I am concerned that a recent headline regarding the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel's position in a FirstEnergy rate case may have confused readers. As the state's residential utility consumer advocate, we know that Toledo-area customers pay high utility rates, and our office has worked hard to scrutinize the utility's request to raise its distribution rates. For Toledo Edison customers, we have challenged nearly $50 million of the annual revenue increases sought by the utility. The Consumers' Counsel cited various costs that customers should not have to pay as well as FirstEnergy's declining service reliability.
Readers may also recall that our office opposed the generation-related "rate stabilization charge," which, since 2006, has continued the collection of over $15 per month that should have dropped off customers' bills. Recently, we have led an effort to add consumer protections and safeguards to Ohio's energy policy legislation, Senate Bill 221.
Regarding the distribution-rate case, I encourage residential consumers to help the OCC take action to make a difference. If, like the Consumers' Counsel, they have concerns about the level of the proposed rate increase and Toledo Edison's service quality, they can contact the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and reference case number 07-551-EL-AIR to voice their concerns.
I also encourage readers to learn more about current utility issues from the Consumers' Counsel at www.pickocc.org.
Black holes are part of galaxy formation
I was fascinated by the recent story in The Blade about a galaxy containing a supermassive black hole blasting a neighboring galaxy with a jet of radiation. It bears noting, however, that while supermassive black holes can be agents of destruction, they are also agents of creation too.
Studies show that supermassive black holes are found at the centers of all galaxies with stellar bulges, including our own Milky Way, and that there is a high correlation between the mass of the supermassive black hole and the velocity dispersion of the stars in the galaxy's central bulge. This suggests that supermassive black holes, far from being mere cosmic curiosities or rogue predators, may be as fundamental to galaxy formation as stars are to solar system formation.
It is theorized that as galaxies initially condense or when galaxies collide and merge, a supermassive black hole forms and begins a "feeding frenzy," feasting on the surrounding cloud of gas and stars. This ignites an accretion disc that surrounds the black hole, creating a superluminous quasar. Eventually, the intense energy it generates blasts the remaining gas and stars away from the core. The central black hole then becomes largely dormant, and the swirling cloud of gas and stars matures into a majestic spiral. As the galaxy ages and its supply of interstellar gas is depleted, the galaxy reverts back to an undefined elliptical form.
Our own Milky Way is currently in the vibrant, spiral phase of this life cycle. However, this may only be temporary. In a "mere" 3 billion years or so, it appears that our galaxy may collide with another giant spiral, the Andromeda galaxy, and the cycle would then repeat.
Stephen A. Silver
Disabled subjected to demeaning names
At a time in history when we are supposedly most socially conscious, we remain captive to an 18th-century vocabulary that demeans those whom it encompasses - persons with disabilities.
Why are disabled persons in Ohio subjected to an archaic, denigrating, and discriminatory vocabulary that compromises their human dignity and reduces them to the status of "abnormality"? Why aren't our legislators sensitive to this issue and acting proactively to resolve it?
Why not rename the Ohio School for the Blind the Ohio School for the Visually Impaired? Why not rename the Ohio School for the Deaf the Ohio School for the Hearing Impaired? If our public schools have adopted a more sensitive disability vocabulary, why can't other state agencies follow suit?
And in our prisons, why are prisoners made to wear badges that say deaf, hard-of-hearing, and the like, instead of hearing-impaired, visually-impaired, and/or speech-impaired?
Again, we need to reinvent our disability vocabulary to reflect a 21st-century understanding of disability, one that is not loaded with the socially destructive connotations that our current vocabulary carries.
It's moral justice.
Allan S. Hlebovy
Lorain Correctional Institution
Unemployment fund is in wrong hands
I read with considerable interest The Blade's Dec. 30 editorial regarding Ohio's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund ("Can you spare a dime?"). I wonder how the Republican leadership of the General Assembly can square its actions (or, more appropriately, nonactions) regarding this fund with some of the Ohio Republicans' supposed goals for our state's economic policy.
For example, the GOP has long complained about welfare "handouts" and paid lip service to the goal of making Ohioans work rather than live off the public's dime. But unemployment compensation is explicitly intended to help unemployed workers get back on their feet and to prevent laid-off workers from becoming chronic entries on Ohio's welfare rolls.
Moreover, I am concerned by the failure of the Republican-controlled Assembly to display even the minimal foresight necessary to prevent the demise of a system designed to return Ohioans to employment. Can it be that lawmakers didn't recognize the signs of an economic slowdown and an attendant rise in unemployment? Such a blunder is at best inexcusable negligence and at worst willful blindness.
The business-as-usual politicians in Columbus have eschewed long-term economic security in exchange for short-term political gain, and I find this inexcusable. Unemployment compensation is not a mere frill but is designed to prevent a short-term layoff from becoming long-term dependence on the state.
At a time when short-term layoffs are ubiquitous and rising, unemployment compensation could prevent an economic slowdown from deteriorating into long-term recession.
Apparently, Ohio placed its "trust" (fund) in the wrong hands. I can only hope that the damage is not irreversible.
Darlene J. Dunn
Old-time radio hosts missed by listener
While listening to the current irritating bile served up by some radio stations, I have come to realize how very much I miss Detroit radio personalities J.P. McCarthy, Jimmy Launce, and Mike Whorf. Thank God for PBS.
Richard M. Reder
Keep fatal crash out of smoking debate
In response to the Jan. 6 letter, "Danger of smoking doesn't compare," that shamelessly compared the smoking ban to the tragic deaths of the Maryland family members killed in a Dec. 30 accident, I would like to thank the letter writer for reminding everyone that some opponents of the smoking ban have thoughts as disgusting as their habit.
If anything, I think the letter writer will encourage smoking-ban proponents to re-think their priorities and devote more time and energy to fighting people who share his mindset. As an Illinoisan living in a state with a smoking ban that just took effect, I feel thankful that people who think like that letter writer are continuing to lose their battle throughout the nation.
All that's certain are death, taxes, and fees
With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, I would like to update his famous quote: "In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes," and now fees.
George A. Finkler
Looking at the glass half full
Job rate zips up to 95 percent employed in December. Have the glass half full for a change.