On this special “Election 2020” edition of “Arizona Horizon” six candidates debate as they vie to fill three open seats within the Arizona Corporation Commission. This hour-long debate is hosted by Ted Simons and sponsored by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
Those included in this debate are Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, the former CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Democrat Bill Mundell, who served nine years on the Corporation Commission; Republican Jim O’Connor, who ran for a seat on the Corporation Commission two years ago; Democrat Shea Stanfield, a former teacher who served as a Cave Creek town council member; Republican Eric Sloan, who ran for a seat on the Corporation Commission two years ago; and Democrat Anna Tovar, the mayor of Tolleson and former lawmaker in the Arizona House and Senate.
A main question that arose during this debate is if the candidates agree with utility companies shutting off water, air conditioning etc. to families unable to pay their bills during the summer due to the pandemic?
Anna Tovar said, “I’ve worked extremely hard in making sure that we are protecting our consumers and making sure they have water and electricity that is always on.” She says there are things we can do in our communities especially for lower income and disproportionate communities that are hurting, and that she is “supportive of making sure that we have policies in place preventing the shut-offs.”
Eric Sloan followed her response by saying, “This is an absolutely wrong thing for the utilities to do in the height of summer, to shut off someone’s air conditioner, and has resulted in the loss of life.”
Shea Stanfield responded to the question of ‘how you keep people from just abandoning their bills?’ She said, “I don’t believe that most people…just abandon their responsibilities.” Stanfield continued to say, “We have lots of families in need. And in fact, I am totally against any shut off policy.”
So, how do we help those families in need?
Jim O’Connor followed up by saying, “Outlets like SRP and municipal owned utilities should be very compassionate, they’ve got a public relations opportunity to come to the rescue of those who are in desperate times. So I’m very empathetic to that position.”
Bill Mundell added to the response and said, “Shutting somebody off, in my opinion, should be a last resort. That should be the last things the utility does.” Mundell says utility companies have a lot of other options before shutting somebody off.
Should APS forgive the debt from those who have not paid their bills this summer?
Lea Marquez Peterson responded, “I think what we need to do instead is to advocate for additional federal dollars like heat dollars which are specifically for heating electricity for low income families.” She went on to say, “We need to make sure we are promoting and that they’re aware of our utility assistance programs.”
Other topics of the debate included the ethics and influence of utility companies, clean and renewable energy, and environmental impact.