San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee faced criticism from some of his fellow mayoral candidates today following comments he made in praise of PG&E at a child literacy event on Thursday.
Lee was one of several city officials who attended the event Thursday at a park near Bessie Carmichael Elementary School in the city’s South of Market neighborhood.
PG&E donated $250,000 to fund literacy instructors at the school, a move praised by the mayor during his speech, who called the utility “a great company.”
City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor John Avalos were quick to pounce on Lee’s comments today, criticizing its timing just days after the National Transportation Safety Board sharply criticized PG&E at a hearing Tuesday on the fatal pipeline explosion in San Bruno last September.
Herrera and Avalos are both candidates in the November mayoral election, as is Lee, who was named interim mayor in January after then-Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor.
“It shows insensitivity to victims’ families, and poor judgment for allowing his office to be used as a corporate PR tool,” Herrera said in a statement. “The interim mayor should reassess his laudatory view of PG&E, and apologize to San Bruno victims’ families.”
Avalos said in a statement that he was “frankly astonished” to hear of Lee’s comments at Thursday’s event, calling PG&E’s contribution a “symbolic donation to a charity at the height of their unpopularity.”
Tony Winnicker, a spokesman for Lee’s mayoral campaign, called his opponents’ attacks “another blatantly political cheap shot” based on comments “cynically taken out of context.”
Winnicker said Lee was one of the first to hold PG&E accountable for the condition of its infrastructure when he was appointed by Newsom to lead a review group to make sure the condition of the utility’s pipelines in San Francisco was up to par following the San Bruno blast.
“Holding PG&E accountable for the loss and suffering it caused doesn’t also mean you shouldn’t recognize when they do something good,” he said.
“If there’s anyone who should apologize, it’s Dennis Herrera and any politician who would shamelessly use the victims of the San Bruno blast and the students of Bessie Carmichael School as fodder for their political attacks on Mayor Lee,” he said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News