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New Times / Commentary

The following article was posted on June 2nd, 2010, in the New Times - Volume 24, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 24, Issue 44

Don't be bamboozled by Prop.16

PG&E has commandeered the initiative process in a cynical, underhanded ploy to cement its monopoly

By KEN MCCALIP

There is chicanery afoot in California to thwart us from getting electric power at the least expense. We must be free to choose alternatives to such monopolies as PG&E that currently dominate service. Many communities are choosing to buy energy at wholesale prices from green suppliers or create their own utilities, to gain electricity at better rates and less harm to the environment. These communities are cutting into PG&E’s longstanding monopoly, which rakes in billions of dollars each year at exorbitant cost to ratepayers.

Chicanery is sophisticated trickery and subterfuge used to deceive others in a cunning fashion. Why is PG&E guilty of chicanery in its promotion of Proposition 16?

Proposition 16 is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would be extremely hard to reverse if it is approved in the election on June 8. It would protect PG&E’s monopoly on providing power in California by requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote before communities could generate their own power or purchase power at competitive prices on the open market in a truly capitalistic way. These community choice programs are voluntary and do not raise taxes and in fact have nothing to do with raising anyone’s taxes, but to read a PG&E ad you would think otherwise. PG&E is the major supporter of this initiative and kicked in $6.5 million to get it started and has contributed tens of millions more to see that it succeeds. Unfortunately, all of these millions come from our utility payments, and they are funding misleading advertisements.

Recently, I received in the mail an extra-large post card from PG&E stating that current state and local government deficits in California total $36 billion and total debt is $145 billion. These numbers may or may not be factual, but what do they have to do with Proposition 16? Absolutely nothing! Protecting PG&E’s monopoly has nothing to do with our state debt, and is a clear example of advertising trickery.

A few days later, I received another extra-large post card from PG&E stating that “Public Power,” “Local Public Electricity Providers,” and “Community Choice Aggregation” are all names for government-run electric service. How true: But what is wrong with local communities wanting to get their own electricity at a lower rate? Voters should be running the show, not a large monopoly telling us all how to vote and what to vote for. We should have the flexibility at the local level to deal with our own needs as a majority of us see fit. Again, PG&E tries to cunningly change the argument away from the fact that this initiative does nothing but protect PG&E’s monopoly and does nothing for local and state voters. It will make it more difficult for local voters to make decisions concerning each community’s future.

The Modesto Bee has summed up Proposition 16 for California voters the best: “… the PG&E ballot measure is another troubling example of the initiative process going dangerously awry in California, of a powerful special interest seizing the initiative process for its own narrow benefit.”

PG&E’s activities in California of seizing the initiative process are a perfect example of what’s in store for the nation as a whole after the recent decision before the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case as corporations with unlimited funds seize the nation’s electoral process. This case held that corporations and unions are individuals and are entitled to all the protections of free speech that you and I have and that they are not bound by restrictions on spending funds in federal elections. The floodgates are now open, and we will now see a mammoth wave of spending along the lines of PG&E’s California effort. Recent history has pointed out that if you repeat a falsehood enough times, voters will believe it, and with massive amounts of money the hijacking of our political process will be complete and start the eventual direct control of our government by narrow corporate interest.

If PG&E has the extra tens of millions in profits to mount a campaign using trickery and subterfuge to restrict voter’s rights in California, perhaps it is time for the California Public Utilities Commission to look at reducing the profit margin of this monopoly and lower everyone’s utility rates. In addition to not voting for Proposition 16, which is nothing more than a sophisticated monopoly bamboozle and anti-capitalistic, we should also not have to pay for these outlandish efforts against our own best interests, which in truth is paid for out of each person’s utility payment and on the backs of the hardworking PG&E employees, who daily and nightly keep our power on—often at their own peril!

 

Ken McCalip is a north Santa Barbara County native who holds bachelor and doctorate degrees in history, cultural geography, and law from various California universities. He can be reached at foxmt.one@verizon.net.