Friday, October 24, 2008

Ulterior Motives & Ballot Initiatives

As a personal rule, I try to vote NO on ballot initiatives because of my personal opinion that we have an elected legislature for a reason (no matter how dysfunctional it might be), and because the ballot measure process is ripe for exploitation by special interests. Rarely are Propositions what they seem.

No change this year, but before we award the "wolf in sheep's clothing" award for 2008 to Prop 10 which is a transparent attempt by mogul T. Boone Pickens to reap a windfall through his natural gas investments, consider Prop H on the ballot in San Francisco.

Prop H is designed to look like a renewable energy measure. According to the Asscoiated Press:
"Proposition H would amend the city charter to require that San Francisco get 51 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2017, 75 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040."

That doesn't sound terribly unreasonable by San Francisco standards. But the AP points out that Prop H also does something else:

"The proposition would authorize the Board of Supervisors to issue revenue bonds to fund an acquisition of PG&E's San Francisco operations or construction of a new electrical system — depending on what the study finds."

So is Prop H about renewable energy or is it about acquiring PG&E's system through eminent domain? I guess the answer is both, but it begs the question, why are these two radically different agendas buried in the same ballot initiative?

PG&E, not surprisingly, is ponying up to oppose the measure and the utility has stated publicly that the number required to buy it out is in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and that San Francisco residents would pay as much as $400 more per year with a municipal utility. Proponents of the measure say it's less, but that's to be expected.