Prop. 15 would create a pilot public financing program for the 2014 and 2018 races for California Secretary of State — and the program would be funded by a tax on lobbyists. Right now lobbyists pay only $12.50 per year to register with the state. This measure would increase that fee to $350 annually and use the money to create a fund of about $6 million that candidates for the crucial office overseeing elections in the state could tap after demonstrating their popular support by gathering a number of small contributions. All candidates who qualify would be given the same amount of money and left to compete on the issues. Ideally this public financing program would prove successful and eventually be expanded to other offices. Public financing of election campaigns, which is currently working well in Arizona and Maine, is certainly worth a try in California. Vote yes.
MONOPOLY PROTECTION FOR PG&E
NO! NO! NO!
The deceptively titled "Taxpayer's Right to Vote Act" was dreamed up and funded entirely by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the monopolistic utility that is worried it could face actual competition here in San Francisco (and elsewhere) from municipal electricity programs that would offer customers a greener energy mix and more accountability than PG&E executives will ever demonstrate.
Rather than accept some healthy competition, this sleazy corporation has opted to spend some $35 million to exterminate all possibilities of municipal electricity programs cropping up anywhere in the state in a bid to preserve its octopus-like grip on the energy market in Northern California. Prop. 16 would require a two-thirds majority vote at the ballot before any community choice aggregation (CCA) program — or any attempt at creating or expanding a public-power system — could move forward. That's an extreme hurdle — -and PG&E knows it.
In effect, PG&E is trying to buy public policy here, trying to pass a law that will protect its own monopoly interests.
In San Francisco, the CCA being proposed would offer customers 51 percent renewable power by 2017, which means it would blow PG&E out of the water in the green arena and mark S.F. as taking greater strides toward combating climate change than any other major U.S. city. This example could set a precedent for others, which, in turn, could create favorable market conditions for green energy startups that want to harness wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, tidal, and energy efficiency alternatives.
The very existence of Prop. 16 is already threatening the San Francisco CCA; the city's Public Utilities Commission is trying to delay a final contract until after the June 8 vote on the measure (see editorial, page 5)