You know me. I hate to nit-pick. It’s too
much like work. Stiiiillll … I also love to say “I told
you so.” This LAFCo Sphere of Influence thing offers a hell
of an opportunity for me to be in that rare position of being
the only one in class who did the homework.
Yes, I did the homework. Let me explain with
the breadth and clarity that only I bring to such a
Most people in San Francisco think that
PG&E has been ripping off the public. Many thousands of
the city’s voters signed petitions last year to put a
measure on the November ballot which would allow the city to
form its own power agency. It did not get to the ballot
because the present city attorney threw up a series of
roadblocks to make certain it did not get there.
The last Board of Supervisors thought this
was hella cool. The voters smoked that board. Now we have a
new board and there are two public power measures on the
ballot next month! Given the fact that PG&E had sunk to
the depths of bankruptcy you’d think the chances of the city
finally fielding their own public power crew were greatly
You see, while PG&E may have lost the
retirement nest eggs of countless oldsters (including their
own workers), the courts decided to keep its pockets full. The
firm was given $17 million in bonus money for the senior
staff. Bonuses for failing!! Damn, I could be big in that
And they’re allowed to spend millions more
to do TV ads and mailers and door hangers & lobbyists
& … and … now, don’t quote me on this, but I think
they may have bought a meal & a drink for a journalist or
two along the way.
Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough,
PG&E sinks to the true bottom of the barrel. It hires
lawyers. Lotsa lawyers. Male. Female. Tall & short. Fat
& skinny. Pretty & ugly. They can fill a biiiggg
meeting room. After all, you’re paying for them. Oh, they’re
good. They can put whipped cream & a big red cherry on a
pile of doggie doo & sell it to the public as a “PG&E
Sundae.” (Don’t ask how I know that.)
Last year PG&E’s lawyers made certain
you didn’t get to vote for public power. This year, before
you even get to vote, they are trying to make certain that no
matter how you vote, they’ll maintain control. They’re
looking for any reason to sue. A misplaced comma. A document
That last one is the one I’m talking about
When PG&E kept public power off the
ballot last year, they used the excuse that the voters couldn’t
vote (although tens of thousands said they wanted to) …
couldn’t vote until a duly constituted Local Agency
Formation Commission had been created. So it was, and then the
LAFCo had to jump through lots of fiery hoops (held by
Miss a hoop & PG&E kept power. Even
if LAFCo made all the right moves, lawsuits were a certainty.
PG&E’s lawyers kept Sacramento Public Power in court for
25 years! The San Francisco LAFCO (chaired by city attorney
candidate Neil Eisenberg) is in the fiery hoop stages right
now, and it ain’t pretty.
What is a Sphere of Influence Study? It’s
kind of like the history of the world only longer. And, of
course, more complicated.
Eisenberg chose an ex-PG&E engineer
named E.J. Simpson to do the study. He chose Simpson despite
the fact that LAFCo Director Gloria Young recommended another
firm of consultants. They gave Simpson just over six weeks to
do the analysis. Young insisted that Simpson give her progress
reports at two-week intervals.
Simpson’s first report came on September
That was some week. While we were grieving,
the Planning Commission met and approved a 22-story skyscraper
for old folks despite the objections of the site’s
neighbors. The governor took time out from his grief to ram
through some late-night legislation allowing his contributors
to sell personal information about you without your consent.
And Gloria Young fired E.J. Simpson.
I like Ms. Young. I’m glad she got the
LAFCo director’s job. However, I cannot for the life of me
figure out why she sent Simpson packing. Particularly since
her move almost certainly made it impossible for LAFCo to have
a completed study by October 10. She didn’t try and guide
his work. She flat told him to stop his work. They were
smiling big smiles at PG&E.
I asked Director Young if the city attorney’s
office had advised her to fire Simpson & she said it was
her own recommendation.
She announced her decision on Friday the 14th
but accepted more work from Simpson on that date. She said it
still wasn’t good enough. I read both drafts of Simpson’s
work as well as the 3rd draft he turned into LAFCo
the next week & they were just fine, thank you. When I
talked to Director Young for this piece, she said she had not
read the 3rd draft.
Eisenberg & Supervisor Jake McGoldrick,
sitting as a LAFCo subcommittee, talked about a peer review to
save Simpson’s reputation if not public power here. We’ll
see where that goes.
I have some questions that were never
answered to my satisfaction.
The report’s 3rd draft is
more than adequate to meet the “Description of Services
… to be provided by contractor” (Simpson). Still, no one
will read the damned thing. Warren Hinckle has written two
PG&E-slanted columns in the Examiner without reading ANY
of the material.
Director Young billed LAFCo for 20 hours
of work by the city attorney during September. Work for
what? Was LAFCo’s worst enemy at it again? Young said in a
memo to the Finance Committee on September 17 that she was
“in the process of contracting for outside legal counsel.”
BUT she fired Simpson On September 14! When I pointed out
this inconsistency, Ms. Young said that “outside”
counsel Don Maynor gave her his opinion that it was “within
her power” to fire Simpson. When? Her own memo of the 17th
suggests he wasn’t yet working for LAFCo.
Last but not least, on September 18 Director
Young sent a memo to LAFCo subcommittee members Eisenberg
& McGoldrick informing them of her reasons for firing
Simpson. Hey, Matt Gonzalez is also on that subcommittee,
and he wasn’t listed as an addressee. Given Eisenberg’s
obvious capitulation, Gonzalez is the one supervisor I would
expect to try and keep the Sphere of Influence Study and MUD
on track. When I noted this, Ms. Young insisted that every
member of the commission had seen her reasons for firing
Simpson. A call to Gonzalez was not returned.
Trying hard in Willieville: email@example.com