The mayor loves PG&E

Herrera is taking on the mayor over his PG&E comments

I almost couldn't believe it -- the same week that the feds came down and essentially called Pacific Gas and Electric Co. a crew of incompetent crooks, Mayor Ed Lee goes to a PG&E PR event and talks about what a great company it is. He actually said PG&E was "a great company that gets it."


PG&E kills people, blows up houses, tries to block consumer choice, screws the city out of millions of dollars -- and then uses some of its vast cash flow, which comes out of all of our pockets, to improve its image in the community by giving some money to a nonprofit that helps kids learn to read and play baseball. Nice that the company can cough up $250,000 -- which is about .005% of the $50 million the company spent to block public power efforts. Thanks, guys. Sweet of you.

Listen: This sort of stunt is cheap PR for the utility. I'm happy that RBI got some money, but that doesn't excuse what the city's greatest corporate criminal has done -- and it shouldn't buy the mayor's praise.

City Attorney (and mayoral candidate) Dennis Herrera was outraged. He issued a statement this morning saying

“Ed Lee’s lavish praise for PG&E as ‘a great corporation’ on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the San Bruno tragedy, just days after federal regulators blamed the utility for a ‘litany of failures’ that claimed eight lives, is unconscionable,” said Herrera.  “It shows insensitivity to victims’ families, and poor judgment for allowing his office to be used as a corporate PR tool.  No less troubling, it ignores the serious work my office and others have done to protect San Franciscans from PG&E’s negligence, to prevent further explosions like those in San Bruno last year and in Cupertino on Wednesday.  The interim Mayor should reassess his laudatory view of PG&E, and apologize to San Bruno victims’ families.”

Kind of obvious, no? Well, not according to the mayor, whose campaign spokesman, Tony Winnicker, had this to say:

This is just another political cheap shot from the City Attorney. Ed Lee was one of the first people to hold PG&E accountable for the condition of its infrastructure in SF and witnessed first hand the devastation and suffering caused by PG&E's negligence in San Bruno within days of the blast. Holding PG&E accountable for the loss and suffering they've caused doesn't mean you shouldn't recognize when they also do something good for our public schools and low-income kids. We wish more local companies would get it and support our public schools and low-income kids, and THAT is what Mayor Lee was talking about.

And if there's anyone who should apologize in this instance, it is Dennis Herrera for shamelessly using the victims of the San Bruno blast and the students of Bessie Carmichael as fodder for his political attacks on Mayor Lee.

Actually, I think that the fact that the company is a corporate criminal should, indeed, be a factor in recognizing it for trying to buy goodwill in the community. But as for Herrera, when I told him about Winnicker's statement, he went a bit further:

"The mayor should understand the importance and impact his words have and what the appropriate context might be for his complements for a corporate citizen's contributions."

Spoken like a lawyer, but you get the point: This was really stupid, inappropriate and embarassing.

You wonder how PG&E got Lee to this event -- although you don't have to wonder too much. Lee's pal Willie Brown is on a PG&E retainer at about $200,000 a year.

John Avalos has also weighed in on this, releasing a statement that makes all the points:

Ed Lee called PG&E a “great corporation” yesterday–a great corporation who spent $50 million last year trying to pass a ballot measure that would ensure their monopoly in places like San Francisco instead of repairing and inspecting pipes like the one that caused this terrible destruction.  Now this “great” corporation want its customers to foot the bills for its negligence and bad practices?  Ed Lee says that this corporation “gets it.”  PG&E seem to “get” that a symbolic donation to a charity at the height of their unpopularity might help their rate-payers forget the catastrophic results of their negligence and bad practices.

The residents of that neighborhood in San Bruno will not forget. The families of those who lost their lives that day will not forget. And anyone who fought to defeat Proposition 16, in an effort to maintain a city’s right to produce their own power won’t forget the blatant cynicism of this corporation.

I’m deeply disappointed, and I would like Mayor Lee to tell San Franciscans what makes this corporation “great” and what it is besides insider politics and business as usual that PG&E “gets.”

So far, the rest of the candidates have been a bit shy about going directly after the mayor. It's about time they started.


think it's compl"i"ments...Man, I hope the scrutiny of Lee picks up after Labor Day. I just want to know why he wasn't filling any potholes for the last ten years.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

Not that the Lee campaign knew of that in advance but the optics just aren't good.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Sep. 02, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

Glad to hear that Avalos and Herrara are finally going after Lee but one candidate isn't shy he is actually working in Sacramento and most probably hasn't heard the latest story about he Mayors love of PG&E.

It's going to be a bumpy Fall. It is anyone's race to win or lose. But no one will win this with Lee so far ahead in some polls unless the progressives and their supporters get together and work together. Some organizations get that and are rank choice or dual endorsing their favorites. You can bet that Lee's got his eye on Chiu's second choice picks. No wonder Supervisor Kim is leaving on a jet plane to go to Burning man with David. She is one smart poltician for sure. Bevan is running circles around Herrera also courting the Castro. Those Dufty signs are everywhere.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Sep. 02, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

I some times agree with the SFBG on certain issues and public power is one I totally agree with. And not always it's political picks. This said.

Doesn't mean a hill of beans. When San Francisco voters are duped it really gets in to my crawl of the "Sheep Theory". And that pisses me of even more cause I see it un-fold through out America.

How can so many be lead to vote for the slaughter house? Maybe it's to much television nanny-ism.

This election will only prove the "Sheep Theory" is alive and well.

Posted by Jerry Jarvis on Sep. 02, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

Yes, although I don't think it's a theory any this point in time. There are countless examples of sheep behavior all over the place. One recent example: the sheep that fell for corporatist, pro-war, pro-PNAC Obama (a.k.a. Bush 3) when Nader or McKinney were the far better choices and the real progressives. Another example: The sheep that fell for that Wiener guy and the sheep that are lining up behind Dufty. I asked some people why they voted for Wiener and all they could tell me was, "he's a nice guy." Then they went on to add how they were impressed with his little handwritten notes that he left on their door or his coming to their home asking for their vote. Ugh. Talk about shallow, easily-duped sheep. When I asked about his politics and what he stands for they stood there embarrassingly with a blank stare and their mouths hanging open. Couldn't tell me a thing. The sheep that I see flocking to Dufty are doing so in the name of, "let's elect the city's first gay mayor." Shallow! What about his politics? Apparently, his sexual orientation is all that's important to many. Sheep = Pathetic. I'd prefer a true progressive who's "straight" and not some mealy-mouthed so-called "moderate" (which is closer to right-wing) just because he's gay.

Posted by QUEER Jorge Orwell 1984 on Sep. 03, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

Clearly Herrera got the memo that Ed Lee's candidacy cut into his base of moderate voters. Fair enough. But this particular attack is pretty lame. He (not to mention the Bay Guardian) is clearly taking the Mayor's statement out of context.

Herrera has a solid record and compelling issues to run on-- he should spend less time acting like a lawyer prosecuting a case and more time getting out there and talking to voters about the direction he wants to take SF.

Posted by Paul Noe Valley on Sep. 04, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

Look- I don't even like Herrera, at all. But there isn't a context to call PG&E a great company that's gets it (or whatever he said) especially when Lee seems to be the quintesssential pay-to-play candidate.

Do agree that Herrera acts too much like a lawyer for a mayoral candidate. He's pretty charisma-challenged.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

Herrera is just as complicit for his failure to prosecute PG &E. And that's not all. The San Bruno disaster is not the only threat posed by PG &E . As the East Bay Express reports, "The utility is involved in a project that may further increase demand for fracked natural gas while raising your monthly utility bill at the same time."

Posted by Lisa on Sep. 06, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

Did you know PG&E is once again asking the PUC to raise your electricity and gas rates? I guess they need more money to give away to charities and politicians.

I understand the new PG&E CEO makes $150,000 a month. He could have personally afforded to make that $250,000 nonprofit gift out of his own pocket. But he would rather take it out of our pockets. What a scam.

Posted by Guest Fred on Sep. 16, 2011 @ 11:43 am