A4 MONDAY, MAY 12, 1997 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "The Donald Trump-Maria Maples marrige is ending. This proves there's something we care even less about than the end of the Donald-Ivana marriage." BIN TammeuB The Kansas City Star By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina .Journal Wheel of fortune THE ISSUE Retail wheeling of electric power THE ARGUMENT Rural Kansas is right to be wary T here are those who insist that a new way of selling electricity — a method called "retail wheeling" — will be an open-market way to make power less expensive for everyone. Folks in rural Kansas might get on a bus to go to Topeka to express their skepticism to state utility regulators. Except there are no buses to rural areas. No passenger trains, either. Some places are lucky to have a freight train running through. That is what free-market competition has done for much of rural America. So it is right for the people of western Kansas to be doubtful when they hear promises of the cheap electricity retail wheeling is supposed to bring. Today in Kansas, electricity is provided by regulated monopolies. Every one of us has one, and only one, source of electricity. The deal, enforced by the Kansas Corporation Commission, is that we have to use the power sold by the local provider, and the local provider has to be there to sell it to us. The new idea is that these monopolies have no incentive to control prices because their is no competition to undercut them. To introduce competition, customers could buy their electricity from any number of sources, across the state or across the nation, and require the local utility to transfer — or "wheel" — the juice down its lines to your house or business. In many parts of the county, and for many customers, the result would indeed be cheaper power. But not, necessarily, for everyone. Sunflower Electric, a co-op that serves much of western Kansas, commissioned a study of the issue by Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs. The results were not promising. The study predicts that rural areas won't have the buying power of big cities or big business, and so won't be able to reap the benefits of competition. Unregulated for-profit suppliers will naturally seek to go where they can make the most money, which in most cases will be population centers with many more customers per mile of wire than are found in western Kansas. Thus, instead of being the sought- after customers who are bombarded with solicitations, rural Kansans may have to call power company bosses at home at dinner time to badger them into selling us enough electricity to run a factory, or even a small farm. Of course, the Docking study was sponsored by an outfit that will be the first one to be underbid by aggressive competition. And there is an argument to be made that many utilities are only threatened by retail wheeling because, under the protection of regulated monopoly, they overbuilt, and would be left holding the bag without their captive customer base. But it would be wrong for any electric customer to suffer either higher prices or reduced reliability because of decisions made far away by people none of us can vote for. Regulated monopolies may well be a thing of the past. Maybe they should be. But, when the product is something as essential as electric power, the competition that follows should be regulated, too. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLettersOsaljournal.com Honor your police officers this week The United States Congress has declared May 11-17 as National Police Week. The city of Salina followed suit with a proclamation, read by a police chaplain at the May 5 city commission meeting. Thursday, law enforcement officers of the state, county and city, along with family and friends, will gather at Jerry Ivey Park at 8 a.m. for a memorial service to honor slain police officers, All of this is a very fitting tribute to our law enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line every day for our protection. As one who has been associated with Salina and Saline County law enforcement since 1973 as a volunteer chaplain, I can attest to the high quality of training, professionalism and courtesy of law enforcement personnel in this area. Citizens, will you, during the week of May 11-17, say thank you to your police officers by waving to them as they pass in their "Black and White." Officers will you say "you're welcome" by waving back to the citizens. We need to appreciate the police officers, and officers need to appreciate citizens. P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 Having been a pastor for most of my adult life, I cannot escape invoking God's Word on this occasion. "Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which has been established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers, hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong be afraid for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on wrongdoers." — Romans 13:1-4 New International Version — GARLEN HOWINGTON Salina • The Rev. Garten Howington is pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church, Salina, and serves as a chaplain for the Salina Police Department and the Saline County Sheriff's Office. : #as inflation really gone away, or has it just gone someplace else 9 ABOUT GASOLINE A SHARE op STOCK £057-5 MOv T THE OBSERVER My, oh my, how times do change Hotel bill for college reunion now cost more than a year of college did then I went to Baltimore for a college reunion. Checked into a hotel. Pretty good hotel. You could open a window, get some fresh air. In a lot of hotels nowadays it's breathe that old secondhand, used air or do without. The bellboy said did I want some ice. Bellboys always say that. I always say yes, bring some ice. Don't know what to & do with the ice when it comes. Still, bellboys like you to ask for it. Makes them feel they're earning the tip, I guess. I have this room for three days. Cost for three days is more than a whole year's tuition when I first went to this college. And that's with the special reduced rate for old grads. Otherwise a two-day stay would cost more than tuition for a whole year cost back then. How times do change! Back then there was no watching a movie in hotel rooms — no TV — which I decided to do. Checked list of movies, special attention to X- raters, always called dirty movies back then. In all Baltimore there wasn't one dirty-movie house back then. Just the Gayety burlesque. Margie Hart, Evelyn West and Her Treasure Chest. Now, right here in this room, seven or T POINT OF VIEW RUSSELL BAKER The New York Times. eight spicy flicks. Decided I'd better not. Always decide I'd better not when staying in hotels. Officials — FBI, CIA, local cops, militant feminists — probably recording room numbers of all X-rated viewers. This hotel says no records are kept of what you're watching. Still — could be a lie. Way to trap the saps. Anyhow, what if the maid came in? Once in Washington went to see "Deep Throat." Everybody had to see "Deep Throat" that year. Coming out of theater afterward, wouldn't you know who I'd bump into? The grandmother who lived next door. I was so busy wanting to die, I didn't have time to wonder what she was doing there. So instead I watched Barbra Streisand. She marries this calculus teacher because he hates carnal relations. Or something. Is it comedy or heartbreak, Barbra? You've got to decide these things if you're going to make movies. Watched Barbra comically fail to seduce the celibate husband, then have a heartbreak moment with Mama Lauren Bacall, which is even sillier. Making Lauren Bacall a mama, I mean. $8.50 it cost, on top of the room rate. That would have bought 85 streetcar rides to this college back then. How times do change! No wonder it costs $4 million to send a kid to college these days, or whatever the outrageous price is that you keep seeing in the papers. What's this! A red light on the phone. I have a message, says the ghastly voice-mail voice. "Call your office." Thanks to my company's powerful AT&T credit card, I could do so without being reminded how much cheaper things were back then. So I punched 25 numbers. "Not good enough," said the phone. Of course it wasn't. Stupidly, I'd failed to start by punching 9 for calls outside the hotel. So I punched 26 numbers. The phone made nasty sounds. A testy voice asked what I thought I was doing. This phone wasn't licensed to transmit calls via AT&T, you dope. She said why not use your personal card. "Stuff it," I thought, but didn't say, hanging up and delving into my wallet for the ancient piece of paper, 1 inch by 21/2 inches, on which I had several hundred other numbers for such emergencies. What's this! Lost my wallet? No. It turned up 30 minutes later hiding under the ice bucket. This time I punched 31 numbers. Got a real-estate agent in Manhattan. Must have punched wrong. So punched 19 of the 31 numbers again, then went blank on number 20. Started over again. Got to number 23 before blanking out. Next time I lost it on number 17. How times do change! Figured some reunion activity would clear my mind. After getting back from the reunion dinner I'd probably be able to tackle all 31 numbers with more zest for the test. That's what I figured. So what I did was repeat the 31 numbers over and over at dinner, which nobody noticed because everybody else was saying, "How times do change!" I'm back at the hotel. Completely blank on numbers 23 through 29. Would the office please call? My grandparents' phone number was '2' But now, in some places, you have to dial 10 digits just to call next door L ast month Maryland became the first state in which all telephone calls, even one to a next-door neighbor, require the dialing of an <8> area code. Virginia and several other states are expected to acknowledge very soon the same irritating surge of progress. The growing number of traditional telephones, along with cellular phones, pagers, fax machines, answering machines, computer lines and assorted conference-call and even television-enhanced systems, are about to make 10 digits the standard for phone numbers. Ten digits are something to think about, especially if you are old enough to remember when three or four digits were enough to sustain telephonic communication in most towns of the United States. Memory is not my greatest strength, but I still remember a batch of three-digit telephone numbers from a boyhood in small-town Virginia. And I will confess, indeed, that I remember when my grandparents in Lawrenceburg, Ky., CHARLES MCDOWELL Media General News Service had the telephone number 2. Yes, just 2. That was in the 1930s. Now in the late 1990s, I am sobered to have seen telephone numbers progress through the range from one to 10 digits. This reflects some progress in the communications system, but it also reflects some losses. We have lost "Central," who said "Number please," when we picked up the telephone. She was reassuring, helpful and hopeful as we adapted to an awesome innovation in our lives. She had, by the way, succeeded males who, history tells us, were the first telephone operators after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, But male operators were grumpy and had to be steered toward executive or janitorial service, Women as operators might well tell a caller, for instance, that the person being called was out of town until Tuesday, or maybe was Just over at her sister's house and would the caller like to try that number? My parents and brother and I used to spend summers with my maternal grandparents on the farm in Kentucky, I remember going with my grandfather one day to his law office in Lawrenceburg. In the afternoon, I got bored and tried to call my grandmother at the farm to come and get me. The operator said: "Number please," I said: "Two, please," The operator said: "If you're calling Mrs. Feland, she and her neighbor Mrs. Sherwood are at the A&P. They've tried to call Mr. Feland but he was on the phone with some lawyer in Frankfurt. Anyway, the message is that they are coming by the office and drive you back to the farm because that young Jersey cow just had a calf." Anyway, the operator as friend and positive meddler is just about gone. The modern caller and high technology dial up the numbers and all the rest of it, and Americans in tune with the times have several lines into home and office, a pager in their pocket and a cell-phone and maybe a cell-fax in the car. And Americans lead the enthusiasts for all of It. In 1887 there were already 150,000 telephones in the United States. A hundred years later, there were 160 million here, 50 million in second-place Japan, maybe 425 million in the whole world, In the past 10 years, the symbol of the communications revolution and of the requisite wonky mind has been cell-phones — tens of millions of them added to the power of America in all their wireless glory amidst the traffic jams. We can assume that in 10 more years, the typical phone number will be 20 digits. Of course, I personally will still be trying to learn how to hunch my shoulder properly to steer, operate the other controls, honk the horn at idiots and hear the phone and all the wisdom in it. IESBURY By Q.B. TRUDEAU MUG, I'M SO UNWR5MNP- tti&P ABOUT ABM PO/NGA 7H/57WPI TH& 7IMIN6ISRI6Hr t THOU<5H. ' AiMMSBRINS 7HIN6&TO A HBAR ANPNOT JUffT FOR THPHAPfY COUPt&t WUPONf WTHMUK?
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