June 6, 2013 9:54:28 AM
Brandon Presley has a ceiling he will never break through: He will never be Lee County's MPP (Most Popular Presley).
That said, the Public Service Commissioner for the northern district of Mississippi, continues to push that ceiling through his innovation, common sense and compassion.
The grandfathers of Brandon and Elvis were brothers, which means Brandon is a member of Lee County's Royal Family. A lifelong resident of Nettleton (He was elected mayor in 2001 when he was just 23.), Presley shares some similarities with his infinitely more famous relative. Brandon, 35, is a big man and, like Elvis, has a big personality to go with it. He is affable, approachable and mixes easily with people of all races and economic conditions, also traits that are fairly attributed to "The King."
But of all the qualities Brandon Presley appears to have in common with Elvis, his compassion for the poor, the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised that have distinguished his tenure on the PSC, which began in 2007.
Of the three public service commissioners, Presley stands apart as an unrelenting advocate for the people.
In September, Presley asked for a meeting with the editorial board of The Dispatch. When elected officials make that request, they generally have a political point they want to make.
But there was nothing political in Presley's motives when we met with him then. Presley's main point was seeking the media's help in letting folks know about a program available to low-income residents, something called the Lifeline Assistance Program and it provides a $9.95 per month benefit to eligible candidates to help defray the cost of utilities. While roughly $10 a month isn't exactly a windfall, it's a safe bet those who qualify for the benefit could find a good use for it. Presley wanted to make sure people knew about it.
More recently, it has been Presley alone among the three-member PSC who has been an outspoken critic of the Kemper County coal plant, whose budget overruns now exceed $1 billion, all of which will be passed along to the consumer. While the governor and legislators have just sort of shrugged their shoulders and maintained an "oh, well" attitude, Presley has carried the fight on behalf of the people.
This week, Presley was at it again, doing something elected officially almost never do: helping folks who really don't have any political muscle.
On Tuesday, he proposed a new rule that will give victims of domestic violence a financial means to escape dangerous homes.
Often, people shake their heads when the victim of domestic abuse remains in their abusive environment. "Why don't they just leave," we ask in amazement.
But those familiar with domestic abuse know its not always that easy. Aside from the psychological and emotional bonds that tie the victim to his or her abuser, there is something an economic factor, too. For poor victims, it is a matter of finances: They simply don't have the money necessary to make a fresh start on their own.
It is an issue that no one would assume a public service commissioner would worry with. It hardly falls under the job description, after all.
But it is at this point that Presley's compassion is most evident.
Presley's rule would require Mississippi utilities to waive initial deposits for customers who have been determined to be a victim of domestic violence by a domestic violence program, treating medical personnel, law enforcement, the office of a district attorney, or the office of the attorney general. The goal of the proposal is to eliminate some of the financial burdens that may dissuade victims from fleeing to a new, safer home.
Waiving utility deposits won't solve the problem on its own, however. But it is a fresh idea and one that, perhaps, the private sector could emulate.
Presley's proposal was approved by his fellow PSC members and the public is invited to weigh in on the idea by submitting comments on the PSC website at http://www.psc.state.ms.us.
"We know that many times domestic violence victims simply don't have the money to leave a dangerous situation and start over. It's my hope this new rule will help," Presley said in announcing the plan. "This is a common-sense measure that will be real help for victims of domestic violence in Mississippi."
Ain't that just like a Presley?