Jim Brooks, a City Council member for Evansville, Wis., and incoming Chair of the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Policy Makers Council (PMC), recently detailed the key role that the PMC plays as a voice for public power in Washington, D.C.
“The PMC brings together about 40 elected officials from across the country whose main task is to call on Congress and policy writers in Washington to present the concerns of public power communities with a single voice,” Brooks said in a Q&A with Public Power Current.
“Lawmakers see swarms of paid lobbyists on a regular basis, but they know that when we show up, we are bringing along the thoughts and needs of thousands of voters in their district. Many in Congress started in local government and have maintained those ties to our communities, to our advantage,” he said.
Brooks noted that the Chair of the PMC works with APPA staff “to make sure that monthly calls bring the highest benefit to all the members and to make sure that future leadership of the Council keeps to the highest standards. I am looking forward to carrying on the work of so many before me.”
Brooks, who will formally take over as Chair of the PMC later this year, is attending APPA’s Legislative Rally in Washington, D.C., which starts on Feb. 28.
Wisconsin’s Evansville Light & Water, a small utility serving 4,700 customers, is advised by a Utilities Committee comprised of City Council members.
Brooks has served on the City Council since 2010 and has been president since 2013 and he also serves as the Utilities Committee chair.
Brooks also addressed the question of how important it is that the voice of smaller public power utilities, such as Evansville Water & Light’s, is heard through bodies such as the PMC.
“The PMC works as a leveler to make sure that the thousands of public power communities all have their voice heard by lawmakers,” he noted.
“Whether leading a utility with 300 people in the call-center or one with one person to answer the phones, send out bills, and do daily dispatch, we are all equal when we walk through the doors of the House office buildings to share our requests and ideas,” Brooks said.
“The needs of huge utilities may not be of the same magnitude as the smaller, but APPA -- through the PMC -- makes certain that we all have the opportunity to be heard.”
Meanwhile, Brooks was recently elected as chair of WPPI Energy’s Policy & Communications Leadership Council (PCLC).
WPPI Energy, based in Sun Prairie, Wisc., serves 51 locally owned electric utilities in Wisconsin, Iowa and Upper Michigan.
He noted that the PCLC coordinates efforts of the 51 member-owners of WPPI “to share a consistent message to our members and to our ratepayers. We meet quarterly to refine the messages we share across the membership.”
Over the past few years, “we have worked to streamline the quantity of daily and weekly communications to the membership while making them more impactful and tailored to the user. A daily digest of local news stories similar to APPA’s Public Power Current keeps leadership up to date while personalized power use and cost reports allow ratepayers to better understand their bills. And, a weekly digest delivers key WPPI business updates,” Brooks said.
Similarly, the PCLC works to shape the advocacy efforts in Madison, Wis., Lansing, Mich., and Des Moines, Iowa, as well as in Washington, Brooks said.
“We work with our government relations staff and with our state association to stay abreast of the goings on in the Capitol buildings and at the PSC and to share a consistent message as needed.”