Sunday, August 19, 2007

Eye On The Courant

Don’t Mess With Gombossy

In Sunday’s edition, The Hartford Courant’s new Consumer Watchdog, George Gombossy, brings the president of Connecticut Light & Power, Raymond Necci, to heel – with a little help from the paper’s friends.

CL&P has been unable to shed it’s arrogance as Connecticut’s former state supported energy monopoly. It could not be brought to admit that its meters might possibly malfunction and overcharge its customers. When several consumers complained to Gombossy that their meters appeared not to be working properly, Gombossy produced a front page story on the issue, the paper enlisted the help of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and before you could say “You’re gonna get sued,” the president of CL&P was on his knees, begging for mercy.

In yet another front page consumer column in Sunday’s edition, Gombossy pulls no punches. “CL&P and its parent company, Northeast Utilities,” he writes, “are under pressure from the state attorney general's office and the General Assembly's energy committee, which have asked state public utility regulators to investigate the utility's meter testing and customer service programs as the result of the Watchdog columns.

“I hope Necci realizes there will be uproar if he or Northeast Utilities tries to stick ratepayers with the tab for what it's going to cost CL&P to regain its credibility. That money should be coming right out of the executives' compensation and from the stockholders.”

The uproar no doubt will include some barking from the paper’s Hound of Heaven, Blumenthal. The paper and Blumenthal have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship for many years, causing some to wonder whether the paper has been lax in pointing out Blumenthal’s deficiencies – if any.

I have said before in this space that Blumenthal is little more than a consumer advocate with subpoena powers. Gombossy and the Courant, working hand in glove with Blumenthal, do not need subpoena power; they have Blumenthal. Or he has them, as he case may be.

However, should it be shown that the Courant is favoring its favorite Connecticut politician, perhaps someone could convince Gombossy to intervene on behalf of the Courant’s consumers, who rightly expect an even-handed approach to all its politicians, including those who work in concert with the paper to produce news stories.

Rove’s College Pranks

Sunday’s edition of the Courant also includes a column written by Bill Curry protesting Karl Rove’s college pranks. Mr. Curry was an advisor to the more sober and serious President Bill Clinton at a time when the president was entertaining Monica Lewinsky at the White House, though he certainly was not privy to any of the frat house scenes.

Out With The Old, In With The New Old

Robert K. Schrepf, who succeeded John Zakarian as Editorial Page Editor of The Hartford Courant, has now been replaced by Carolyn Lumsden. According to a puff in the paper, “Lumsden, 53, came to The Courant from Massachusetts, where she had worked for the Associated Press and the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram. She was an editorial writer until 1995, when she became editor of Commentary, The Courant's Sunday opinion section, and of the daily op-ed page.”

Bill Curry, one of the more elegant writers at the Courant, once an advisor to former President and putative First Husband Bill Clinton, joked on the occasion of Ms. Lumsden’s elevation, "'The first question that comes up for me is, "Who will write my column now?" Curry joked Friday. Lumsden first invited Curry to write specific op-ed pieces; later, when he began a weekly column, she became his primary editor. It fell to Carolyn to teach me how to do this, for which I'm grateful. She is smart, principled and meticulous."

But, is she conservative Bill? ..."perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub."
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