Facts Twisted by PS in Fight on Light Plant, Von Nieda Says

Camden Courier-Post – October 29, 1935

Corporation Fails to Tell About Drop in Florida Rate, Charge


“In presenting figures to influence the voters of Camden on the light plant referendum, Public Service Corporation has cooked its own goose in an electric roaster.”

That was the declaration of Mayor Frederick von Nieda last night in a statement urging the voters at the November 5 election not to be deceived by “fallacious chart advertising.”

“The biggest mistake in the corporation’s campaign of advertising,” von Nieda said, “is when they cite Jacksonville, Fla., where there is a city-owned plant in a municipality comparable in size to Camden.

“Here’s what Public Service says so glibly in its advertisement: ‘Residential service electric rates were substantially reduced in Camden last year and are now lower than the residential rates charged in Jacksonville, Fla.’”

“Then it cites the monthly cost of electricity for the average family in Camden now, on the basis of a consumption of 45 kilowatt hours, at $2.80, or at the rate of 6.23 cents per kilowatt hour. In Jacksonville the basic residential rate has been 7 cents.

Big Drop in Rate

“But what Public Service failed to tell the public is that in Jacksonville the rate is established for ordinary use of lighting, but when another appliance is added in the home, say a radio, the rate automatically drops to 3 cents, more than 100 percent below the Camden rate.

“There is scarcely a home using electricity in Camden that has no electrical appliance, if it’s only an iron or a hair curler.

“Neither has the Public Service Corporation told the public in its paid advertisements that in Jacksonville the city owned plant contributed in 1933 to the city treasury $1,720,000 and in 1934, despite certain supply contracts, $1,300,000.

“I have in my possession a letter from Jacksonville’s utility engineer in which he states that in another three or four years the city will be tax free.

“Public Service in its fallacious charts seeks to uphold its slogan that ‘Cost of Government Increases as Cost of Electricity Decreases.’

“The answer to that is easy: ‘The income of government, where there is a city-owned plant, increases as the consumption of electricity increases because of lower rates.’”

3 Ways to Run Plant

“There are three ways in which public-owned plants may be run. First, for the benefit of the taxpayers only, as in Jacksonville. Second, as in Seattle, for the taxpayers and consumers by low rates. Third, as in Tacoma for low rate only.

“While I was fighting for light plant legislation in Trenton a Tacoma man visiting the state capital showed me a receipted tax bill for the previous month for $2.80 which covered the lighting of every room in his house every night because his wife in his absence couldn’t bear to be alone in the darkness, covered also operation of an electrical refrigerator, air conditioner, radio, cooking and other appliances and heating of the whole house and that was in a cold month. It was amazing, but it was true.

“And yet with the lowest rate in the country, the Tacoma plant turned over to the city $854,381 in one year. Tacoma has more than 14,000 electric ranges. Our entire state of New Jersey has less than 1000.

Huge Profits

“Electricity is the only commodity that is sold to the majority of consumers at 18 to 20 times its cost. Since its manufacturing and distribution are in at least 90 percent of our American communities controlled by private corporations, the public finds itself virtually at their mercy.

“It goes without saying that a private corporation is certainly loath to relinquish its enormous profits-hidden behind a capital set-up, huge salaries and other devices — and will go to any length of trouble and expense to eliminate a competition that might compel them to meet lower rates.

“But what of taxes? Private companies pay taxes. City-owned plants do not. Taxes are involuntary contributions for cost of city government. Taxes paid by private companies are rarely more than 10 to 12 percent of their gross receipts not their net profits.

“All the net profits of city-owned plants go into the city treasury and become voluntary contributions to the amount to be raised for the cost of government and take the place of taxes that would have been placed on all taxpayers for just that purpose.

Benefit of Competition

“Again comes the plea of the private company, that a competitor of this type would destroy private investment. A low rate can only benefit the private company, for it will bring mass consumption and send their stock, not downward, but soaring because of increased business.

“In Montreal where the Montreal Light and Power Company is in competition with the plant of the City of Westmont just across the river, what was once upon a time a rate of 12% is now 3% but the use was made so manifold that, the stock of the private company rose from $94 to $1167.”

Public Service Corporation was accused yesterday by Commissioner Frank J. Hartmann, Jr., of “flooding Camden with foreign language newspapers in which half-baked truths and distortions of fact appear.”

Hartmann, chairman of the municipal light plant committee, predicted the vote in favor of the project at the November 5 election would be “at least 8 to 1 instead of 4 to 1 because of such tactics.”

Hartmann announced he and other commissioners will “take the stump” in an effort to bring about an overwhelming majority in favor of the project.

“We’re going to talk on street corners, over Station WCAM, through mobile sound-trucks and at meetings, Hartmann said. “We hope to stage a huge mass meeting the night before election at Convention Hall. I agree with Surrogate Hanna that an even more convincing vote in favor of the project than two years ago would be a real blow to Public Service’s efforts to defeat the will of the people.”

A total of 22,730 votes were cast in favor of a city-owned plant in the 1933 referendum, against 9160 negative votes.

Statement By Hartmann

Hartmann’s statement follows:

“The Public Service Electric & Gas Company is stooping to unfair tactics in an effort to defeat the will of the people in declaring for a municipal light plant at the election on Nov. 5.

“I am reliably informed that the city is now being flooded with foreign language newspapers in which advertisements containing half-baked truths and distortions of fact appear.

“One of these newspapers, a weekly, has been imported from Newark. Probably, if these same advertisements should appear in an English language newspaper, they would have the effect of defeating the Public Service arguments. They would not dare to hand to persons of English speech the lies which they can pass on to those of foreign extraction in Camden city who cannot speak the English language.

“It is tactics of these kinds which will so arouse the voters that the vote will be at least eight to one as compared to the four to one vote of two years ago in favor of the light plant.

“As has been said many times before, the people of the City of Camden are being taxed twice, once by the city and once by the utility company in the form of exorbitant rates.

“If has been said that Camden has low electric rates. Such statements are not true. Camden rates, according to Congressional investigation, are the fourth highest in the country and by Camden’s rates we mean the rates of any city or any customer in the Public Service system.

“It has been recently proven that the City of Camden can buy power cheaper retail than it can wholesale. The advertising manager of the public Service Company says ‘if we would use more of it we can get it for less money, a humorous statement when you consider if you read such statements regarding the various costs in different parts of the city in the water department, the same electricity costs as high as I cents in one place and perhaps 6/10 of a cent somewhere else, but no matter where it is consumed the same basic cost still exists and I am convinced that the Public Service can manufacture electricity as cheap as anyone else, especially those that they claim in poorly operated municipal plants who can manufacture current for 4/10 of a cent per kilowatt hour.

“No thinking voter will be fooled by either the statements or the number of advertisements appearing in the paper. For, after all, money is no object in this battle as far as the people’s rights are concerned.

“At the present time the City of Camden is very poorly lighted because we can afford only $126,000 for street lighting. If Camden had its own municipal power plant “we “would get much more light for far less money. Likewise in the water department w* would not be charging 17 cents to ourselves for one kilowatt of electricity, on the face of the earth controlled by monopoly that sells from two to twenty times the cost of its production.

“The present City Commission, of which I am a member, takes cognizance of the fact that one of the reasons we are in office at the present time is because we have pledged our support for a municipal power plant.

“We are now planning a short and intensive campaign which will consist of holding meetings in the various civic and social clubs throughout Camden, speaking to the entire city from loud-speaking wagons, and we intend planning a mass meeting to climax our effort, and we sincerely hope that the voting this time is at least twice as decisive as it was two years ago.

“Because of the fact that Camden did not own its municipal power plant we fund ourselves struggling along in the same way and manner that we have for the last six years.

“Incidentally, every commissioner will speak at very frequent intervals over Camden’s municipal station, privately owned.

“The commissioners, in endeavoring to reach the people, of course, will utilize the press and right here may we say that Camden’s newspaper, the Courier-Post, deserves credit for suggesting that the question be placed on the ballot without petition. The citizens and the commissioners offer to these newspapers sincere thanks and sincerely hope that they will continue in the future as they have in the past, in telling the citizens of Camden what is best for them.

“We urge that every citizen go to the pools and vote yes for a municipal light plant. This is your salvation. The relief from the tax burden and the beginning of a new day. The people must be served.”


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