IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING, THE DESTRUCTION OF WORDS
Two months ago, we noted that JEA’s website included a page on the “Benefits of Public Power”, which presented a lucid, convincing argument for JEA to be in the hands of the public. But now that JEA is barreling forward with a widely unpopular plan being promoted-but-not-promoted by Big Brother Lenny Curry and the Inner Party, the utility has taken a cue from the Ministry of Truth and kicked that page straight down the memory hole. Fortunately for you Goldsteinian ownlifers out there, the page is archived on the Wayback Machine for your reading and sharing pleasure.
This move is presumably the work of the PR team that CEO Aaron Zahn is paying $25,000 per month for web and social media help (clearly it wasn’t the work of JEA’s leadership, considering that they need to pay people $25,000 per month for web and social media help). This is a group who apparently read 1984 and thought, “what about the good things Big Brother did?” Coming soon is the daily Two Minute Hate against all those filthy proles who prefer not to sell off the city’s most valuable asset for short-term cash.
The Benefits of Public Power page isn’t the only thing that JEA’s new Recdep has obliterated. Earlier this year, JEA’s “About” page opened with a statement that “JEA is owned by the Northeast Florida community. That makes you one of our stakeholders,” and included a Report to Customers on how JEA was striving to serve the community. Such malreported crimethink has now been purged, and the same page now simply reads, “JEA is located in Jacksonville, Florida, where we proudly serve an estimated 478,000 electric, 357,000 water, 279,000 sewer customers and 15,000 reclaimed water customers.” Similarly, the Report to Customers page, which included yearly reports and noted that “currently, our rates remain at or below the national average,” has been deemed an unwebpage. It and the reports it contained are now nowhere to be found at www.jea.org, though it’s partially archived. These are minor changes that send a major message.
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, and the public utility company with privatization.
RECAPITALIZATION IS DOUBLEPLUSGOOD
Replacing the page on the benefits of public power is a new piece of goodthinkfulness that instead claims that JEA is now in such dire straits that selling off the utility to the highest bidder is the only way out. This plan is forebodingly called the “Path to a Promising Future.” This is part of an apparently broader strategy by JEA to push the sale, which also includes unnerving TV ads that feature ominous text cryptically talking about the future while piano music plays over stark backgrounds. “We see what’s possible. For you. For our employees. For Jacksonville,” the ads threaten.
Naturally, the “Path to a Promising Future” materials feature some choice Newspeak. The best example is the euphemization of the term “sale” into “recapitalization event.” According to JEA,
“‘Recapitalization event’ means the closing and funding of a transaction or a series of related transactions in accordance with Article 21 of the Charter of the City of Jacksonville and any other applicable law that results in at least 50 percent of the net depreciated property, plant and equipment value of either JEA’s electric system or JEA’s water and wastewater system being transferred, assigned, sold or otherwise disposed of.”
So definitely not a sale, you proles, stop saying that! This section also goes out of its way to imply that the entity that JEA is sold off, er, recapitalization evented to might be a “partnership”, “non-profit” or “utility co-op,” despite the fact that the only organizations with the resources to buy the country’s largest eighth largest public utility are the mega corporations that have already explicitly announced their interest in buying out JEA.
Other sections restate Zahn’s dubious claims that JEA is in a “death spiral” and that a sale is the only escape. This has always been pretty questionable, what with JEA still having the funds to make Zahn the city’s highest paid employee, and to pay contractors $25,000 a month to tap the delete key in the website’s content management system. The claim becomes totally laughable in light of a new report from the Florida Municipal Power Agency, which rebutted Zahn’s claims and determined that overcoming challenges is “within everyone’s reach.” But don’t expect any mention of that from the Brave New JEA, which is all recapitalization event all the time.
Another section of the “Path to a Promising Future” manifesto is about JEA’s plans for a new Downtown headquarters. JEA claims that recapitalization eventing the utility is the only way for these impressive plans to move forward. If people don’t support the plan with sufficient bellyfeel, it says, the plan is unplan and JEA will move to the Southside. There’s also a truly inspired section called “Path to a Promising Future in the Media” which contains the 10 relatively positive pieces that have come out since May 2019, and none of the many, many critical ones.
All in all, the website of Jacksonville’s community-owned utility company has been totally rewritten with falsehoods to advocate the party line of its recapitalization-happy top brass.
THE HERESY OF HERESIES IS COMMON SENSE
The JEA re-education program’s results are amusing and perhaps not very effective, but the reasoning behind the push is extremely unedifying. The reason that the Inner Party has gone to all this effort to obscure JEA’s mission, its current situation, and the basic meaning of words is that they think they couldn’t get this “recapitalization event” through if they were honest. These are simply not the actions of people who believe they have a convincing argument on its merits.
On the flip side, there would be no need to work so hard to mislead and confuse the public if the public didn’t hold the power. Regardless of what the Inner Party wants, there won’t be any sale without it first getting through City Council and then a public referendum. And the polls suggest that the public is more keen to chuck a hammer through Zahn’s telescreen than it is to complacently accept his claptrap. Common sense is the enemy of party line thinking.
It would be nice if JEA were to present their real reasoning for voters to vet, and maybe eventually they’ll do that, but until then, we can safely ignore the obfuscation, the overblown doomsaying, and those weird ads. For now, perhaps it’s best to put the general sentiment in the language the leadership prefers: JEA BELONGS TO THE COMMUNITY. JEA HAS ALWAYS BELONGED TO THE COMMUNITY.
Editorial by J.D. McGregor. Contact J.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org.