Can’t buy my love

PG&E learns $46.5 million isn’t enough to woo—and fool—the voters

Among the many takeaways from the June 8 election, the most gratifying may be the notion that big corporations can’t always buy what they want, and that even the biggest advertising budget can’t mask the stink coming from initiatives as rotten and self-serving as Propositions 16 and 17.

It was especially heart-warming to see Prop 16, the deceitfully named “Taxpayers’ Right to Vote Act,” go down in flames, despite PG&E’s having spent $46.5 million (465 times as much as the opposition) to pass it. It lost in 33 of the state’s 58 counties, most widely in the utility’s service area (58 percent to 42 percent).

PG&E’s customers not only didn’t believe the hype, they also understood, apparently, that eventually they would end up paying the bill. Obscenely overpaid PG&E CEO Peter Darbee should get the axe for taking the company down this costly dead-end road.

Prop 17 deserved to die, too. Mercury Insurance spent $16 million trying to fool people into believing it was spending megabucks to save customers money. Voters know there’s no such thing as an altruistic insurance company and saw that Mercury was lying through its teeth.

It’s interesting that the two companies spent almost all their money on television ads, while the only real opposition to the measures was on newspaper editorial pages. Reading the paper still matters, it seems.

Downtown Drama Dept.: Chico’s council members have been hearing a lot lately from Dan Torres, owner of the Weekend Wearhouse store in downtown Chico. He’s on an e-mail crusade to expand the amount of parking downtown by getting his fellow business owners and their employees who are parking there to stop it.

One e-mail message came with four photos of parking spots taken “by inconsiderate or just ignorant owners and/or employees” taken on a Friday at 5 p.m., a time when “people are circling the block looking for parking,” Torres writes.

Torres’ language gets a little heated in some of the e-mails, and in a response Councilman Andy Holcombe takes him to task for calling folks “idiots” and “lazy bums” for refusing to walk two or three blocks to their stores. It’s a matter of education, Holcombe says.

It’s more than that, though. A while back the council decided to move to tiered parking fees downtown. The idea is to charge more to park in the downtown core, creating an incentive for people to gravitate to the less-used (and cheaper) spaces on its fringes.

I talked with Shawn Tillman, the city planner who’s working on the new parking plan. He said tiered parking is one of its three components, the others being creation of a dedicated parking enforcement team and installation of new meter technology. The new enforcement program will roll out in July, and the team will gather data that will be used to evaluate parking demand downtown. The new meters’ prices will be set to foster an ideal occupancy rate—85 percent, or an open space on every block—in as much of downtown as possible.

Hang on, Dan. Help is on the way.