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CPUC Questions Public Utilites Diversity Comittment

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Hardy L. BrownI was hired as a garage attendant and chauffeur for California Electric Company in 1963 before they were bought out by Edison and one of my driving duties was that of taking board members to meetings. Two of the local board members were Mr. Mil ton Sage and Mr. Eugene Best of Riverside. Al l of them were very nice and cordial to me as the second Black to be hired by the company and race never was evident as a problem. One of the things I remember about Mr. Best was every time he would get into the car, he would of course speak and say turn the radio to the al l news station KFWB. KFWB would give you the world in twenty minutes over and over again. I used to wonder why Mr. Best wanted to listen to the news so much because at that time in my life I wanted to listen to the music stations even though they played the same music over and over again.

I think I know now why Mr. Best was listening to the news station. It was because he was building a law firm and needed to be in the know of what the latest trends were and what the decision makers were doing in the world so he could plan his business. This came to my mind while reading a report recently done by The Greenlining Institute on Digital Inequality and how people use the internet.

The study found that 8 out of 10 White, Asian and Black households have computers in them but what they do with them is different. Hispanics lag somewhat behind with 4 out 10 households having computers. It was reported that privileged groups, meaning higher education regardless of race, used their computers with the internet to grow their financial and social capital . Low income households had fewer computers and those that did, did not use the computer for financial or social capital improvement.

This made me think of Mr. Best. We both had access to radios but because of interest and my lack of understanding about business and not having a business I used the same instrument for different information. Now that I have a business along with more education, and my understanding of policy makers and the public policies they make, I spend more time listening to news stations. I also spend my computer time on the internet researching information to improve my business for financial and social capital .

That brings me to another point of the report and that is to make business, education, finance, science, public policy and politics more relevant to the people we are trying to help. I had no need to listen to KFWB at the time but because Mr. Best listened, I had to listen. And now that I have an interest, I know where to find it on the radio. My wife would make the children do certain things even when they wanted to do something else. They now say thank you mom because it is relevant now to their lifestyle and is critical for them doing what they need to do to have a successful life. Our job at that time was to let them dream, feel secure in themselves and have visions of what they wanted to be while giving them the exposure and educational foundation to make it all come together later in life.

Now we need to challenge each other and look for partners who share our hopes, dreams and related business interests to build better communities. For example in another report by the same institute published a report card on companies for their efforts in doing business with minority businesses. This is a charge under the California Public Utilities Commission for their Supplier Diversity Programs. The seven companies reported on with grades in parentheses are: Verizon (A), San Diego Gas & Electric (A), Southern California Gas (A), AT&T (B), Pacific Gas & Electric (C), Southern California Edison (F) and Sprint Corporation (FF) on spending with minority owned businesses.

When it came to these same companies spending money with Black owned businesses this is how they were graded: Southern California Gas (B), AT&T (B), Verizon (B), San Diego Gas & Electric (C), Pacific Gas & Electric ©, Southern California Edison (F) and Sprint Corporation (FF). They reported that with Black owned companies there was a decline from these public utility companies and not one of them received an A when it came to doing business with us.

All of these companies have Black people who use their services, yet they do not want to do business with us. To me there is an opportunity for us to partner together in helping each other solve our problems of the digital divide and supplier diversity. In doing so, we will resolve many problems that plague the African American community. With a little collaboration and long range cooperation we can remove the barriers that come between us in achieving our missions.

I want to commend the California Public Utilities Commission for requiring these companies to report out on how and what they are doing when it comes to spending money in the minority community. The Public Utilities Commission, Chair Michael Peevy, and members John Bohn, Rachel le Chong (absent due to family emergency), Dian Grueneich, and Timothy Simon.

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