Despite Spending $46 Million, California Rejects PG&E

“No on 16” revelers pay a 1:30 a.m. visit to PG&E Headquarters.

I’ve been a political campaign junkie for years. And the frustrating part about this job is that after going to Election Night parties, I have to go home and write about it for readers to view the next morning. So if a particular race takes the whole night to resolve, I could be up very late. But I had no problem sticking around the “No on 16” campaign party last night until 1:00 a.m. – monitoring the results with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, State Senator Mark Leno and our good friends at TURN. Because Tuesday  night’s defeat of Prop 16 was one of the most historic victories in California history. Outspent over 1,000-to-one by a monster utility company, consumer advocates defeated by a 52-47 margin an odious measure that would have cemented PG&E’s monopoly. To call this a David & Goliath victory does not give it justice. As my friend Robert Cruickshank wrote at Calitics, it’s like “an ant taking down an elephant.” Oh, and Prop 17 failed too.

PG&E is desperate to stop community choice aggregation – where local governments can purchase energy to offer their constituents a “public option” to the company’s monopoly. Proposition 16 would have required a two-thirds vote of the electorate before cities can do community choice aggregation, and cynically dubbed it the Taxpayer’s Right to Vote.

Never mind that taxpayers already have the right to vote out their elected officials – if they don’t support community choice aggregation. Never mind that ratepayers were not given the chance on voting for PG&E as their energy provider. Public power is not even one of my top “issues,” but I was outraged that PG&E would try something like Prop 16.

PG&E shattered campaign spending records with $46 million to pass Prop 16 – ratepayer money that we give them every month when we pay our energy bills. The only organized opposition was TURN (the Utility Reform Network), who only raised $90,000. Bloggers got creative by making “No on 16” videos, and a hilarious Twitter feed. But the campaign often seemed like a rag-tag army tilting at the windmills.

When I arrived at the “No on 16” party at Otis Lounge around 9:30 p.m., the results were looking bad. We were down by about three points, but the night was still young. Having watched statewide campaigns for years, I knew it would ultimately come down to Los Angeles County – so I quickly went online to check how we were doing down there.

Not good. The early absentees had Prop 16 winning L.A. County by 13 points, far worse than where we were statewide. If this kept on during the night, it was going to be painful. The public power entity in Los Angeles had just raised rates, and folks at the party said it may be why Prop 16 was doing so well. Small comfort for the largest county in the state.

Mark Toney of TURN was saying we should be proud that we held PG&E to such a close margin, after having been outspent nearly 1,000-to-one – but I cringed when I heard that. We were losing. Sure, we were doing pretty well in Northern California – where people know and hate PG&E, but we were getting creamed down south. Where the votes are.

But as the night wore on, some folks pointed out how well we were doing in counties like Fresno, Madera, and Mariposa. These are conservative places in the Central Valley, but PG&E had alienated these customers with “smart meters.” I checked how we were doing in San Benito County – which political junkies often say is the bellwether of California state politics. We were slightly ahead in San Benito County, but only by about 50 votes.

And the L.A. County numbers were trickling in – slowly, but surely. We were still losing there, but the margin was noticeably trending in our favor. By now, everyone at the party was huddled around a small number of laptops – while I double-checked the Secretary of State’s website with what individual counties were saying. Places like San Diego and Orange County were coming in where we were behind, but we were not losing ground.

Pretty soon, our three-point loss became a one-point lead – and there was a palpable sense in the air that we could win it. I wasn’t convinced yet – scouring the L.A. County numbers to see if this positive trend in our favor was not going to start reversing itself.

When 58% of L.A. County had been counted, we were ahead there. I got up, and boldly shouted that we had won. It reminded me of the scene in Milk, when Jim Rivaldo tells Harvey Milk not to worry about the Briggs Initiative. L.A. County had just come in, and we were going to win. By now, I was sure that we had slain the Prop 16 dragon.

During that whole time, Proposition 17 – Mercury Insurance’s scam to rip off consumers – had been ahead by a wider margin than Prop 16. As we were all fixated on the Prop 16 results, it became apparent that Prop 17 results were following similar trends. By the end of the evening, Prop 17 had likewise had the same fate – it also lost by about five points.

As of 4:00 this morning, Prop 16 is losing 47-53 – with 91.6% of all precincts reporting. Not only is this a stunning rebuke of PG&E, but it is a strong mandate for public power. Californians want a choice in the energy marketplace, and are ready for a “public option” that provides them with competitive rates and renewable energy sources.

And PG&E will deserve every share of anger, rebuke and humiliation coming at it.

Paul Hogarth

Republished with permission from BeyondChron.

Comments

  1. jacksmith says

    I’M PROUD OF YOU LABOR!. Keep standing up. The lives and health of all the American people and the World are in serious jeopardy.

    Alan Grayson Honors The Dead http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV9TRoYMtjs&feature=player_embedded

    Alan Grayson on Healthcare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPpQ2MNaSDo&feature=player_embedded

    Ron Sparks HealthCareReform http://youtu.be/kqlBFRJh4Cw

    John Garamendi – The Public Option http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyBTEke68aQ&feature=player_embedded

    I want to commend all of you for working so hard and being so strong at helping the whitehouse and congress begin to address our U.S. and Global healthcare crisis. You have been AWESOME! my fellow Americans and peoples of the World. America and the World is better and safer for it. My greatest pride is the knowledge that I am one of you. And that you really get it. You really understand the importance of it all.

    There are some potentially very good things in the healthcare legislation. Especially with the reconciliation fix’s. The Democrats, Bernie Sanders and the Whitehouse did a GREAT! job of fighting to produce the best healthcare legislation that they could. They have earned all our strong support. And we should give it to them.

    But it was your relentless pressure and hard work that made the difference. Whatever good comes from this healthcare legislation, America and the peoples of the World will have each of you to thank. You were smart, creative, courageous and relentless. You fought together for the best legislation possible. And when you had to, you fought alone. No matter who stumbled and fell you continued to push and forge ahead. Fighting for the lives and health of the American people and the World. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR-SELVES :-)

    It may come to pass that future generations will look back on us and say that we were ALL Americas Greatest Generations. And that healthcare reform was our finest hour. You should be proud of our leaders President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the many other Democratic and independent fighters for the people in congress. They proved them-self worthy of the leadership of a GREAT! PEOPLE.

    But we are not done yet. This was just the beginning of healthcare reform, not the end. WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, ARE NOT! divided on healthcare legislation. The vast majority of you have been consistently crystal clear that this legislation does not go far enough. You want a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. And you want it NOW!

    YOU MUST NOT ALLOW AN INDIVIDUAL MANDATE TO STAND WITHOUT A STRONG GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE.

    WE THE PEOPLE have been crystal clear that we want an end to dependence on for-profit healthcare and the for-profit proxies called private for non-profit healthcare. The American people want the CHOICE! of a strong Government-run Public Option to replace their need or dependence on healthcare providers whose primary motivation is profit. Rather than providing the highest quality, easiest accessible and most affordable medically necessary healthcare possible. This is what the rest of the developed World has. And the American people want it too. They want healthcare ASSURANCE! Not, for-profit health insurance. And they want it NOW!

    Now is the time to continue the push for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone that wants it on day one. Rationally it’s clear what we have to do to get this done. SUPPORT THE DEMOCRATS that supported you with a Public Option choice, and REMOVE as many republicans as you can. Not one republican in congress was willing to step across the isle to support a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. NOT ONE! Let no candidate prevail this November that does not support a Strong Government-run Public Option.

    47,000 AMERICANS die each year from lack of healthcare. 120,000 die from treatable illness that don’t die in other developed countries. Hundreds of thousands of you are dieing from medical accidents in a rush to profit. And Millions of you are injured. Millions more are driven into bankruptcy. All for the privilege of paying two to three times as much as any other people in the developed world for healthcare. HOGWASH!

    Additionally, tens of thousands of you and your children were killed and millions sickened and injured from a terror attack with H1N1 (swine flu). Released on the American people and the World by the for-profit healthcare industry. All in an attempt to panic and frighten you into accepting the oxymoronic criminal enterprise of private for-profit healthcare (The most costly, deadly, dangerous, and disgraceful product sold in America). H1N1 is still sickening people and killing them. Especially children, the young and the middle aged. And there will be a third wave. These are the terrorist you need to worry about the most. Even the so-called international terrorist would not do something so INSANE! But greed driven medical profiteers would and did.

    Apparently as far as republicans in GOVERNMENT are concerned, YOU! my fellow Americans – CAN JUST DROP DEAD! Including their own family members. Fools!… Hundreds of thousands of you, and possibly millions of you will die from the long-term effects of your infection and poisoning with H1N1.

    So my fellow Human Beings. Rest-up, Take good care of the basics (Balanced nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest and POSITIVE emotional supports). Then wade back into the FIGHT! for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. Drug re-importation, Abolishment or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. You must take back control of your healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. You MUST do it NOW! This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings. I’m glad to know of you. And proud to be one of you.

    See you on the battle field.

    Sincerely

    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

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