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Election 2010

Roseville residents urge a "no" vote on Proposition 16

Opponents say it would prevent growth in Roseville, create monopoly for PG&E
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Opponents of Proposition 16 accuse Pacific Gas & Electric of attempting a massive power grab — literally. Roseville resident Jim Pope led a small protest against the proposition May 18 outside Civic Center, where he delivered a dire message to the 11 people in attendance as part of a statewide day of action. “Life in this town would change forever,” Pope said. The Taxpayer Right to Vote Act on California’s June 8 ballot would amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds vote for communities to choose electricity provided by nonprofit municipal utilities. Opponents say it creates a monopoly to line the pockets of investor-owned utilities, such as PG&E, and blocks cities from creating their own power authorities. The City of Roseville, for instance, would be required to obtain a supermajority to expand service or extend into newly annexed areas. In November 2009, the Roseville City Council approved a resolution in opposition of Proposition 16. Pope — general manager of the Northern California Power Agency — protested as a private citizen at lunchtime. He said the proposition would prevent growth on the west side of Roseville and called the proposition a tool for people interested in limiting growth. “That is an intended consequence of the proposition,” he said. According to a city fact sheet, if the ballot measure passes, PG&E — and not Roseville Electric — would possibly become the electric service provider for any new areas annexed into the city in the future, such as Sierra Vista Communities, a 2,064-acre development approved by the city council in May. Residents and businesses within Roseville would potentially pay different electricity rates and receive different levels of service. The law would exempt existing providers serving existing customers if the utility is the “sole provider” in a designated service area. But opponents argue that most utilities in California aren’t sole providers, including Roseville Electric, although this utility serves more than 99 percent of businesses and residential customers in the area, said spokeswoman Vonette McCauley. Proponents say the law would benefit voters by giving the public the right to determine by vote if local governments can use public funds to establish government-run electric utilities. If the measure is voted down, private utilities could step into areas hoping to expand or extend service. PG&E, California Taxpayers Association and California Chamber of Commerce support the proposition. PG&E had spent about $35 million to back this proposition at the time of the protest. The no-campaign had spent about $100,000. The Yes on Prop 16 campaign did not return request for comment. In California, customers of nonprofit municipal utilities pay an average of 20 percent to 25 percent less for electricity than customers of for-profit utilities, Pope said. On average, PG&E rates are 40 percent higher than Roseville Electric rates, according to the city’s fact sheet. “If you vote yes on Prop 16, energy bills will be higher in California,” Pope said. “If you vote no, energy bills will be lower. More than 200 entities oppose the proposition, including about 30 cities, California Association of Realtors, California Farm Bureau, California League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Clean Power Campaign, and several local chambers of commerce and labor organizations. Tony Zimmer, a Roseville resident in attendance at the May 18 protest, said he would most likely vote no on the proposition. “It stifles competition,” Zimmer said. “And I’m an advocate of competition.” Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.