It’s not easy for most San Franciscans to escape the specter of Pacific Gas & Electric Company: turn on the lights, run the refrigerator or charge your cell phone — and there it is.
City Hall, however, is a safe haven in the city from the utility giant — city-owned municipal power lights the lights of government as well as runs Muni’s electric buses. Perhaps this independence was why it was easy for local elected officials to slam PG&E for its sponsorship of a ballot measure that would — what else? — “limit California cities and counties’ abilities to go into the public power business” this afternoon.
The ballot measure is Proposition 16, on which PG&E plans to spend $25-35 million to support, and for which folks like Chronicle columnist Willie Brown have shilled. Dubbed “The Taxpayer Right to Vote Act,” Prop 16 raises the voter threshold required for a locality to establish public power — also known as “community choice aggregation” — from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority.
Our own Board of Supervisors have crafted a resolution opposing Prop 16 in no uncertain terms, and said resolution had a public hearing on Monday.
Representatives from PG&E were not in attendance, leaving it up to several supervisors, one member of the public and a BART board member to remind each other how much Prop 16 sucks.
Prop 16 is a “brazen, cynical and egregious act,” according to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who also sponsored in 2008 a measure that would have replaced PG&E with a locally-owned municipal power grid (it failed).
Forty-seven cities across the state already have municipal power, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell reminded us, which is why The League of California Cities has come out against Prop 16.
“I grew up with public power,” opined BART Board member and Los Angeles native Tom Radulovich, who is also executive director of nonprofit Livable City. And unlike other conspiracies like fluoride and baby formula, public power hasn’t ruined Los Angeles (that we can notice). “And what do you know? Every time you flipped the switch, it came on.”
For PG&E’s take on this measure, simply turn on your TV or check your mailbox for an inevitable flood of commercials and mailers. Also listen hard to the hum emanating from overhead power lines (when, if and where you can find them in this fine town). The hum says something along the lines of “Prop 16 is awesome, Prop 16 is great. If you don’t like our power, go buy a candle, hippie.”