Shall the City set qualifications for members of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and change the process for appointing members to the PUC by requiring a majority of the Board of Supervisors to approve the Mayor’s appointments to the PUC?
Proposition E gets an emphatic Yes vote from me.
The Public Utilities Commission handles construction, management, supervision, maintenance, extension, operation, use and control of all water and energy supplies and utilities of the City. They also handle the financial assets under their jurisdiction. In other words, the PUC hold sole dominion over doling out contracts upwards into the billions to retrofit the City’s utilities. A current example would be the $4.3 billion seismic retrofit of the City’s Hetch-Hetchy water system.
As it now stands, the five members of the PUC are chosen by the mayor. The only qualification required for those positions is to be able to vote in City elections. No experience necessary. Oh, how I wish that were the case when I went into an interview for my first job.
Once chosen by the mayor, the person starts the job immediately. A 30-day grace period begins for the Board of Supervisors to obtain a 2/3 majority vote if they wish to boot the person out of the position.
Proposition E proposes a set of minimum qualifications for each seat on the PUC:
- Seat 1 must have experience in environmental policy and an understanding of environmental justice issues
- Seat 2 must have experience in ratepayer or consumer advocacy
- Seat 3 must have experience in project finance
- Seat 4 must have expertise in water systems, power systems, or public utility management
- Seat 5 would be an at-large member
The mayor will continue to nominate applicants to the positions but they must pass with a majority vote from the Board of Supervisors before they take office.
If the proposition passes, the changes take effect on August 1, 2008 so there would be a change of the guard as it were at that time.
Arguments for the proposition would be reducing the opportunity for the Mayor in rewarding his supporters with lucrative position and acquiring those with previous experience for the positions.
Arguments against the proposition believe the proposition is a power-grab by the Board of Supervisors to get their own people onto the commission. The opposition also believes the changes would delay the contract reviews of current projects.
A vote of yes on the June 2008 ballot demands prior experience from future members of the PUC.
A vote of no on the June 2008 ballot keeps things at status quo.