Heed warnings on privatization

By From page A10 | March 01, 2013

Return with us now, Davis voters, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, to that very different Measure I of 2006, and the companion Measure H of that year. They would have gained for us as ratepayers the well-demonstrated benefits of publicly owned utilities, by having SMUD supply our energy needs. As one Davisite put it at the time, that would have been good for everyone except PG&E.

Many if not most government leaders in Yolo County favored the measures, and supporters mounted a vigorous campaign in support of H and I. But opponents had overwhelming advantages in fundraising. PG&E was free to pour money into opposing the measures, while SMUD, as a publicly owned entity, could not be part of the campaign in favor. Despite that, Measure H succeeded in Yolo County and Measure I almost did, too. In Sacramento County, the corresponding Measure L was overwhelmingly defeated (to cynical observers that seemed due to an “I’ve got mine, Jack” complacency combined with sports arena measures that distracted the voters).

The lesson is that gaining public control over utilities is hard despite the demonstrable benefit to ratepayers. The corollary is that privatization will never be easy to reverse. But here we are, seven years later, preparing to take that nearly irreversible step as regards our water supply, with our government leaders urging us on. The People’s Republic of Davis has come a long way in seven years! And those who stand to benefit most from Measure I are spending lavishly to support it.

Nancy and Don Price (op-ed, Sunday) have provided a cogent analysis that deserves our attention. And Sue Greenwald (op-ed, Feb. 17) has concisely cut through the fallacies being used in urging a yes vote. I just hope their warnings are heeded before it is too late.

Julian Irias

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