PG&E Strike Force

Yesterday, the PUC heard a debate about Prop 16, PG&E’s attempt to buy itself a brand new supermajority law. The PUC has, in the past, taken positions on initiatives in areas that it regulates.  It should join every editorial board that has looked at the measure and say NO! to PG&E’s power-play.

But, today there was some bigger news.  A group of municipalities sued to take Prop 16 off the ballot:

The City and County of San Francisco today joined with public entities from throughout California in a lawsuit to strike the controversial PG&E-funded initiative constitutional amendment, Proposition 16, from the June 8, 2010 statewide ballot for being wholly false and misleading, and for concealing its true nature and purpose from voters. Dubiously self-entitled the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” by its proponents, despite having no bearing on taxation or government spending, the California Attorney General recently re-entitled the measure, “New Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers.” The proposed amendment would impose a new super-majority vote threshold before public entities in California would be allowed to pursue virtually any energy services programs intended to benefit ratepayers or the environment.

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“Despite what its proponents would have us believe, Prop 16 doesn’t help taxpayers and doesn’t empower voters-in fact, it does the exact opposite,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “Enabling a one-third minority to hold the will of the majority hostage has been a disaster for our state budget process in Sacramento. Now, Prop 16 would impose that recipe for deadlock on California’s energy future. State law enables courts to remove initiatives that misrepresent and conceal their true nature and purpose. If our elections laws are to have meaning, the court should strike this deceptive amendment from the ballot.” (Press Release)

Of course, the pro-Prop 16 Consultant Strike Force (paid out of PG&E’s ratepayer-funded political slush fund) immediately flew into action. This is from Robin Swanson, a Democratic consultant:

Opponents would rather file lawsuits behind closed doors and use legal maneuvers to try and stop people from voting than talk to the voters of California in the open forum of an election.

Ironically, Proposition 16 was put on the ballot simply to guarantee voters the right to vote before local governments borrow or spend public dollars to take over electric utilities. Particularly in these tough economic times, we need to make sure we can use our vote to hold the politicians accountable.

But, as evidenced from today’s actions, it’s clear that the opponents don’t want voters to have a say on this issue at all.(Press release – Robin Swanson)

To say this is deceptive would be a grand understatement.  Let’s put this in perspective.

  • PG&E plans on spending $35 million on this measure. That is a ton of money for a June primary or any election for a statewide measure.  PG&E isn’t trying to “give voters their choice” they are trying to buy compliance from a duped public being fed propaganda on TV.
  • PG&E is spending ratepayer money on this measure. On the flip side, many of the interest groups that oppose the measure, municipal utilities, are prohibited from spending ratepayers money on a campaign to oppose the measure. Not only is PG&E going to beat up on their opponents, they are going to make sure they are tied up as they do it.
  • The other opponents of Prop 16 are either underfunded public interest groups, such as The Utility Reform Network (TURN) or politicians. This is a classic case of concentrated interests (PG&E) versus diffuse (the public). Thus the spending difference.
  • And finally, PG&E is going to give anybody lectures about voting when they are trying to institute a supermajority requirement? It’s ludicrous on its face.  But, that’s why they are going after the supermajority requirement.  Even a 50% vote of the people is ridiculous after they previously agreed to support communities who wanted to embark upon community choice aggregation.

    In the end, this is just bad policy. It’s why editorial boards across the state are panning this awful measure:

    Pacific Gas and Electric spent $3.5 million to collect more than a million signatures to qualify what it calls the Taxpayers Right to Vote Act for California’s June ballot. The title makes it sound like motherhood and apple pie. It’s just the opposite. If voters approve the scam, it will protect PG&E from dissatisfied customers angry about bad service and high costs. (Fresno Bee, 1/20/2010)

    The point isn’t to protect taxpayers’ rights. It’s to protect the profits of a monopoly utility – both from ambitious clean-power schemes in San Francisco and from modest annexations in Redding. This is one measure where voters will need to look past the catchy slogan and see who really stands to benefit.(The Redding Record Searchlight 1/16/2010)

    It is unusual for The Bee to come out against a ballot measure before the campaign has really started. The PG&E initiative deserves special attention. It’s that bad.(Sacramento Bee, 1/192010)

    Californians must stand up to this effort to pass a monopolistic measure with our own money.

    11 thoughts on “PG&E Strike Force”

    1. Sacramento Municipal Utility District is always under attack by PG&E.  It is proof that utilities do not need to be run-away profit machines for the world-wide wealthy elites.  

    2. This is a classic example of why here needs to be a requirement that any initiative that would impose a supermajority must be passed by the same supermajority.

    3. My Family and Me will vote NO on this insulting powergrab by this Turkey of an amendment.(no pun intended)

    4. PGE is running a deceptive campaign, but the initiative is not quite as evil as it is made out to be.  PGE is a distribution company as a public utility.  When it disributes gas and electricity to large areas of the state, it can do so more efficiently if there are not pockets of municipal distribution systems within their territory.  When the efficiency goes down, the cost for the rest of us goes up.

      I don’t like the idea of prohibiting the creation of municipal districts — if that’s what a city wants to do, its ok with me.  But requiring a 2/3 vote is essentially prohibiting municipal districts.  If we were talking about a simple majority vote, I might have a different conclusion.

      Is Prop 16 deceptive?  Yes.  Is a 2/3 vote good public policy? No.  Is Prop 16 written by Satan?  No.

    5. coming very close to leaving PG&E and joining SMUD, even with SMUD  forbidden from campaigning and PG&E flooding the airwaves and stuffing our mailboxes with millions of dollars of misleading ads (and this in a county with less than 200,000 people).

      they nearly lost a rigged fight, so they’ve got to rig it tighter for the next time.

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