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Anaheim Keeps Control of Power Company

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

A proposal to privatize Anaheim’s power company was rejected unanimously by the City Council on Tuesday after residents voiced overwhelming opposition to the idea.

It was the second big decision of the night and came shortly after council members selected Capt. Roger A. Baker as the city’s new police chief.

A 25-year veteran of the Anaheim Police Department, Baker has held the position on an interim basis since the death of Police Chief Randall Gaston in February.

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“It’s a great privilege to have Roger as our commander,” Mayor Tom Daly said. “He’s overseen virtually every operations department at the Police Department.”

Baker’s appointment was greeted warmly by residents and city employees packed into City Hall on Tuesday night, most of whom came to express their support to keep city control over Anaheim’s power company.

Both Southern California Edison and Houston-based Enron Corp. said they could save the city $30 million over 10 years if allowed to take over the operation and maintenance of the only municipal utility in Orange County. But the city’s energy consultant criticized those projections as inflated.

The vote of the five-member council was expected to be close, with Lucille Kring and Thomas Tait leaning in favor of privatization and Fred Feldhaus somewhat of a wild card.

Kring and Tait criticized negative publicity about the proposal and said residents were misled into believing the city wanted to sell the utility. Both joined the others in voting against the measure, however, saying it had merit but was too flawed to succeed.

“I think the city could benefit from either of these proposals,” Tait said. “We need to keep the door open.”

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Daly, Feldhaus and Councilwoman Shirley McCracken also said the city must continue innovative ways to make the city power company more efficient to ensure low rates, but not in the ways pitched by Edison and Enron.

Anaheim began studying privatization in 1997, hoping to ensure the city-owned utility prospered in a new, highly competitive marketplace created by the deregulation of the electric industry. Selling all or a portion of the utility also was considered but quickly dismissed.

The Anaheim utility provides power to 300,000 residents and 15,000 businesses, and has been owned and operated by the city for more than a century.

Baker, the city’s new police chief, received the unanimous vote of support from the council and will be sworn in Sept. 14. He now heads the detectives bureau and has taught law enforcement classes at local colleges and the California Department of Justice. He received a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Chapman University, where he also received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

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