Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Public power through the back door

C.W. Nevius writes about last week's election on his blog after attending the Clemens/Latterman post-mortem at SPUR:

Proposition 16: Much predictable hoots and applause for the defeat of the cynical PG&E-sponsored initiative that would have required a two-thirds vote of the public before starting a new utility district, meaning that it would restrict communities like San Francisco from choosing an agency rather than PG&E to provide power. The PG&E campaign, which cost a reported $46 million tried to frame the issue as a vote for democracy---"shouldn't you have a vote on the issue?"---rather than admitting that it was actually a power grab that would make it extremely difficult to get power from anyone other than PG&E. Latterman said it wasn't a complete surprise that it lost, but the margin, 52.5 to 47.5, was unexpected.

Of course Prop. 16 was a failed power grab by PG&E, but it's not clear whether Latterman thought that the result was closer or not as close as expected. But PG&E is right that communities should get a chance to vote on this. Where they went wrong is insisting on the 2/3 vote instead of a simple majority vote. They would have won easily with the latter. I always vote against public power when it's on the ballot in SF. Only a simple majority was enough to defeat it, which is how it should be. And how many times over the years have city voters rejected public power? Twelve! With community choice aggregation, city progressives are able to essentially bring public power in the back door in defiance of the will of city voters.

Unlike the Bicycle Plan---which we'll never get a chance to vote on---and like closing Golden Gate Park to cars on Saturdays, city voters made it clear that they didn't want City Hall to run our power system. But that's what they're going to get, whether they like it or not!

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