Diary

Occupy Rochester (NY) – live stream nitty-gritty

The City of Rochester, NY, has been corrupt ever since I moved to the area in 1994 (which is one of the reasons I do not live in the city proper). If there were ever a contest for the cronyism pin-up of the year, Rochester would surely be a contender. I have been monitoring the live stream from Occupy Rochester, and it seems most of their complaints have to do with local issues.  I agree with many of these in a general sense; about selling public land for $2 to be developed and dumping  millions in public funds into associated projects that always end up going bad. The city has been great at selling these projects to the public as a way to boost economic activity over the years, and Rochester sorely needs it, but failed project after failed project that leaves the taxpayers on the hook with nothing to show for it, and no one ending up in jail, gets real old after awhile.

They also discussed Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E), which is the largest local energy provider. The gentleman conducting the stream explained to the folks sitting around him that the expensive and plain vanilla services provided by RG&E are because they operate on a solely profit motive, and something needs to be done to put the “public” back into public utilities. At this point I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to kibitz, not to try to pick a fight because I recall that one of the first things to be heavily regulated during first part of the progressive movement back in the early part of the 20th century, after railroads, was utilities. The high prices and low level of services has very little to do with the profit motive and everything to do with lack of competition. A company such as this one would not be able to survive in an open market with the business model it has and would have been out of business long ago if not for the monopoly fostered by government.

I cannot logically connect the dots between putting the “public” back in public utilities and solving the problems created by regulated utilities monopolies under vague assumptions of “Climate Change” and environmentalism.  The problems go much deeper than that, though. If having a monopoly created by state regulation isn’t bad enough, we have the problem of regulatory overlap where each monopoly has multiple masters, state and Federal, making it extremely difficult to identify where inefficiencies are being created and little hope of holding anyone accountable for out of control utility rates.

Camping out in a park in the city isn’t going to have much mileage in coming up with an equitable solution to any of the mess government has created. It would be nice if we could take more of the “public” out of public utilities, put the competition and power of the consumer back into capitalism that regulatory regimes remove so “We the People” can correct these issues ourselves and bring some discipline to these markets that have been distorted by government.

About the cleanup of Occupy Oakland, they admitted that it had gotten out of control and the speaker voiced agreement with the need for the authorities to step in and clean it up. He then started talking about some of the things that happened at the Occupy Rochester camp at the beginning of the protest. According to him, there were some thugs who mixed in with the protest and there was at least one stabbing. He didn’t go into details about the stabbing. He moved on to talk about the agreement they made with the Mayor of Rochester so they could stay in the park after the outbreak of violence.

I have not made a visit to the park to see what is actually going on there (and I don’t want to, either). The details of the agreement are that they cannot have alcohol, generators, or heaters in tents, build fires, cannot bring in portable toilets, or impede anyone else from using the park, and they have to keep the area clean.  Minors participating in the protest must have written parental consent and the juvenile curfew still applies.  It is dated 11/11/11 and so only time will tell if it is an effective way to keep the protest under control.