Saturday, May 15, 2010

134 / Democracy #3

If you live in Northern California, you probably get your electricity from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company - PG&E. State law currently allows local communities to decide to provide their own electric power, through a power delivery system called "community choice aggregation," and PG&E doesn't like that idea one bit! If communities started to chose to do that (and such a community choice aggregation system has been established in Marin County) then PG&E would have to compete against a local, non-profit energy agency. Again, PG&E is not thrilled with that prospect. Not at all!

You know, the current law actually allows the elected representatives of local communities to set up this kind of community choice aggregation system. And PG&E doesn't like that, either. PG&E thinks that "the people" should decide. The "people" as opposed to their democratically-elected representatives, that is!

PG&E has spent 35 million dollars to qualify and promote Proposition 16 on the state ballot this June. Here is how PG&E describes this measure, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Let voters decide
PG&E and its supporters in the business community insist that Prop. 16 would merely grant voters the final say over public power projects, enshrining that right in the state Constitution...It simply gives voters the right to vote on these very important matters when public money is involved.
The PG&E promotional efforts on behalf of Proposition 16 don't reveal that the "voters" would have to muster a 2/3 vote to say "yes" to a community choice aggregation system in their local community.

In other words, instead of putting the "voters" in charge, if by "voters" we mean a majority of those voting in an election, the PG&E measure (which is profoundly undemocratic, in my understanding of the word) would empower a minority of the voters to say "no" to a system that a majority would prefer.

What's your definition of "democracy?"

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