The five-member Public Service Commission is one of the least known of Georgia's agencies even though it has regulatory oversight over everything from utilities to telecommunications. Its decisions affect consumers' wallets and quality of life just as much, if not more, than the state legislature. That's why it's so important for Georgia voters to do their homework on the two PSC candidates running statewide in the Nov. 7 general election.
For the first seat, The Chronicle recommends knowledgeable Republican incumbent STAN WISE.
For the second seat, voters should return a newer incumbent, Democrat DAVID BURGESS.
Wise, a businessman and former Cobb County commissioner, has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of a vast array of PSC issues. He has the ability to grasp details quickly and translate them into an understanding of complex issues. Over the past four years, especially as the PSC grappled with cutting-edge telecommunications issues, Wise provided valuable leadership and vision for other panel members.
Georgians should particularly want to return this consumer-friendly incumbent. He was the main architect behind returning over $1 billion to Georgia Power Co. customers, a large portion of which went to small businesses paying disproportionately higher electric rates. Also, as Wise reflects on the General Assembly's bungled gas deregulation, he vows a go-slow approach when it comes to any electric deregulation - especially since Georgians already enjoy one of the lowest state electric rates in the nation.
Wise's totally unqualified Democrat opponent has unsuccessfully run for office at least 12 times and has had past run-ins with the law.
David Burgess, appointed by the governor to fill a vacant seat in 1999, is the first former PSC staff member to occupy a PSC seat. His 17-year staff service, which included reviewing rate cases and heading the telecommunications unit, meant that the Georgia Tech engineering grad already had valuable insights in balancing the long-term needs of utilities versus the interests of consumers.
The Democrat took a lead in working with Wise to adopt rules preventing telephone "slamming" of customers by unscrupulous natural gas marketeers. He also coordinated efforts with the General Assembly to enact a comprehensive Utility Facility Protection Plan to improve natural gas pipeline safety in the state.
Burgess' GOP opponent is a nice enough fellow, but lacks the qualifications and money to mount a credible challenge.
It would be a tremendous blow to the PSC and its vital work if Wise and Burgess are not kept on the job.