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Herrera's PG&E challenge

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL Bill Lockyer has done a major public service with his lawsuit charging that Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. defrauded California ratepayers. San Francisco's new city attorney, Dennis Herrera, should join the lawsuit – and use this occasion to start opening up all of the secret records in the City Attorney's Office that relate to San Francisco's dealings with PG&E.

As Savannah Blackwell reports on page 12, Herrera has already set up an "energy group" in the City Attorney's Office and has promised to look into joining Lockyer's suit. He also, in his inaugural speech, promised to support public power in San Francisco. That's in sharp contrast to the policies of his predecessor, Louise Renne, who was always a staunch opponent of public power and a PG&E ally.

But Herrera can talk all he wants; what San Francisco needs is clear, direct action – and an unmistakable sign from its new city attorney that business as usual is over. The first and easiest way for Herrera to do that is to immediately begin the process of reviewing every confidential document in the City Attorney's Office that involves PG&E – and releasing as many of those records as possible to the public.

At the same time, Herrera needs to begin an investigation into how San Francisco has failed over the past 80 years to comply with the federal Raker Act, which requires the city to operate a public power system. The City Attorney's Office must play a leading role in pushing for public power in the city, working closely with the existing public power movement (see "It's On!," page 13).

The stench of PG&E influence has fouled the City Attorney's Office for most of the last century. If Herrera wants to change that, he needs to start by giving the public the whole truth about this scandalous part of the city's history.

P.S. Amazing – the San Francisco Chronicle's far-flung David Lazarus managed to find a PG&E story all the way down in Kettleman City ("Erin Brockovich going after PG&E again," 1/13/02), but the paper still can't seem to discover the public power-Raker Act scandal at home. So the Chron is happy to support a crackdown on the homeless (see above) but doesn't want to crack down on PG&E.