By that standard, the system is worth less than a quarter of what PG&E is claiming (and when tax time rolls around, you can bet the utility isn't insisting that its property ought to be assessed at a higher value).
Stevenson said the Controller's Office might replace the term "in the billions of dollars" with a more specific figure. If that's the case, taking PG&E's word, and accepting the wildly inflated $4.18 billion figure, would be a clear violation of the public trust.
The Controller's Office needs to change its statement to reflect, at the very least, the fact that no city money is at risk and that there's a reasonable assumption that the end result of a public takeover of PG&E would be increased revenue. It should say: "The costs of purchasing or building energy facilities would be substantial but those costs would be covered entirely by the revenue from operating the facilities. The net cost to the city would, at worst, be minimal and the potential exists for the city to bring in significant new revenue to offset taxes and general fund expenses."
That, at least, is a true and accurate statement.
PS: The supervisors should hold hearings on the economics of this measure and demonstrate how lucrative public power is for cities and how cheap for ratepayers. Public power is cheaper. Two charts below (PDF) show how public power is consistently less expensive than PG&E's private power. The first one looks at utilities in California; note that SMUD, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, has significantly lower rates than PG&E. The second one, from the American Public Power Association, shows overall rates for public and private utilities state by state.
The relevant line shows public, private and co-op rates, average per kilowatt-hour. Note that public power in California is about one-third cheaper overall.
PPS: We've seen these shenanigans from the Controller's Office for years; see our 1982 story (PDF) on how PG&E forced a misleading statement onto the ballot.