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Protect Taxpayers from Power Grabs – Vote Yes on Prop. 16

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California’s taxpayers deserve transparency when it comes to their money, especially given the current state of California’s economy. The state has racked up $145 billion in debt, and this year’s budget deficit of $20 billion threatens cuts to critical services and jobs on the state, county and local levels. Decisions to take on additional debt or use taxpayer money to fund big programs—such as a government takeover of electricity service—need voter input. That’s why we need to vote yes on Proposition 16 on June 8.

Currently, California law does not require voter approval if local governments want to use public money to develop the complex systems necessary to deliver electric service. Proposition 16 corrects this omission, giving voters a say in the process.

Local leaders who want to take on public debt or spend public money to start up a municipal retail electricity business must get a two-thirds majority vote—the same standard as hundreds of other special tax or bond situations. Ironically, California law does require a two-thirds majority vote to sell a municipal utility. Shouldn’t we use the same standard to start a utility that we use to end one?

As a former mayor of San Francisco, I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is critical to involve the voters in big decisions like funding large municipal utility programs. Voters are not only benefiting from such programs by receiving utility services, but they’re also paying for the development of the business itself. And if a municipal utility fails, it is the voters who are on the hook for a bailout.

After years of benefiting from the input of the people during my time as mayor, I can also tell you that California’s voters know a good plan when they see one. They can discern between a well-constructed plan that will work and one that is not well formed or that takes unnecessary risks with their money. And local leaders need the community’s input. Large public programs are always far more visionary—and far more expensive—than expected. Since the voters are paying for it, it makes much more sense to get their approval before the money is spent than to make the decision blindly and have a mess on your hands that the taxpayer has to fix if it fails.

Proposition 16 promotes transparency and ensures that the people have a voice when it comes to how public money is spent. It requires that a local government that wants to run the complicated delivery system necessary to provide electricity must go to the voters to lay out its case and prove it can build a system that works. Then voters can either give their permission to spend their tax dollars or incur additional public debt, or not.

Proposition 16 doesn’t decide on public power or no public power—it just makes sure that the question is in the hands of the voters, where it belongs. Please join me and vote YES on Prop 16 on the June ballot.

Willie L. Brown, Jr. is Former Speaker of the California State Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco.

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+1 # Guest 2010-06-07 18:26
does the term "sell out" have any bearing here? Or has the former mayor brown lost all reason? prop 16 should be known as the "throw your constituents under the bus to insure a monopolies profits" proposition. How big a check did pg&e write? I now know that he'd sell himself for money, I'm just wondering what the price is?
+2 # Guest 2010-05-30 10:44
I am profoundly disappointed that former mayor Willie Brown has unabashedly promoted Yes on Prop 16. Publicly owned utilities have been shown to reduce rates for customers as well as provide a higher percentage of clean, renewable energy. In these difficult economic times and in the wake of catastrophic environmental disasters, California citizens deserve easier access to local, clean energy, rather than more monopolistic corporate control of energy resources, a model that has been shown to be corrupt, inefficient, and downright criminal in many cases. Yes on Prop 16 will not stand to benefit African American business owners or small business owners of any race. It will only succeed in lining the pockets of former mayor Brown with lucrative consulting opportunities in the future, and will secure, constitutionally, the monopoly on the power industry by wealthy corporations like PG&E.
+3 # Guest 2010-05-29 21:36
You have good right to be appalled at our friend, Willie, for supporting this because PG&E is his client. Yes, that is right. He is a campaign consultant for PG&E.

There is nothing more to say except read other good Black publications.
+2 # Guest 2010-05-18 11:50
PG&E’s proposition decrees that it will require only one third of voters to keep taxpayers’ money flowing to PG&E with no alternative allowed. To source electricity from any better (cheaper or greener or both) alternative to PG&E would require approval by twice as many voters as support PG&E. Prop 16 limits our options to PG&E (forever!) by requiring a two-to-one majority to break free.

We need to reject any proposition that ties us to the company that brought us Smart Meters and allowed itself to be hoodwinked and bankrupted by Enron. More generally, what we need is a new type of proposition, one that will force any proposition requiring a two-thirds majority to undo (like Prop 16 does), to itself require a two-thirds majority to pass in the first place.
+3 # Guest 2010-05-16 10:52
I am appalled that you are a proponent of this initiative. PG&E funded this initiative to amend the State Constitution to ensure their monopoly by building an advantage into the State Constitution for their company exclusively.

PG&E is falling behind in meeting state adopted goals for clean energy, and they want to stop competitors from doing a better job. To really appreciate how egregious this misuse of our initiative process is, read the letter to PG&E's CEO from eight of our legislators asking them to stop promoting Prop 16 in the public interest (http://noprop16.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/05-Steinberg_a_Darbee.pdf).
+1 # Guest 2010-05-13 21:53
Certainly there has to be SOME good side to No on Prop 16. When will we get to hear about it?
+3 # Guest 2010-05-13 17:01
A few questions/observations:

1. Why does this bill require a super-majority vote rather than a simple majority vote? Would not a simple majority vote requirement achieve the exact same "right to vote" that this proposition seeks to secure?

2. Are not the public officials who could implement a municipal utility district either elected or appointed by elected officials? We live in a system that typically and broadly employs a representative method of government. We elect people to represent our interests. If the elected people fail to represent our interests, we vote them out of office. On a regular basis these representatives decide how to spend public funds.

The democratic process and tax payers are already protected by simple majority election of public officials. The super majority requirement that this proposition seeks to impose only serves opponents of municipal power, not the democratic process.

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