Thursday, December 6, 2007

Toledo Blade Gives FirstEnergy a Pass on Deadly Fire

From one business to another, a little pat on the back. In its lead editorial today, The Toledo Blade absolved FirstEnergyCorp of any wrong-doing in the deaths of a mother and her three children last week in Toledo. The paper reported that it received many letters condemning the practice of FirstEnergy of shutting off power to families, especially in winter. The newspaper printed three of them along with their editorial.

The following sentence caught my eye:

Beyond those issues, moreover, there is no evidence we know of that Edison callously or precipitously pulled the plug on the family, which moved to the home at the beginning of October but - for whatever reason - had not had the electric service put in their name.

'Callously' is an interesting legal term; I wonder how that would be defined in a court of law? No doubt FirstEnergy lawyers would point out that there was no malice in their decision to pull the power from the home, and I'm sure that 'malace' played no role in their decision. Profit, yes, malice, no.

The Blade goes on:

Over the course of at least a month and a half, Edison customer service personnel had explained to Ms. Crawford or her fiance the procedure for avoiding a cutoff because of unpaid bills, and the help in paying that is readily available to those in need for medical or economic reasons.

Here's where it becomes murky: how does The Blade know that this is a true statement? No doubt, the PR Department of FirstEnergy told 'their side of the story' to the Blade reporter. I find it interesting that The Blade would swallow the line that FirstEnergy was doing their best to help this family.

Here's why I am such a skeptic of the PR Department: I have posted a concurrent story of another family whose power was shut off here in Toledo and the ball was dropped in restoring the power to this family after the payment was made.

Don't tell me that FirstEnergy is a sweet, well-run utility that looks out for the citizens of Toledo. The Blade may buy that story, but my recent experience indicates the opposite. Here is a quick summary or you may read the detailed version in my previous post here.

Just after I posted a story of the tragic fire that killed the mother and her three children, I received a phone call from a Catholic Sister who told me of a family of 9 [7 children] who had been without electricity for 2 weeks. My wife and I investigated the situation and helped out with some food and flashlights and lanterns because the Sister said the children were using candles to do their homework.

The mother scraped together the money from relatives and paid the bill on FRIDAY afternoon. Power was not restored until 2:30 in the afternoon on TUESDAY. Slip-ups and incompetent employees of FirstEnergy here in Toledo caused this family to be in the cold and dark for FOUR days after the bill had been paid. My wife and I were witnesses to this incompetence as we made several phone calls on her behalf.

While the Toledo Blade may be right in saying that FirstEnergy had no direct role in the fatal fire, it does not get a pass on its incompetence nor on its so-called benevolence. From our personal experience in trying to help this mother and her family, we see FirstEnergyCorp as little more than a greedy Fortune 500 Corporation with profits in the billions and a monopoly business in the city of Toledo.

Lefty Blogs