Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Power From the People

The toasty SUVs full of people enjoying the "McDonald's Holiday Lights at the Beach, Presented by Verizon Wireless" on the Boardwalk are unaware that the power required for the dinky lightbulb dolphins and such is being pulled from low-income households at the Oceanfront.

"It sucks," says Chester Ray Finch, 51, a window washer that has lived on 25th 1/2 Street in Virginia Beach since 1982.  "I can't watch television, use my microwave, or anything while that dumb thing's going on.  My daughter has to do her homework by candlelight in her winter coat."

The light show reroutes roughly 1.7 megawatts from over 2,000 Oceanfront residents - most of them between 9th and 29th St., between Pacific and Cypress Avenue.  In an email, Dominion Electric spokesperson, Mel Dodd states, "We need power from somewhere.  We can't just create it out of nothing - we're not magicians."

During late night and daylight hours, when the holiday lights aren't on, residents put up with weak power flow, sparks emitting from wall sockets, and barely enough hot water.  29-year-old pizza chef Scott Griggs lives in an apartment complex on 22nd Street and says that his complaints to the city have been ignored.  "They always say how important it is for Oceanfront businesses and families and if I don't like it, I should move.  I live paycheck to paycheck - where the hell am I supposed to go?  Maybe if they compensated us a little it would be different, but I don't know what they do with all that money."

Tidewater Log discovered that holiday light show admissions go to improving the landscaping around the 31st Street Park and King Neptune Statue maintenance.  "What a crock of crap," Scott mutters as he zips up his 2nd coat in the kitchen of his chilly apartment.  Since there isn't enough power to turn the heat on, he burns crumpled up newspapers in the sink to keep warm.  The smoke detector won't go off because he's using the battery for his alarm clock.  "Even if this place burns down, I still gotta be at work at 6 in the morning."

Mr. Dodd continues in his email, "I don't understand why these people are complaining all of a sudden.  It's been going on for years and, in addition to providing them 2 free vouchers to enjoy the event, we always hang notices on their doorknobs to remind them.  Maybe the storm blew them off or something, but they should be used to it by now.  Happy Thanksgiving."