In something of a surprise, the Sacramento Metro Chamber board of directors took a bold stand this afternoon, coming out against Proposition 16.
With the measure on next Tuesday's ballot, Pacific Gas and Electric is trying to protect its monopoly by preventing competition from public utilities such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. If approved, it would require two-thirds voters approval for public utilities to establish or expand service. That would make it extremely difficult for new utilities to form and, because of vague wording, could potentially bar existing ones from serving new subdivisions or industrial parks.
As the Bee's editorial board pointed out this morning, many of the Metro Chamber's 2,200-plus members benefit from SMUD electricity rates, which are typically lower than what they would get from PG&E.
The board went against the advice of its executive committee, which last Thursday counseled neutrality, noting that the chamber counts among its biggest members both PG&E and SMUD.
But chamber Executive Director Matt Mahood reports that after a presentation from both sides and a "robust discussion," the board decided to oppose the measure because the two-thirds threshold is too high and would limit competition; because it is poorly written and an abuse of the initiative process; and because SMUD and other public utilities offer significantly lower rates that allow local businesses to hire more employees.
In an email, Mahood said that the board also concluded that the current process helps local companies like Solar Power Inc. in Roseville, which are developing alternative energy sources.
The chamber board's decision is a victory for fairness and sanity in the face of a well-funded ($46 million and counting) campaign by PG&E, which cannot be happy. There is not much organized opposition against Prop. 16, so the chamber's action will likely get quite a bit of attention.
It joins only a handful of chambers of commerce in California that have not fallen in line behind Prop. 16. The Folsom Chamber is also opposing the measure. SMUD's annexation of Folsom in 1984 saved residents there $238 million between 1984 and 2005, according to one study.