I don’t usually post much about specifics of SF’s propositions, but typically the proponents of said propositions don’t get me pissed off by using pugs in their deceptive mailers. Look, hacky types, if you are going to use a pug in mailer, I demand you cut it out with the BS. Pugs deserve better! (Disclosure: We have 2 pugs.)
So, the mailer is basically the same thing as the crappy No on E website. Even the name of the website is deceptive (Don’t Raise Our Rates). But before we get to that, what does Prop E do?
Very broadly, Prop E would lower the threshold required to reject the Mayor’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission. It would not allow the Board of Supes to appoint members to the PUC, but merely allow them real confirmation powers. Follow me over the flip
Here’s what it does according to the ballot simplification committee & the Dept. of Elections:
Proposition E is a Charter Amendment that would change the process for appointing members to the PUC and would set qualifications for commission members. The Mayor would continue to nominate candidates to the PUC, but the nominees would not take office until the Board of Supervisors voted to approve their appointments by a majority (at least six members).
Proposition E also would require that PUC members meet the following qualifications:
• Seat 1 must have experience in environmental policy and an understanding of environmental justice issues;
• Seat 2 must have experience in ratepayer or consumer advocacy;
• Seat 3 must have experience in project finance;
• Seat 4 must have expertise in water systems, power systems, or public utility management; and
• Seat 5 would be an at-large member.
Seems relatively straightforward, doesn’t it? It requires pertinent experience and approval of the majority of the board rather than a small minority. In fact, this is quite restrained. Other commissions have board appointed members, but to get Supervisor Elsbernd, a Newsom ally, on board, the Supes went with a more moderate reform. This is a reasonable reform endorsed by nearly every major club in San Francisco. It is endorsed by 9 of the 11 supes, the SF Democratic Party, both SF LGBT Clubs, the SF Young Dems, and a slew of other organizations.
This dispute comes directly from the Mayor’s firing of Susan Leal, the former executive director of the PUC. The reasons for the firing are still unclear, but the reasons given were almost entirely political. Sure, Leal owed her position at the PUC to politics, but to decry politics now seems a bit tacky. The fact is that most confirmations in legislative bodies require a simple majority to overrule the executive’s power. Heck, in practice the Senate only requires 40% to block an Administration appointee. I say, if it’s good enough for the Senate, I’m sure it will work just fine at the Board of Supes.
But more than that, Prop E is just good policy. Perhaps it came about through politics of the day, but the fact is that this policy sets San Francisco in a good position for the future. Even if you support this Mayor, it doesn’t mean you will support the next. Prop E provides reasonable checks and balances and a more balanced, and less political, PUC. Each seat, save one, carries a requirement of experience in these issues. We get an environmental expert and a consumer advocate. A finance seat and a public utility manager. This is what we need on the PUC, not more political cronies.
Nonetheless, PG&E and a few of their subsidiaries have decried this as a “power play”. Sure, it’s a power play. It’s what checks and balances are all about.
PG&E continues their deception with the “they are going to raise your rates” argument. The fact is that this arguments makes absolutely no sense at all. They say that the Supes have voted to raise rates, but what they fail to mention is that these rate increases were also supported by the PUC and the Mayor’s appointees. The reason we have higher rates has nothing to do with arbitrary decisions of the Board of Supes, rather it is due largely to decisions of the PUC and higher energy costs.
Finally, I should point out that one of the two Supervisors who opposes Prop E, supported the rate hike. Supervisor Alioto-Pier couldn’t actually make it down from St. Helena to vote in the matter of Sup. Elsbernd’s attempt to block the rate hike, but her failure to attend the meeting effectively killed the measure. (oh, and she said that she was planning on supporting the increase if she could have made the commute on time.)
In the end, the No on E arguments just carry no weight. Prop E is good policy. Vote Yes on E.