of the city limits.

“Austin Energy, right now, 15 percent of its customers live outside of the city and therefore can’t vote for the city council," Schmandt says. "There have been a lot of complaints about that in this rate review process and so this would be one way to effectively address those complaints.”

If the measure is not put on the November ballot, any change would have to wait until 2014. Changes to the city charter can only happen every two years.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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