With Proposition 16, PG&E is seeking to change the state constitution so it can avoid competition by nonprofit municipal utilities that provide consumers with lower electric rates. PG&E Chief Executive Peter Darbee admitted as much during a Wall Street investor conference this spring.
So, if Proposition 16 is not about voting rights or taxes, what is it about? And why is PG&E spending so lavishly to pass it?
What PG&E hopes to do with Proposition 16 is provide constitutional protection for the narrow interests of a private company that ranks among the highest in terms of electric rates and lowest in service in the state. The state constitution is meant to protect the rights of citizens, not individual corporations.
Passing Proposition 16 would cause more immediate damage to California's economy than simply higher electric rates. A serious drafting error in the "grandfather clause" would wreak havoc in the real-estate markets and business environments of the 48 communities presently served by municipal electric utilities.
That means that in each area of the state with public power — including Los Angeles, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Sacramento and several dozen others — every new customer account would be subject to the election with a two-thirds majority requirement!
Proposition 16 also takes away the yardstick to measure public versus private utilities' performance. The nonprofit utilities Proposition 16 attempts to eliminate offering an alternative approach to providing electric service and servicing the community.
Vote NO on Proposition 16.
JOHN GEESMAN AND RON DAVIS
Editor's note: Geesman is a former member of the California Energy Commission. Davis is the president of the California Municipal Utilities Assn. and the general manager of Burbank Water and Power.