Brace yourself. You’re about to be bashed with a clunky government-agency name: Colorado’s Office of Consumer Counsel. As soon as you’ve recovered, take note: The office does great work on behalf of you and me. But not enough people know what it does and how it does what it does, which is a problem right now if it is going to continue doing its work.
Who appreciates what the office is doing? A few community activists with wiffle-ball bats, that’s who. But we’ll get to them in a bit. Why do they appreciate the state’s Consumer Advocate, as the office is also known? Because it saves the state a lot of money – $1.7 billion, it says, or $30 on every $1 the office spends.
The Office of Consumer Counsel (cringe) helps Coloradans fight unfair rate-increases from gas and electric companies; it monitors 911 services and makes sure the folks responding to emergencies are actually responding to emergencies; it pushes landline-telephone companies to keep their rates reasonable and to stick to the rules.
And if you think navigating the poetics of the Office of Consumer Counsel’s name is a chore, be glad the office exists. Staffers have to sift through legalese in telecommunication and utility law, a task that would make you stick your finger in an electrical outlet and call it day. Without the Consumer Advocate, 911 might not even get an ambulance to your door.
In short, the Consumer Advocate sticks up for Colorado consumers and fights utility companies in court, and it has since lawmakers voted it into existence in 1984.
Not surprisingly, the office’s big defenders are equally badly named: CoPIRG – the Colorado Public Interest Research Group –whose members have been strutting around Denver in suits and brandishing wiffle-ball bats and baseball cards, reminding lawmakers that they are very, very behind renewing funding for the Consumer Advocate office.
“We’re not going to sit in the stands and watch Colorado’s consumer MVP get benched,” said Danny Katz of CoPIRG.
CoPIRG is doing their best with this baseball stunt to bring last-minute attention to this pressing issue.
See, every couple years, Colorado lawmakers decide whether or not the office gets funded. This year’s the year, says Katz, and nobody seems to notice: not the Senate, not the House, not the Governor.
If the office runs out of funds, goodbye Consumer Advocate, Katz says. Hello utility hikes, lousy services and broken rules.
Lawmakers are not voicing their opposition to the office; they’re just letting the clock run down.
“We’re taking our home plate and our team Colorado Consumers jersey to the Capitol and we’re going to push for Legislators and the Governor to step up to the plate for Colorado’s Consumer Advocate,” said Katz, unashamed to take this baseball-themed press stunt a little too far
Top Photo Credit: Charles Kaiser, Creative Commons, Flickr.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of CoPIRG.