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Edison Chairman Presses the Flesh, and SDG&E; Plan

Times Staff Writer

SCEcorp Chairman Howard Allen met with select San Diego County civic leaders Wednesday to kick off what observers described as an intense lobbying effort to gain local support for the proposed merger between SCEcorp’s Southern California Edison subsidiary and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

“I think we’re going to start seeing him pop up at the Rotary, the Kiwanis, the various service organizations,” said William Nelson, chairman of the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Nelson expects him to make the rounds in an effort to gain support for Edison’s position.

Allen used the one-hour meeting at the downtown Chamber Building to repeat his earlier statement that San Diegans stand to benefit from the proposed merger through lower rates and improved service, said Economic Development Corp. President Dan Pegg.

‘Didn’t Learn Anything New’

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“I didn’t learn anything new or different from Mr. Allen,” said Pegg, who met with Allen along with Nelson, Chamber President Lee Grissom and former EDC board member Jack Raymond.

During the meeting, Allen said media accounts in San Diego have not accurately portrayed the proposed merger’s effect on electric rates, according to Pegg and Nelson. Allen’s visit marked “the beginning of a campaign where he would try to tell his story in a more accurate and clear fashion,” Pegg said.

Allen “talked a lot about the disadvantages of a municipal system,” but agreed that San Diegans should investigate the possibility of turning SDG&E; into a public system, Nelson said. Allen seemed confident that a publicly operated utility in San Diego could not match the rates and customer service that the proposed merger would, Nelson said.

Edison spokesman Lewis Phelps said Allen’s meetings in San Diego “were just courtesy calls, with no particular message. We want to get the people in San Diego to get to know us, and there are a lot of different ways to do that.”

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Seeks Improved Image

Allen and Edison Executive Vice President Michael Peevey also met with City Manager John Lockwood and City Atty. John Witt, as well as county Supervisor George Bailey, Phelps said.

Allen indicated that Edison will consult with a public relations firm in order to improve the Rosemead-based company’s image in San Diego. However, Phelps declined to comment on how Edison would bolster its image.

Nelson suggested that Allen’s visit probably would not have been needed had Edison made its bid for SDG&E; during the early 1980s, when SDG&E;'s rates were skyrocketing and public confidence in the utility’s management was deteriorating.

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“He would have looked like a knight in shining armor had he tried a takeover back then,” Nelson said.


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