Monday, February 15, 2010

What Do the California Realtors Know About Prop. 16 that the State Chamber of Commerce Doesn't?

  • answer:  that you'd better read the damn thing closely.
  • that may explain why the statewide California Association of Realtors last week took a formal position against the PG&E-sponsored initiative, while some months ago -- before it even qualified for the ballot -- the gullible State Chamber endorsed it.
  • but the drafting error, a failure to clearly define what constitutes the "new customer" that triggers an election with a 2/3's vote requirement -- which strikes terror into the heart of every realtor with a listing or a buyer in any of the 48 affected communities -- is probably an even bigger threat to new or relocating businesses in those same locales. Analysis of wording flaws here and here.
  • business columnist Michael Hiltzik, writing in the Los Angeles Times and referencing this blog, conjures up the scenario of PG&E filing suit to prevent the connection of such new homebuyers within a municipal utility jurisdiction.
  • maybe, but a more likely risk -- especially for businesses -- is the easily recognized California vigilante persona, now equipped with a right enshrined in the California Constitution (assuming Prop. 16 passes), going to court to demand his/her right to a vote of the people before a new chain outlet, or a grocery that sells meat, or a convenience store that sells cigarettes, etc. is allowed to get its electricity turned on. 
  • in a dire time when common sense screams out the importance of improving California's business climate, along comes Peter Darbee -- CEO of the San Francisco utility, PG&E -- exporting his local civil war against public power to a statewide platform and paying no heed to the collateral damage. 
    • how does this stuff happen?  It happens when the CEO of a monopoly utility, accountable to no one and oblivious to the competitive pressures other businesses face, gets careless with the way his political consultants unilaterally draft a proposed Constitutional Amendment.
    • the text wasn't adequately vetted, because it never went through a single legislative committee or public hearing.  
    • Darbee used his monopoly's money -- and guess where that came from -- to bring it straight to the voters, dressed up as a phony taxpayer protection measure.
    • and why is it a Constitutional Amendment rather than just a statutory measure that could be cleaned up later by the Legislature?
    • to make it extremely difficult to change -- that will take another ballot measure, or the courts invalidating it. 
    • Darbee seems to place the same faith in the people's representatives as he does in his customers -- actually, he considers them "ratepayers" -- sticking with his monopoly if they are ever given any other choices.
    • isn't the State Chamber of Commerce supposed to protect California businesses from this sort of fiasco?
    • Darbee appears to still be a member-in-good-standing with the California Chamber, despite the national uproar caused when he stormed out of the U.S. Chamber in a transparent bid to curry favor in Obamaland over climate politics.
    • the late Republican conservative state senator H. L. Richardson scandalized the Sacramento of a quainter day with his memoir, So What Makes You Think We Read the Bills? 
    • ok, CalChamber, there are a lot of bills and some of them get pretty long.  But at least read the full text of a four-page Constitutional Amendment -- and carefully think it through -- before you trip over yourself endorsing it for one of your cronies. 

    (photo credit:  Darbee, Genesis Photo Agency)