The donors have spoken

City council may act on Boss Johnson’s plan tonight.

City council may act on Boss Johnson’s plan tonight.

PG&E is marching ahead with a ballot measure to make it almost impossible for cities to form public power agencies or for existing nonprofits like SMUD to expand into PG&E territory.

As reported by SN&R a couple of weeks back, (see “PG&E’s power trip,” SN&R Frontlines, July 23), the measure was submitted to the attorney general under the incredibly ballsy title, “The Taxpayers Right to Vote Act.”

Well, the Sierra Club California sent a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown, arguing that the name of the measure was misleading, right down to its definite article.

Seriously, it argued that, “The use of the word ‘The’ in this case implies that this initiative grants to taxpayers ‘The’ universal and unique right to vote, which is absurd.” The Club then went on to insist that all the other words in the title were also lies, before summing up, “PG&E is paying to put before voters a constitutional amendment to protect its dominant position in the electricity market.”

The A.G. adopted the much blander title, “New Two-Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers.” But the important thing is this bad boy will soon be on clipboards in the hands of your local supermarket petitioners. And new reports with the California secretary of state show that PG&E has already plowed $750,000 to launch the signature gathering effort. That’s just the ante.

Speaking of the audacity of campaign cash: After eight months, Kevin Johnson’s strong-mayor proposal has gathered just enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. And the mayor wants to start the campaign now, long before voters get a chance to consider any competing recommendations of the public Sacramento Charter Review Committee.

The committee has been meeting and hearing testimony on Johnson’s proposal. But more importantly, the group has been holding a public discussion, open to regular citizens and community groups, to consider a range of possible government reforms. It’s been a public process, albeit one that’s gotten very little media attention.

That’s in contrast to Johnson’s proposal, which was cooked up behind closed doors by the mayor, his friends and Republican campaign operative Tom Hiltachk.

Hiltachk, some will remember, was the lawyer for Rescue California, the group that launched the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis and was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wingman on a suite of ballot measures the governor pushed during the special election of 2005. Voters emphatically shut Schwarzenegger down that year.

On Thursday, August 6, the city council has to decide whether to give Johnson what he wants and push his strong-mayor proposal onto the ballot in 2010. Or they could wait for the Charter Review Committee’s proposal and put both measures on the ballot in 2012, when Johnson is up for re-election. That way, voters would have two choices. You know, let the best idea win.

But Team K.J. is trying to short-circuit the committee. Mayoral spokes-contractor Steve Maviglio has said that any delay would be to “block the will of the people” who signed K.J.’s petitions.

Which is cute, since Maviglio—who worked for Gray Davis and former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez—knows better than any of us just how much crap gets on the ballot because one special interest or another wants to use the initiative process to get what it wants. Doesn’t matter if it’s PG&E or Angelo Tsakopoulos, one of the many developers who ponied up for K.J.’s strong-mayor campaign. A power grab is a power grab.