Utility officials across Burbank and Glendale breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday after voters rebuffed a ballot initiative that would have limited the ability of municipalities to create or expand public power services.
The Glendale City Council was among the first to formally adopt a resolution opposing the proposition.
“Preserving the right of consumers to choose is one of the cornerstones of U.S. consumer protection law,” said John Miller, of the Glendale Water & Power Commission. “And keeping that option available for consumers, I think, is a wise action, protecting them from exploitation of providers.”
Bankrolled by Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the state’s largest electrical utility, the Taxpayers Right to Vote Act was advertised as evenhanded, altruistic and a money-saving measure for ratepayers and the investor-owned utility.
The company sunk more than $46 million into Proposition 16, which would have required cities and counties to secure a two-thirds vote before spending public money to launch or join a public power agency.
The measure would have amended the state Constitution to require all 47 of the state’s city-owned utilities to obtain the supermajority in order to expand their boundaries.
PG&E officials maintained that voters statewide should have a say in whether they want public power. They also argued that a vote to approve a utility should call for the same supermajority that cities need to unload an existing municipal power system.
“While the election outcome hasn’t diminished our steadfast belief that citizens should have a vote in local government efforts to enter the electric utility business, we respect the decision voters made on this initiative,” Greg Pruett, senior vice president of corporate affairs for PG&E, said in a statement.
Opponents of the ballot initiative — namely environmental organizations, consumer groups and city officials — were outspent about 550 to 1, raising just $101,400.
They hailed the 52.5% to 47.5% victory as evidence that the Constitution could not be bought.
“Proposition 16 would have made it problematic to do almost anything, from adding a customer inside our service to adding renewable energy projects outside our service area,” said Ron Davis, the general manager at Burbank Water and Power. “The fact that PG&E could do this and come so close to subverting the ballot initiative process ought to scare everyone.”
Part of the issue was that the proposition’s language was so ambiguous that it left a lot of room for interpretation — a disadvantage for ratepayers, said Lana Haddad, legislative analyst for Glendale Water & Power.
Davis called it “patently ridiculous, poorly written and with one main goal: to kill competition from the public sector,” which often offers better, more reliable service at cheaper costs, he said.
But while opponents expressed outrage over what they saw as a regulated company pushing to write a business advantage into the Constitution, most agreed that the ballot measure made good business sense.
PG&E spent upward of $10 million to defeat a recent ratepayer uprising in which they sought to switch to public power. The investment of $46 million was significantly cheaper than tamping down repeated local measures, Davis said.
“My hope is that now PG&E can focus on providing reliability, affordability and sustainability,” he said. “If they provided good service at a good price, they can avoid spending chunks of $10 million and $12 million.”
Huff bill seeks to help car dealerships
California Sen. Bob Huff (R–Diamond Bar) announced Monday that the Assembly Transportation Committee unanimously supported his bill to ease regulations on car dealerships.
With more than 250 California dealerships closing their doors in just two years, we have to provide relief from the regulations that put the brakes on businesses, Huff said in a statement.
Current law prohibits salespeople from working at multiple dealerships unless they have identical ownership and structure. Dealerships are required to have original sales licenses publicly posted at each dealership — requiring salespeople to bring the original license to each business to report for work.
Huff said that’s problematic, given that licenses can get lost or are forgotten. Senate Bill 1004 would repeal the laws, “and give much-needed flexibility to car dealerships. . . . allow[ing] salespersons to move freely from one dealership to another.”
Schiff steps up his social networking
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) this week took steps to expand his online reach with constituents through popular social media and participating in an online competition.
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube present an unprecedented opportunity to directly engage constituents, Schiff said in a statement.
His Online All-Star Competition runs through June 21.
“For this reason, we are going beyond our weekly e-newsletter and Facebook efforts, and kicking off Twitter and other social media,” he said. “I will also be participating in the Member Online All-Star Competition and hope we can engage an even greater number of my constituents online.”
To jump-start Schiff’s chances in the competition, the public may “friend” him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CongressmanSchiff; follow him on Twitter: https://Twitter.com/RepAdamSchiff; and subscribe to his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/AdamSchiff.
Schiff also urged residents to sign up for his Washington Update e-Newsletter at https://schiff.congressnewsletter.net/mail.