Published: September 24, 2019 | Updated: October 4, 2019

If one person wonders, others do, too

Andy Obermueller
Assistant Managing Editor

Andy Obermueller Assistant Managing Editor

Water is wet. The sun rises in the east.

People like to kvetch about the local utility.

These things are true pretty much everywhere.

So when the folks at the next table started to complain about Avista the other day, I kept my focus on my salad. Yeah, well, no one likes the power company, thought I, and chomped on a forkful of lettuce. At one point, though, the conversation moved beyond just everyday grousing: The tempo quickened, the volume rose. A fist banged the table and clattered the flatware. “They just make TOO MUCH money,” one of the diners declared.

Which got me to thinking.

What I thought was, “Hmm. DOES Avista make too much money?”

The thought stuck with me. So, evidently, did the capital letters.

To be sure, this exchange and the complaint probably aren’t “news” per se. The Press had already reported on the rate increase that the utility proposed, which was news and which I presume prompted the pecuniary pronouncement. Nevertheless, the comments touched on a long-held rule that I’ve found invaluable as an editor: If one person is wondering about something, then it’s likely that a lot of other people have concerns about the issue, too.

With that in mind, the relevant questions about the company’s actual finances seemed worth examining here in your Business Journal of North Idaho: Does Avista make too much money?

That’s a big question, one that requires a more nuance — and context — than a simple declarative “yes” or “no.” Finding out the answers requires looking at a lot of data points, figuring out what they mean and building up enough understanding to decide.

So that’s what we did.

Sort of.

We looked at the numbers and tried to explain them. We sought to provide the relevant facts, make a few comparisons and get to the heart of the matter.

What did we decide?

Ultimately, nothing.

Because that’s not our role. Our job is to report the facts as best we can. As for the determination about Avista’s business — and whether it makes too much money — that’s entirely up to you.

Our story is on Page 4. Let me know what you think.