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Letter to the Editor: Vote No On Proposition 16

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By Laura Klure –

I have considerable respect for your excellent newspaper, and I enjoy being an occasional contributor to the BVN’s news stories. I have great respect and affection for your publishers, editors, and staff.

However, I must strongly disagree with the editorial which appeared on May 6, in support of Proposition 16. This proposition is bad news for California.

Prop. 16 is totally supported by the Northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), to the tune of up to $35 million approved by their board. This poorly written proposition is definitely a power grab by PG&E, and it is an attempt to preserve their monopoly in the territories they serve. It would enable them to expand, while hamstringing local governments.

Ads by PG&E on TV attempt to portray this measure as protecting voters’ rights, but instead it imposes a 2/3 “super-majority,” which would stall utility up-grades and prevent service to new customers.

Cities and counties already have their own rules governing annexations, and if they have public utilities, there are local rules governing the operations of those utilities.

This would write oppressive rules into the California State Constitution, taking authority away from local governments. Our state constitution is already long and troubled, and this measure would add to the legal tangle.

The power grid in our country is such that utilities sometimes need to “shop around” to find power, since electricity cannot generally be stored like water.

This proposition would prevent local public utilities from finding new power sources in times of need, or when one power source was shut down. This could be a great problem during hot summers or in other emergencies.

In Riverside, we have a local public utility, the Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) Department of the City of Riverside. RPU is governed by the City Council and by a Public Utilities Board composed of local citizens. There are also instances where they would have to go to the people for a majority vote, if they wanted to pass a bond issue. In contrast, a private utility company is run by their own board, which is supposed to operate to serve stockholders, as well as customers.

RPU purchases most of our power from investor-owned utilities, but recently they constructed a small “peaker plant,” to generate extra power in times of great usage. This protected us from having “brown outs” last summer. If Prop. 16 passes, public utilities would be prevented from doing such reasonable things to serve customers.

Whenever a new neighborhood sub-division is built, a public utility could be prohibited to serve it without a “supermajority” vote in the entire city.

Like BVN’s Brown family, I have a family connection to the Southern California Edison Co. (SCE, Edison International, EIX). My late father worked for SCE and its predecessor, California Electric Power Company.

According to the Orange County Register (taxdollars.freedomblogging.com), SCE’s official response to Prop. 16 is as follows:

“An initiative on the June 8, 2010 statewide ballot, known as Proposition 16, would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved. Southern California Edison is not taking a position on the initiative, but encourages Californians to vote to express their views on all important ballot measures.”

SCE obviously did not find it in their company’s best interest to join their northern competitor in pushing this measure. Prop. 16 stifles competition.

Prop. 16 just plain doesn’t make sense. It would be akin to asking the local school board to have an election requiring a “super-majority” every time they wanted to build a new school building.

I strongly urge voters to look at their Official Voter Information Guide regarding Prop. 16. Supporters of Prop. 16 include the Howard Jarvis California Taxpayers’ Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. However, some local Chamber of Commerce groups, particularly in PG&E’s territories, are opposing the measure. Groups in opposition to Prop. 16 include the League of Women Voters, AARP, the Sierra Club, and other organizations. If you look online for the many newspaper editorials that urge NO on Prop. 16, I suspect many thoughtful BVN readers will agree to Vote No.

Laura L. Klure is an independent writer living in Riverside. She is the author of the book, “California Electric Power Company 1904-1964: A Powerful Corporate Family,” 2005.

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