News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Alabamians need advocate Susan Parker on PSC

During her career in public service, Morgan County native Susan Parker has always represented the interests of common, hardworking Alabamians.

That is exactly the type of representation Alabamians need on the Public Service Commission.

As state auditor from 1999 to 2003, Ms. Parker brought the office current with audits for the first time in 10 years. But, more importantly, she began auditing no-bid contracts to ensure the taxpayers were not getting overcharged or receiving substandard services.

That type of oversight is exactly what Alabama's PSC needs.

Perhaps the Elk River Democrat's hard work early in her life to pull herself up by her bootstraps — she picked cotton as a teen and later worked full-time while earning four degrees — influenced her empathy for working men and women. Ms. Parker vows to continue to look out for ordinary, everyday Alabamians.

"This can be a noble way to serve," she says of the PSC. "The Public Service Commission directly affects every citizen in Alabama every month when they pay their utility bills. It's important to have a commissioner who has the consumers' interest at heart."

That's not to say that Ms. Parker would reject every request for a utility-rate hike out of hand. She knows that utilities sometimes have valid reasons to raise rates, like gas prices in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, she said.

But she also knows that there are times when prices should come down.

She also realizes that the PSC can protect consumers' interests in unregulated utilities, like cellular telephone service and propane gas suppliers, by ensuring competition exists in the marketplace.

"If there is no competition, then you need regulation," she said. "Competition helps keep prices down."

Ms. Parker says her opponent, Perry Hooper Jr., a former legislator from Montgomery whose father was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has taken campaign contributions from Alabama Power Co. or the company's employee political action committee. Mr. Hooper and Alabama Power both deny the charge.

But there is no denying the fact that the state Ethics Commission fined Mr. Hooper $12,000 in 2001 for not reporting $115,000 in commissions on property insurance contracts with the state while he was a member of the Legislature.

Mr. Hooper's actions show his allegiance is to Perry Hooper.

Susan Parker is smart, likable and would represent the interests of working Alabamians.

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