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Misleading mailers and Prop. 16

Original post made by Jim Burch, Greendell/Walnut Grove, on Jun 2, 2010

In the last few days I have received in the mail three large, slick, four-color postcards urging me to vote Yes on Proposition 16, the so-called "taxpayers right to vote" being financed by PG&E.

These mailers display a total lack of integrity on the part of PG&E. I know that because Prop 16 isn't about anyone's "right to vote." Prop 16 is about only one issue: establishing a law that will require a two-thirds vote (66%+) by the residents of any city that desires to establish its own utility or, like Palo Alto that already has a utility, to expand or change its existing service in any way.

Guaranteeing the requirement of a 2/3rd vote is why PG&E wrote the initiative, paid to obtain the necessary signatures to get it on the ballot, and is now spending MILLIONS on four-color mailers and television ads in which the requirement for a 2/3rds vote is never mentioned. Not once!

Let me prove my point. If there was a different Proposition 16 on the ballot, identical in every other way, but only requiring a simple majority vote of 50% plus one, you can be certain that PG&E would not be spending one red cent urging a Yes vote.

Comments (29)

Posted by Voting FOR 16
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I am personally opposed to taking anybody's tax money and setting up a government run anything, so I am voting YES on this bill.

If this were only 51%, I would vote NO. I don't believe it is right for 51% us to tell the other 49% what they will spend their money on, so I am opposed to even the 51% "democracy" idea. I like the 66% idea. That at least assures that most TAXPAYERS, who actually pay the bill, support the idea of paying for x, y and z.

Democracy: Where 6 lions can vote to eat the 5 sheep.....or, 51% who pay nothing or near nothing can tell the 49% what they will buy.

at some point it becomes simply theft to TAKE money from people against their will, regardless if it is government taking it or a mugger.

Posted by scam
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

This entire proposition is a scam. Were they afraid to call it the "PG&E Proposition", because that is what is truthfully is.

Same goes for Proposition 17 which should be called the "Mercury Insurance Company Proposition".

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm

"at some point it becomes simply theft to TAKE money from people against their will, regardless if it is government taking it or a mugger."

Or an uncontrolled monopoly like PG&E, which happily took a pile of bailout money from the taxpayes almost a decade ago, and is now urging gullible taxpayers to cripple its most probable competition. I'm voting HELL NO on 16.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

PG&E is a CONTROLLED monopoly. They just have to please the government, not the customers.

Posted by Vote "NO" on 16
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Proposition 16 has little to do with taking taxpayer's money. This is just an advertising gimmick by PG&E to get you to vote for it. Their campaign for you to vote yes is loaded with misinformation.

What is happening here is that a bunch of cities in Marin County want to set up their own independent utility service much like our own City of Palo Alto Utilities. PG&E are using their tremendous corporate power to stop this, and any other independent Utility Services from being set up in California in the future.

In other words they are spending Million of Dollars to protect their monopoly on California's Utilities. If it passes PG&E customers will be paying for a protected monopoly with increased utility rates for years to come. Only with a 2/3rds vote of the people will it be possible for any kind of competition to be set up.

I am sorry that Voting for 16 in Greenmeadow has been so easily conned into voting "Yes" because it may be very detrimental to our own City of Palo Alto Utilities. If it passes our Utility Service will not be able to expand or improve service in the future without a 2/3rds vote of Palo Alto's residents.

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm

The best bet is to see on the sample ballot which groups support or oppose the bills. Then just follow the money!

Posted by Voting FOR 16
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2010 at 4:52 am

To Nora:

Yup..I find it interesting that all the Chambers of Commerces ( each individual ones across this State) support Prop 16. They know that the more power in a few hands to decide what happens to taxpayers' money, the fewer taxpayers ( read..consumers) live here and buy stuff, and the more likely it is that small businesses in every city will have ever increasing taxes.

It isn't just follow the money, it is follow the money and who will control peoples choices for the next generation.

For those who think this is a "monopoly" trying to take my choices away, I prefer to have the choices of the market( albeit highly regulated, I still have choices) allow me to buy my electricity, than the monopoly of a few members of a city council tell me what and where I will buy my electricity ( as in Palo Alto).

Government-run anything is a monopoly of the worst kind, with no chance of breaking free from the control of a few folks who have no clue what they are doing and should be sticking to the issues of a city, not making power company decisions. ( See Palo Altos's history with city-run services, please)

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

I am always skeptical of any mailed political advertising. I am not swayed by ads or robo phone calls. Better to get your info from a variety of more reputable sources, including as stated above WHO is supporting pro or con on a particular initiative - that will tell you a lot.

Posted by If you live in Palo Alto
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

If you live in Palo Alto, you are already benefiting from the state of things pre-prop 16. If anyone in Palo Alto votes for prop 16, then you are trying to prenvent other cities from getting their utilities the same way we do today. Shame on you for lumping this proposition into your current frustrations, which have nothing to do with the ability to have your own utility. Other cities have the right to do what Palo Alto did decades ago - if you don't like it, then you should not be living in Palo Alto.

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2010 at 11:28 am

All mailed or hand delivered election material goes straight into my recycling bin, unread. All TV and radio election ads are ignored by me, and all election phone calls are ignored. I'm a lobbyist's nightmare. On election day I read the voter's pamphlet, decide on my votes and go vote. Occasionally I'll actually vote against a candidate just because they were too in my face, even with all my ignoring. Take that, big money.

Posted by Voting FOR 16
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2010 at 12:43 pm

For those who do live in Palo Alto but still wish to vote for Prop 16..there is such a thing as learning from our mistakes and trying to prevent others from following, isn't there? Please note the state of our city's finances...and the state of finances of, say...Mountain View.

A city which doesn't run its own utilities, and somehow, magically, manages its money better and attracts businesses to their city.

'nuff said

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 3, 2010 at 1:22 pm

"A city which doesn't run its own utilities, and somehow, magically, manages its money better and attracts businesses to their city."

So just let Pride Greed & Envy sell you the gas and juice, and nirvana magically ensues. Hmmm. Have you told EPA this little secret?

Posted by If you live in Palo Alto
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm

To Voting FOR 16: Have you compared your utility bill to a PG&E bill or looked into the specific costs to Palo Alto for energy - you are getting quite the deal!! The state of Palo Alto's economy is due to other issues, so don't react to an unrelated prop to try to solve them.

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I dislike the way PG&E is dealing with this initiative. I do view the company as one of the better utilities in the country. Here is my view on aspects of things:

PG&E is a retailer, a wholesaler and a producer. There was a time back in the day of business theory that this was "vertical integration" and viewed as a good thing.

I am skeptical that such a model makes sense any more. And I apply it to ATT, Comcast, Verizon, not just PG&E.

That is a policy observation.

The cynic in me says that Marin County folks will run a local retail utility operation into the ground, but it would be their own damn fault.

Posted by don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

If You Live In Palo Alto has it right. The condition of Palo Alto's budget problems has nothing to do with having a city owned utility. It has everything to do with City Council's decisions made with only short run consequences being considered.

The pay and increased benefits for all city government employees has been based on "avoid a strike or work stoppage" and don't worry about the long term effects. We are now reaping the results of that short-sighted approach. (Bankruptcy anyone?) What hurts is that prior council members and city managers are no longer in office and can't be held accountable for their malfeasance.

Posted by no on 16 and 17
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Vote NO on propositions 16 and 17, the big business bailout propositions!

These propositions were written by big business and their campaign funding comes exclusively from big business (PG&E and Mercury Insurance). Are corporations giving up on bribing politician and now abusing the proposition process to fool the voters directly?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2010 at 8:13 am

The problem of public utilities is an Econ problem -- public utilities are a natural monopoly. None of the solutions are ideal. PG&E is demonstrating right now one of the problems with large, entrenched, regulated monopolies.

Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 6, 2010 at 1:30 am

Requiring a 2/3 vote for budget issues upends democracy and produces, quite simply, minority rule.

And allowing a business to put an initiative on the ballot upends the spirit of California's initiative process and produces, quite simply, business rule--corporatism.

Of course this is in keeping with the Roberts Court deciding that corporations are people. So PG&E is a guy, with the needs and aspirations of any other guy. And this guy doesn't want competition.

Palo Alto's own public utilities are proof of PG&E's lies. Anyone who studies our utilities should realize this. We we would be worse off and spending more on utilities if PG&E were calling the shots here.

That's a matter of fact, not opinion--you just need to compare our utility costs and average service levels with those of surrounding PG&E-serviced communities.

Anti-government zealots have been drinking Ayn Rand's Kool-Aid. She saw the Soviet government confiscate her parents' lands and concluded that all government is evil. Government's no saint, and I've often griped about the vagaries of City Hall. But that's a long ways from the Libertarians' simplistic "gummint bad, free enterprise good" syllogism. America uses a mixed model and is the better for it.

Those who really don't like government are welcome to try failed states like Somalia, and see for themselves what happens when their dreams come true.

Posted by Voting FOR 16
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 6, 2010 at 11:40 am

Minority rule? Huh?? When 2/3rds are needed to pass something, that means the MAJORITY rules... in other words, if 2/3rds of the voters want something, that means probably at least 1/2 of them are taxpayers, which means probably a majority, even if just a slim one, of those who actually pay the bill want to pay the bill for whatever it is.

At least we are assured that some majority percentage of us actually PAYING taxes want to pay for the, in this case, utility, esp given that anything government run will ALWAYS run a deficit and need subsidies by those who pay taxes.

Democracy does NOT mean that out of 9 mammals, 5 lions can vote to eat the 4 sheep!

Yes, government power over individual rights is evil. It is the ultimate monopoly, and there is almost no way to fight it once in power. Ayn Rand was and still is was and is Orwell. They saw the people in government with limitless power overcome individual rights to property, speech, religion etc. They know what happens.

This is simply a generic concept that one either accepts or rejects. If you are one who inherently trusts collectivism government over one which defends individuals to each make their own way in the world, then nothing, no facts, no history, no unintended consequences discussion, nothing, will overcome that.

As for costs, comparing "costs" of government run anything to privately run anything is apples and oranges. "Costs" of government run anything are automatically a shell game..just look at the constant beating of the drum for example on public education...and "how little" we spend, yet the per pupil budget is given on annual operating costs, NOT including facilities buildings and upgrades like in private sector. If we peel back the shell game speak, we find, for example, that Palo Alto is spending about $18,000 per year per student..but we never hear that said in comparing to private schools, because private schools have to charge enough to pay the operating costs AND the long term costs of buying/building/upkeep of facilities.

The same problem comes with "city owned" public utilities versus "private" utilities. Government owned "businesses" report costs and expenses in a different way from private owned.

If government-run anything were cheaper and better, the whole world would be pure communist. The bottom line is that the bottom line always drops through the floor with government run businesses. The bottom line is that the more government interferes with business, the poorer the poor become, the worse the output is, the lower the GDP, the less competitive in the long run the product becomes.

Simply can't do it.

We are not against government. We are not anarchists. The Somalia comparison is absurd on all levels and this is why...We are FOR appropriate governnment. We are against governnment doing jobs it is not constitutionally or inherently capable of doing better than the private market. Government can barely manage the taxpayers' money, albeit still with fraud and corruption, but better than many different private firms, to defend and protect our Constitution, defend and protect our people, defend and protect borders, defend and protect interstate and international commerce for all US citizens ( including rising up against any State "boycotting" another, for example), defend and protect constitutional individual and State rights...

Govt can not run a business in any way that makes sustainable sense in the long run. Witness bailed out or govt owned cars, railways, health care, energy, housing, etc. And what happens?

Your wire has no barb on it, The

As for letting greed, pride and envy run stuff? No choice. Greed, pride and envy are inherent to human nature, individually and institutionally. Can't outlaw it, can't surgically remove it. Can only accept it and deal with it the best we can.

We manage it best by being free to make our own choices in who we hang out with, who we do business with, who we work for. Eventually the worst of humans and organizations, if we are free to choose, become more and more isolated and eventually fail or are jailed.

If government takes over something, that is more choices left. The greed, pride and envy of those in the monopolistic govt become consolidated into one entity which chooses who and what to reward to sustain itself. No competing interests.

De facto bye bye choices and competition and leaves us with no options but to play by whatever rules govt sets up.

No thanks. I prefer choice.

Posted by Pro-choice
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2010 at 12:30 pm

FOR 16,

You have it backwards. If 16 passes, a minority of 1/3 will be able to block the majority. (This is exactly the reason the CA legislature is so messed up.)

This effectively reduces our choices.

Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Proposition 16, if it passes, will put any proposed changes in our public utilities—which charge substantially less than PG&E charges its customers—firmly in the hands of one third of Palo Alto voters.

When one third of the voters can call the shots, that’s minority rule.

We’ve got the same problem in our condo complex. It needs an earthquake retrofit. A small group of Russian immigrants oppose it, perhaps because where they come from, government preys on the citizens instead of working for them.

And because it takes a 2/3 supermajority to pass it, this group of people, who seem to believe all government is evil—like “Voting for 16”--may succeed in blocking the retrofit and preventing the majority of homeowners from doing what needs to be done to ensure our safety in the event of a major earthquake.

The irony is that such anti-government paranoia completely ignores all the other business and criminal entities out there who want to prey on us, and against whom one individual person or family is powerless.

And of course PG&E exploits such simplistic thinking, so that people with nothing to gain from helping PG&E…help it anyway.

I can understand a PG&E employee wanting to help his employer gain more monopoly power over the individual. I just can’t understand one of those individuals going along with it. In the name of freedom, no less. Now that’s just perverse.

This isn’t the 18th century, when a gentleman farmer needed government to protect against foreign invasion by another country, and little else. Yet our culture perpetuates a nostalgia for that independent, “off the grid” lifestyle.

And if “voting for 16” is consistent in his or her beliefs, he/she must oppose public schools, police, fire departments, sewer systems, water systems, roadways, building inspectors, business regulation, Social Security—the entire social safety net. Nothing left but the military and the border patrol, with chaos reigning within our borders.

Which might suffice if this were still the 18th century.

And that, folks, is the kind of person who likes Proposition 16.

Posted by Yes on 16
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 7, 2010 at 6:38 am

Wow, in the world of the left, up truly is down. When the majority of TAXPAYERS are able to decide what TAXPAYERS will pay for, that is somehow bad?

But when a majority of NON-taxpayers can decide what to take from taxpayers somehow that is good? This is what happens with pure "51%" democracy. I will never forget that lesson..came from the "tax the millionaires 10% for Mental Health" bill in California. Wow, I saw that there was a successful way to simply vote in theft from the sheep. I am no millionaire, for sure!! But that showed me California's true colors. Greed, class envy, and "tax everyone who makes more than I do" mentality. Guess what? This mentality has destroyed our tax base in CA.

We must remember, we are not a "pure democracy", we have a constitution which defends individuals, precisely because in a 'pure democracy", eventually kind hearted folks who join with takers tovote for entitlement programs eventually grow the entitlement programs so much that the takers "out vote" the payers, and destroy the whole society. Much like 6 lions voting to eat the other 4 mammals, who are sheep. What is left?

Even with the 2/3rds vote needed in our CA legislature, the "gridlock" you see in California isn't really effective, is it? Even with the party of "no", we are near the top, if not the top, in bankrupt States, aren't we? How did that super majority Democrat run State work out for you? The only power that "minority" has is to stop raising taxes, but that super majority Dem party still manages to get past, through "fees" and "temporary sales taxes" etc, and super regulations that clamp down on businesses and punish taxpayers, all that they wished for.

And how is that working out for us again?

Gosh, I want to hand on yet more power to government workers, esp the local City Council who knows SO MUCH about running power utilities!! ( Sarcasm off)

The poster above continues to believe that TAXPAYERS, the ones who work and pay all the bills in this country, are somehow too stupid to know what their money is worth spending on, as if taxpayers would vote against the very functions of government that protect us, like police and fire fighters, sewers etc. Of course not. Taxpayers know what is protective of all of us and worth spending money on, and they know who is best to do it.

However, yes, as a matter of fact, I AM opposed to the government social security system as it is now...a huge ponzi scheme, fabricated on the big lie that there is some trust fund somewhere growing with the Dow over your lifetime, waiting for you to retire..that is big lie. There are nothing but cobwebs in that "vault", the social security payments of 2 generations having been sucked into the vast government spending programs.

And yes, I AM opposed to much of the "regulations" that govern our building didn't know that our laws are such that we are required to put in "energy efficient" bulbs and "dimmer" switches....yet the dimmer switches cause the "energy efficient" bulbs to flicker like some 3rd world country's electrical supply, did you? That is just one example of the absurdity of government running amok in businesses it knows nothing about in the name of "the good for all"

Keep government out of running anything other than protecting US citizens and protecting commerce. Leave charity to folks who know how to do that and let those of us who wish to do so donate as we see fit to the organizations which actually accomplish the goals, and let each of us keep our money and choose our own retirement and health care programs.

And, aside from that, keep cities out of subsidizing the energy needs of its residents.

I note that the "no on 16" crowd seems to be the same as the "yes on 14" crowd, so I assume that 14 is also bad for us, somehow yet more of a government power grab scheme.

Yes on 16.

Posted by Pro-choice
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:05 am


The word "taxpayers" has no place in this discussion. In America, you don't have to be rich to vote.

The problem with 16 is that a majority of voters are not able to decide. It is anti-democratic.

As for complaints that the CA tax system is excessively progressive, well, what planet are you from? The ongoing gridlock in the CA legislature is caused by the requirement for a 2/3 majority, not by any super majority.

Posted by Yes on 16
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 7, 2010 at 10:20 am

I am not pro-choice of some to choose to steal from others. I am pro-choice of those who actually pay taxes to choose where and how those taxes are spent.

You don't understand the CA "gridlock" ...a few Democrats HAVE TO agree with the minority Repubs to block some of the more egregious tax raising bills, but unfortunately they don't usually do so..hence the humongous tax and regulatory burden driving out businesses and taxpayers, combined with the biggest welfare state in the nation collapsing the CA economy.

Whatever, I no longer care.

Your turn. You get last word. I am done.

Posted by hmmm
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 9, 2010 at 6:19 am

Hee heee...well, this will be fun to watch in San Francisco as the SF Council puts in place what the voters already turned down, now that this Prop failed.

Wonder what other Town Councils are eyeing a power grab now?

hee heee

Posted by scam
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2010 at 9:47 am

Looks like the big business bailout propositions 16 and 17 are both going to lose. Just goes to show that money can't always buy an election, unless you're willing to spend like Meg Whitman.

Posted by Brendan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

"Yes on 16"...I'm thankful that it didn't pass!

PG&E lost and that's a good thing. Around about 10 years ago we were helping them out of a mess of their own creation. I'm glad the public was smart enough not to buy what they were peddling this time around.

PG&E should be ashamed that they even attempted this...I wonder if the exec who came up with this brilliance will remain with the company?

Posted by Lost on 16
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 10, 2010 at 5:09 am

Um, Brendan, I think that you weren't around the last 15 years or you would know the "mess" was created by, as usual, distortions of the market from bad government "regulations" as usual.

See this Web Link

But, whatever, California gets what it votes for, and over my adult lifetime here, more years than I suspect you have been alive, I have watched it go from a vibrant, growing, creative, "live and let live", "free to be me" kind of place, to ..well..the kind of place that will always be manipulated into chooosing anything which gives more power to the government and less to businesses to create jobs, and to the people who pay taxes.

You say PGE should be ashamed for attempting this, ...have you have thought that those in political power should be ashamed of trying to expand their power and remove choices from the people?


Keep it up! It is rather fun to watch now that I have my safety net set up .

Posted by Pro-choice
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:52 am

The failure of 16 actually means more choice for people.

The idea that the utilities market could operate without regulations is economically naive.

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