Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates used physical force yesterday
to remove Mark Toney, Executive Director of The Utility Reform Network,
who interrupted a PG&E-sponsored meeting at the David Brower Center
to protest Proposition 16, a PG&E-sponsored statewide measure on the June ballot.
Photos by Luke Thomas
By Luke Thomas
February 19, 2010
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates shoved a protester from a speakers podium during a PG&E-sponsored advisory meeting held last eve at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.
The physical altercation ensued following opening remarks by Mayor Bates when Mark Toney, Executive Director of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), interrupted the meeting to make a statement of protest against Proposition 16, a PG&E-sponsored measure on the June ballot intended to protect PG&E’s monopoly against energy competition from municipalities and community choice aggregators.
The town hall-styled meeting which included a Q&A discussion with Haas Energy Institute co-director Severin Borenstein, was held as part of PG&E’s $30 million public relations campaign to influence voters to vote for their ballot initiative, a measure Borenstein made clear he opposes.
Mayor Tom Bates, Haas Energy Institute co-director Severin Borenstein
and PG&E Public Affairs Officer Tom Guarino.
PG&E “has shown no respect for our community,” Toney said amid a din of calls for him to end his protest. “PG&E has lied, lied, lied to our community… and is denying the right of people to make a choice.”
Refusing to end his protest, Bates used physical force to shove Toney from the podium which Toney had commandeered. Bates promptly left the auditorium immediately following the ruckus. The meeting continued without further incident.
Mayor Bates exchanges words of protest against Toney’s protest.
Refusing to end his protest, Mayor Bates physically removed Toney from the podium.
During his opening remarks, Bates commended PG&E for its funding of several programs in the City of Berkeley, including a $200 thousand grant to the David Brower Center to install solar voltaic panels; funding to convert a business center into a youth center; and funding to start a green academy at Berkeley High School.
“I recognize that no company is totally perfect by any stretch of the imagination,” Bates said. “I want to tell you that PG&E has been very helpful to our community. Having said that, I have real concerns about their issue about community choice aggregation.”
If passed by a simple majority of voters, Proposition 16, deceptively dubbed “The Taxpayer’s Right to Vote Act,” would amend the California constitution to require the assent of two-thirds of voters to “expand electric delivery service to a new territory or new customers, or to implement a plan to become an aggregate electricity provider,” according to the measure’s statement of purpose.
PG&E’s anti-trust measure would, in effect, decapitate efforts by municipalities to offer clean, renewable energy at competitive rates to consumers. With competition and choice virtually eliminated by a two-thirds voter approval threshold, PG&E would be able to use its vast financial and political muscle to arbitrarily raise rates to increase profits for its shareholders.
Responding to the allegation that Proposition 16 is anti-competitive and intended to protect PG&E’s monopoly, PG&E spokesperson Andrew Souvall told FCJ: “We support choice for our customers and we want to make sure that any choice that they have is not going to be financially risky for them.”
But the financial risks to consumers would increase if Prop 16 passes, said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is leading a campaign to implement community choice aggregation in San Francisco and a campaign to defeat Proposition 16.
“PG&E’s logic is Orwellian,” Mirkarimi told FCJ. “Their arrogance via Prop 16 in trying to kill any competition which strives to provide clean, renewable energy at competitive rates, is evidence of corporate power run amok. They will resort to any misrepresentation and disinformation before, during and after their campaign, just to secure their profit motive.”
“As far as I’m concerned, PG&E is violating state law that enables cities like San Francisco, Marin County and others to pursue their energy aggregation plans,” Mirkarimi added.
SmartMeter program Proposition 16:
More control of your energy use.