:Bobby Sigman is touting his ability to lower utility rates with campaign signs such as this one, but he won't tell voters how he plans to do that.
COVINGTON -- As the Covington Municipal Election nears, mayoral candidate Bobby Sigman is making promises that he'll lower light bills for utility customers if elected, a claim other candidates say is irresponsible.
In recent days, signs in the shape of a light bulb stating, "To Lower Your Light Bill, Elect Sigman Mayor," have been popping up around town.
When asked to explain his plan to lower utility rates, Sigman responded, "That's my secret, dear. I can't reveal that. If I reveal that, I'm giving my opponent ammunition and I can't do that. I guarantee people they will be lowered. I have a program ... it's better than 9-9-9," he said, referring to presidential candidate Herman Cain's tax plan.
The city's charter states that utility rates are set by ordinance, and ordinance approval is the function of the City Council. The council has the authority to impose a product cost adjustment to account for changes in the cost of utilities to the city. The mayor votes only in the event of a tie. Sigman said he'd have to get at least three of the six council members to go along with his plan.
"No one's even addressed utilities. No one wants to stand up and say, 'I will lower utilities.' There is an alternative. No one is able to do it, but I am able to do it," Sigman said, but still declined to give specifics of how he plans to do that.
"I think it's terribly misleading, what he's saying," said opponent Ronnie Johnston, who noted that rates are set by the council and are based on the cost of the product to the city.
Johnston said a more realistic solution is to discuss implementing a flat-rate payment plan, where citizens pay the same amount monthly, to keep charges more stable from month to month. He also advocates more education of residents about programs that assist with utility payments and home weatherization.
"People need help, not empty promises. They need someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and get in there with them," Johnston said, adding that he would work to improve communication with residents on possible solutions.
Write-in candidate Tim Walden said the city's rates are already low compared to other areas, but he knows people are struggling. Like Johnston, he said the answer is programs that assist residents with payments.
"Probably all we can do I think is sit down and discuss it and get some of the non-profits in the city together to see what can be done," he said.
Walden added that while he's optimistic more can be done, "I'm not trying to make false promises."
Walden said the city has talked about but never implemented distribution of information on such programs to citizens through utility bills. However, the city manager said information on Heat Energy Assistance Team (HEAT) and Project Round-Up have been inserted as letters into out-going utility bills multiple times.