Popular California

Ever feel a little deflated when the nation gears up every fourth November to make its most important collective decision and nobody even cares what Californians think? True-blue California consistently votes Democrat in presidential elections, so the politicians woo the battleground states, those swingers that could go either way.

Now, all that could change. The California Assembly just passed Assembly Bill 2948 up to the Senate with a 49-31 vote. The bill fuses California to other states in one national popular vote for president and vice president. Whoever wins the most votes among the coalition of states will receive each state’s electoral votes.

If the bill is made into law, and enough states join California—without a majority of electoral votes at stake, this clearly won’t work—the United States could have its first popular election for president in 2008.

There are detractors who say that politicians will only consider the interests of population centers, catering to the largest, densest crowds, or that California could wind up throwing its electoral votes behind a candidate that it did not, as a state, elect, but supporters are looking at the upside: For once, politicians will have to listen to California’s concerns and answer them. If the nation embraces a popular vote, the next presidential candidates will need as many individual votes as they can grab, which means they’ll have to earn each and every one of them.

Go to www.nationalpopularvote.com for more information.

—Chrisanne Beckner

The alternative to the alternative

Frustrated with your local “alternative newspaper"? Monica Krauth, who by day works as a reporter at the Woodland Daily Democrat, is trying to build an alternative to the alternatives, a bona fide Sacramento Indymedia.

The operating principle behind Indymedia is that regular citizens have to “be the media” to ensure coverage of issues important to their communities. In cities that have active Indymedia networks, such as San Francisco and Portland, citizen journalists go out and get the stories, sometimes including audio and video content, and then publish their pieces directly to the Indymedia Web site.

“We feel that corporate media and fake alternative media don’t tell your stories,” Krauth wrote in a flier for a potluck dinner and Indymedia training on Sunday.

Krauth also told SN&R that she objects to the business model that is typical of urban weeklies. “I don’t like some of the advertising that has to go in there to pay for the paper.”

The event will be held on Sunday, June 11, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It’s being hosted by Access Sacramento, at 4623 T Street. You also can go to www.indybay.org/centralvalley for more information or call (916) 410-6197.

—Cosmo Garvin

The after math

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) officially sat out the campaign for Measure H—a Pacific Gas & Electric-backed measure aimed at making it harder for the public power agency to expand its service territory and take away PG&E customers.

But as attention turns to the November elections—and local ballot measures that would allow SMUD to begin offering electricity to Yolo County, SMUD board members and local government officials are blasting what they call “PG&E’s lies,” including TV commercials and mailers accusing SMUD of underestimating what it would have to pay PG&E when it expanded into Folsom in the 1980s.

“They are doing everything they can to mislead people,” said SMUD board member Bill Slaton, who said the ads carried “only the slightest grain of the truth.”

Slaton noted that Folsom ratepayers saved around $238 million after joining SMUD. By expanding into Folsom, SMUD got about $125 million from new rates to invest in infrastructure.

“If you’re investing $16 million, and you’re getting over a $300 million return, that doesn’t sound like a bad decision to me,” said Slaton.

PG&E spent a stunning $3 million on the Measure H campaign. Most observers believe the company will spend even more going into the November elections. Slaton said SMUD supporters aren’t daunted. “It would be tough, except for one thing. We have the truth on our side,” he said. “At the end of the day, voters are pretty smart, and they’ll be able to figure it out.”

—Cosmo Garvin