We have just begun to dig into the Sustainable Westchester company, funded in part by NY State, and its sister company, Solarize Westchester. We can find a link between the two but are unable to scratch beyond the surface. Apparently tied into the bloated thread of New York State's labyrinth of bureaucracy, both of these companies are not-for-profit. The proposal Sustainable Westchester has submitted appears to request the Town and Consolidated Edison provide them with your private information! This could be interpreted as similar to questionable companies who sell your email addresses, personal addresses and other personal information. Being a not-for-profit does not guarantee anything and past performance of our Supervisor is certainly an indicator of future results.
Distinguishing between a not-for-profit and a for-profit company implies that a not-for-profit business will not turn a profit. It's a mistaken belief that non-profits cannot and do not make money. This is hardly the case as many do actually not only make money, but make a lot of money and sometimes not related to the actual non-profit purposes. The biggest difference between profit-driven and not-for-profit companies is how profits are distributed. A for-profit company redistributes profits to its shareholders and a not-for-profit sees the money go back into the company or toward more and/or higher salaries.
The mere fact that a company is organized under the not-for-profit corporation law does not mean that contributions to them are necessarily tax deductible. But many times those with access to the press will push on behalf of the not-for-profit, claiming that, "This company is doing important, vital, charitable work, etc., and by the way, they are a not-for-profit company." So what? The common misconception is that a not-for-profit has to be profit-LESS entity and operate at a loss or just break-even. There is no such legal requirement for this. Nor is there any restriction of paying extremely handsome salaries to its officers and even their staff. Why do we mention this?
Mr Feiner has already decided that the Sustainable Westchester plan is a go-ahead. This may have appeared validated as representatives from Sustainable Westchester were not even present at the opening of this public hearing. Mr Sheehan had raised some reasonable questions about moving forward with this but Mr Feiner continues to ignore all rational arguments to slow this process down. In fact, yesterday there was a press release from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, announcing more than $1million in restitution will be awarded to NYS energy customers from an energy service company! It was found that these people were falsely promised lower energy prices and some enrolled WITHOUT their consent and they will now receive partial refunds! While violating the law has never bothered Mr Feiner, it should give him pause to re-evaluate moving forward with so many unanswered questions looming. Next up, Mr Feiner will spew a cornucopia of terms he likes to use whenever the G10 prove him wrong, using phrases such as, "We must follow the process", "do our due diligence", "people must have confidence in the system (interchangeable with process)", "this is only my personal opinion", and so on.
While our digging into ESCO's and Sustainable Westchester did not provide enough in-depth information beyond sound-byte-like snippets, what we did find is what we believe is a significant conflict of interest with Sustainable Westchester. The Board of Directors* of Sustainable Westchester include the leaders of the same municipalities who have entered into a contract with Sustainable Westchester! Mr Feiner continues to try to spin their membership as a good thing, without acknowledging their membership as Board of Directors! Has Mr Feiner been promised a Board of Director position once the proposal is adopted? Could that be why he has pushed so adamantly for the Town to join?
Why is this not “great news” as Mr Feiner purports? Several reasons. First, Sustainable Westchester is using this application to gain your personal information! Whether it's only for your mailing address or more, the Town should not be assisting a private corporation in acquiring your personal information to operate their business. Second, you may recall, the Town refused to give its email list to a Civic Association who wished to use it for informational purposes, and was ordered to do so by the court with the provision that it not be used for commercial purposes. That decision is currently under appeal. Third, residents should have to opt IN, not opt OUT of this program. But that is not how Mr Feiner is working this questionable process. Fourth, is the obvious conflict of interest by the participating communities whose leaders sit on Sustainable Westchester's Board of Directors. Why wouldn't these Board of Directors, who control the direction of their communities, put their communities in this program? It's an obvious windfall for them. Something here stinks!
During the public comment portion of the July 8th, 2015 Town Board meeting, the "done deal" was obvious when Mr Feiner slipped and then backpedaled as he said (paraphrasing) that they could hold off voting on this proposal until he gets information from other community supervisors on the success of this program and then vote for it. This is just another delay tactic to assuage the public's unified objection against this plan. It's another Feiner deflection as he pushes all residents into a questionable program. Ken Stahn, President of the Sprain Road Civic Association, organized a meeting immediately prior to the last Town Board meeting. He said that there were too many variables still unaddressed and we don't need to be the “leader or the first” to do this. He also commented that the Town is involved in a corresponding program, Solarize Westchester, that seems like it may be a better deal but also has unanswered questions and may require waiting a bit more. Bob Bernstein commented that this Town Board's members are not energy experts and should not get involved with this given their track record.
In the end, this proposal will pass regardless of the arguments against, the proof against, or the simple logic that the Board will ignore because Mr Feiner tells them to do so. They'll ignore the cost of or even the fact that the Town will pay for mailings instead of Sustainable Westchester; ignore the penalties incurred by residents who didn't know Mr Feiner secretly enlisted them in the program to boost the numbers for his friends ESCO; ignore that the costs may go up and the residents will have little or no recourse for refunds or to get out from under until the 3-year contract expires or if the cost of energy goes down, forcing residents to pay more than the market rate and putting the ESCO in financial difficulty. Mostly, they'll ignore that the willfully ignorant have once again had their freedoms chipped away by not having the choice to opt IN, but rather must opt OUT. This must change. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.
* The Board of Directors for Sustainable Westchester include, among others, Noam Bramson (Mayor of New Rochelle), Chris Burdick (Supervisor of Bedford), Tom Roach (Mayor of White Plains), Nancy Seligson (Supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck) and finally Mike Spano (Mayor of Yonkers, often referred to as the City of Hills, where nothing is on the level).