Ever wonder who sets our water and sewer rates? It’s not the Mayor or the Board of Supervisors – it’s the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The Board can reject the rate increases and structure, but only the PUC can actually establish them.
Proposition E on June 3rd’s ballot is the result of yet another squabble between this Mayor and Board of Supervisors. When the Mayor recently moved to fire the former head of the PUC for furthering her own political agenda with ratepayers money, several members of the Board were furious because they had personal relationships with her, i.e., she had hired many of their friends and allies to fatten the PUC’s payroll. Those Board members tried to reject a couple of the Mayor’s reappointments to the PUC in order to stop the firing, but were unsuccessful because they couldn’t muster the necessary eight votes.
Proposition E was written to reduce the number of votes necessary to reject the Mayor’s PUC appointments from eight to six. The rest of the measure that deals with qualifications is all window dressing – the qualifications proposed by Prop E for PUC commissioners exceed those of the former PUC director, and current director, and will surely be ignored.
When considering Proposition E, think back to the Charter changes made to the Planning Commission and the Police Commission – did subjecting the Mayor’s appointments to Board of Supervisors scrutiny result in better appointments? Most people think just the opposite – that “dumbing down” the choices to individuals who can pass political muster on the other side of City Hall has resulted in less forceful advocacy for moderation, leaving a good many San Franciscans without a voice. The Mayor has effectively had to settle for people who were acceptable to his political opponents.
If Proposition E passes, a simple majority of the Board of Supervisors will have veto authority over the people who set your water and sewer rate increases. Think of the special interests that control that simple majority today – most work in San Francisco, but don’t live here. Do you think they care how much San Francisco ratepayers get soaked for water and sewer services? Do you think they care if our billion-dollar water system bond measure is prudently spent, and its projects completed competently and on time?
Our current system of PUC governance is not perfect, but Proposition E would turn it into a ratepayer’s worst nightmare.
June elections are seldom exciting. But if you are concerned about the increasing costs of basic services in San Francisco, please take the time to vote NO on this very bad idea for San Francisco water and sewer ratepayers.