Steve Ly joins other mayors signing PG&E breakup letter; departs from past practices seeking council consensus

In a widely reported act, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly joined several Northern California mayors urging that Pacific Gas & Electric change from an investor-owned to a ratepayer or so-called mutual benefit ownership. The letter, signed by Ly, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, 20 other mayors and five chairpersons of the county board of supervisors is addressed to the California Public Utility Commission. 

The letter urges five-member PUC to consider changing the structure of the utility giant serving the north state as it emerges from bankruptcy. PG&E provides electric and gas service to much of the region, with Elk Grove and Sacramento having only natural gas services.

The letter (see entire letter below) states the focus the PG&E's future as it emerges from bankruptcy has been to protect either the interests of shareholders or bondholders. Instead, the letter says the focus of a reorganized PG&E should be whether the company can emerge as a viable "credit-worthy entity" and addressing operational issues that have been blamed for devastating wildfires.  

The letter says, "we will propose transforming PG&E into a mutual benefit corporation – in essence, a cooperative owned by its customers."

While the letter is mostly symbolic, it joins a growing chorus seeking to change the corporate structure of the utility. For Ly, there are also local implications.

In the past, Ly has been reluctant to take a stance on a controversial issue without first seeking consensus from the other four members of the Elk Grove City Council. The most significant event similar to this was a letter from over 200 American mayors pushing back on President Donald trump's withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate treaty.

After attending the U.S. Conference of Mayor's in June 2017, Ly went to his council colleagues to gain their consensus for him to sign the document. Although Ly received support, it was not before city councilmember Pat Hume famously called climate-change science voodoo science (video of comments posted below) and "dinosaurs didn't drive cars and where are they today?" 

Since that time, Ly has taken more actions without seeking council consensus. At this summer's mayor's conference, Ly signed a letter, though it probably would not have received pushback from the city council, against municipalities paying ransom to cyber attackers.

Ly's signing of the PG&E document is more significant as it would probably have been opposed on some level by the city council's three, pro-big business conservative members - Hume, Steve Detrick, and Darren Suen. Additionally, Detrick would have more strenuously opposed Ly signing the letter given his long-term employment with PG&E.

Coincidentally, Ly's participation in the protest letter comes days after he scored a victory over his four city council colleagues, who have opposed him on several issues, on the impending switch to by-district representation. As the only citywide elected official, Ly's power has grown because his four colleagues' base has diminished.  

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.


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Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

What is interesting in this soap opera between the mayor and city council is what happens one year from now. It was one year ago that Mr. Suen, who had the support of his three fellow council members, was unable to unseat Mr. Ly. Three years ago it was Mr. Spease who could not get past the mayor.

The heads of Mr. Ly's fellow council members' must be spinning. Who can they recruit to make a legitimate run for Mayor?

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