Local News

May 18, 2010 11:21 PM by Ariel Wesler

Powering through Proposition 16

Tonight, we're shedding some light on Proposition 16. It's a controversial proposition surrounding whether the public should decide if a city or county can enter the power business.

If Prop 16 passes, it would require a two-thirds majority vote from the public before starting or expanding electric service. So far, PG&E has spent $35 million campaigning for the measure. Opponents have raised less than $50,000.

Bringing power to the people. The city of Lompoc has been doing it since 1933.

"Our citizens at that time voted to float a bond issue and to take over the private service in town," said Lompoc Mayor Mike Siminski

But if Proposition 16 passes, it would make it harder for cities to enter the power business by requiring a two thirds vote from the public. Siminksi says PG&E wants to eliminate the competition.

"It irritates me that their using the initiative process for strictly business purpose. It would be the same thing as if an "x" brand gas station used a state law to keep "y" brand station from operating," Siminksi said.

He says the city provides better service at a lower cost and residents agree.

"Our electric bills have been held down compared to other cities," said Randy Ruehling of Lompoc.

The average Lompoc resident uses a little less than 400 killowatt hours per month. That costs almost $45. For PG&E, the rates are about 50 dollars or 10 percent higher. Using 600 kilowatt hours, PG&E rates are about 38 percent higher.

The city of Lompoc is one of 40 cities in California to setup its own electric utilities, but supporters of proposition 16 say that decision should be left to voters since they're the ones paying the bills.

The "Yes on Prop 16" coalition issued this statement to KSBY.

"Prop 16 focuses on one simple principle - it ensures voters have the final say before local governments can spend public money or incur public debt to develop a government-run electricity business."

"With our economy the way it is today, I think everybody needs to look at how we spend our money. If the proposals look good, than we can vote yes for it," Ruehling said.

Just how many will vote yes is still a power struggle.

Two weeks ago, the Lompoc city council voted to finance 18 million dollars for a two percent share of a power plant being built in Northern California. If prop 16 were in effect, the mayor says the city would have had to spend $100,000 to hold an election.

San Luis Obispo is expected to publicly oppose the proposition at tonight's city council meeting. City leaders in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara are not taking a stance on the issue.

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