Reporting Jay Levine
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CHICAGO (CBS) – ComEd said Wednesday that it is bringing 1,000 new jobs to the area as part of a $1 billion improvement plan, nearly half of them to be made available in the next year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined in making the announcement Wednesday with ComEd Chief Operating Officer Anne Pramaggiore, an old friend of Emanuel’s who is promising more reliability and better customer service.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the promises sounded like those Chicago area residents have heard many times before from ComEd; usually after bad storms, power outages, and painfully slow restoration of service.
There’s a history of friction between ComEd and Chicago mayors. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley frequently sparred with the utility giant over service issues.
Emanuel pledged Wednesday that not even the promise of all those jobs would give ComEd a pass on providing reliable service.
Asked how he would hold ComEd’s feet to the fire in following through with its promises, Emanuel said, “I don’t think anybody’s ever said ‘Rahm is a very quiet, meek person.’ That’s never been said of me, but I look forward to it one day.”
“I will be using my voice and they have a responsibility to be a good deliverer; a good company at delivering energy power,” Emanuel added. “They don’t get a pass because they made this investment. They have a responsibility and I will hold them to that.”
That investment, in the form of jobs related to physical improvements to the power grid, was already underway in Chicago. ComEd also demonstrated those improvements for the mayor, by replaying last July’s violent storm, which hit Chicago with more than 5,000 lightning strikes.
“You’re going to see a bunch of yellow dots, those are the lightning strikes,” a ComEd official said while showing off new “Smart Grid” technology. “Reds are the meters gasping and saying ‘I lost power,’ but notice how immediately the green comes back saying the power’s been restored. … Also notice that there are some red areas left over. Lightning did some physical damage in those areas. … They don’t even have to wait for customers to call.”
ComEd came under fire for their response after those storms last summer, as well as for the pace of repairs in Chicago and the suburbs. The new “Smart Grid” bill approved by the legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn allows ComEd to raise rates to pay for both the high-tech diagnosis, as well as improvements to make its power lines more resistant to storm damage.
“We are taking more lines underground and we’re going to be reinforcing some of the overhead lines with just heavier cable that will be more resistant to trees,” Pramaggiore said.
Emanuel and Prammagiore have a history. They worked together on the lucrative merger deal involving ComEd, a deal which made the mayor rich.
But Emanuel made it clear Wednesday that his job now is to get the best deal for taxpayers, no matter who is on the other side.