July August 2001

Back to Newsletters

Back to Gray Panthers Home Page


Tues., July 3 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Board meeting at the office. All welcome!

Wed., July 4­Labor Day

Mime Troupe: Seeing Double. Free. For locations, call 415/285-1720.

Thurs., July 5 6:00 p.m.

LaborFest: Chatauqua: The Life of Harry Bridges. Per-

formed by actor Ian Ruskin, SF Main Library,

Koret Auditorium. Free.

Sun., July 8 5:00 p.m.

LaborFest Poetry Reading with Tillie Olsen, Bob Carson, Nellie Wong, Carol Tarlen, Alice Rogoff, David Joseph, James Tracy. City Lights Bookstore,

261 Columbus at Broadway. Free.

Sat., July 21 7:30 p.m.

LaborFest: Freedom Song Network: Open mike. Join in and sing out songs for working people. 885 Clayton St. Free. Info 415/648-3457.

Sat., July 28 12:30­3:00 p.m.

Gray Panthers Summer Talent Show and Potluck Gala! Western Park Apartments. Dining room, Laguna at Ellis.

Mon., July 30 7:00 p.m.

The California Health Safety Net: On the Edge. Speaker, Dr. James Kahn, UCSF Inst. of Health Policy Studies. Sponsor: Health Care for All­SF. 626 Pacheco, near 10th Ave., #6 bus. Info, 415/695-789. or e-mail doechler@value.net

Tues., July 31 7:00 p.m.

LaborFest Closing Party: American Federation of Musicians. Entertainment and refreshments. Free. 116 9th St. near Mission.

In August

Tues., Aug. 7 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Board meeting at the office. All welcome!

There will be no general meeting in August.

Fridays in August Noon­1:00 p.m.

World class jazz in Redwood Park, at the foot of the

Transamerica Pyramid, 600 Montgomery St. Free.

Public Power Only Solution

With more blackouts promised and no definitive proposals or solutions coming out of Sacramento or D.C., we invited two knowledgable activists to tell us how we got intto this mess and how we may overcome it.

Savannah Blackwell, investigative reporter for the Bay Guardian, vividly described the machinations of the power companies and their political cohorts who engineered the present stalemate. And she enthusiastically confirmed proposals made by Paul Fenn of Local Power, advocate for Public Power and Renewable Energy.

Paul Fenn described with ardent conviction how we must create a local power authority and back the Board of Supervisors proposals toward this end.

He urged us to support the six supervisors in favor of a MUD (see below) and contended that the Ammiano proposal was not in conflict with this proposition. Check out more of Fenn's enthusiastic suggestions at <www.localpower.org.>

SF Gray Panthers Endorse MUD

At several of our past meetings, we have been airing information about public and private power. The Gray Panthers Board of Directors has endorsed the proposal for a MUD (Municipal Utilities District). Here are excerpts from the Labor Task Force for Public Power position paper on how a San Francisco-Brisbane MUD might work.California's energy crisis is rooted in the fact that this valuable social resource has been turned over to profiteers and their market. The merchant generators, the power brokers and the investor-owned utilities all answer to their stockholders, not to California's energy consumers. Controls provided by government oversight, which offered some measure of protection, have been vastly reduced and weakened by deregulation. Although this crisis ultimately will have to be resolved on a state and even national level, the ballot proposal for a MUD in San Francisco and Brisbane provides a way in which utility users can exercise a high level of local control over energy services and even a great measure of independence from the market's high prices and unreliability.

When we flip the switch we require certain things: reliability; affordable rates; abundant supply; environmental protection; reduced toxicity to our communities. In every respect, deregulation has failed to meet our needs.

A similar picture applies in the supply of natural gas. Due in large part to the manipulation of supplies by the biggest natural gas operators, consumers' gas bills have doubled and tripled. As with electricity, MUD will seek to be a point of local control and protection.

When SF-B MUD is created on election day (Nov. 6, 2001), the program it follows will be determined by its board of five directors who will be elected that same day. Its first task will be to acquire PG&E's distribution systemwires, poles, substations. In negotiating a fair price it is important to remember that PG&E has charged us depreciation for their system as part of the rates for many years. We have already largely paid for the system once. We don't want to do it twice. State law gives MUD power of eminent domain and condemnation.

For purposes of future discussion, a long-time public power consultant calculates that SF&B MUD purchasing power, servicing the debt, and maintenance and operation would cost $357 million a year. The Public Utilities Commission allows PG&E to collect $460 million a year. These figures suggest the financial feasibility of MUD plans. The Raker Act of 1913 allowed San Francisco to dam Hetch-Hetchy Valley expressly to supply cheap water and electricity to the people of SF as an alternative to PG&E.

Today almost half that power is diverted to the Central Valley. However the language in those contracts provides for the agreements with the Central Valley to be voided should a MUD be created in SF. San Francisco also has two natural gas-fired power plants within the city that are privately owned that should be acquired, cleaned up and repowered. The above sourcces of power would provide 50-70% of the average daily usage in SF.

Reliable electric service will require access to a variety of generation sources. Only a MUD can answer questions of planning for future demand, balancing new generation against energy efficiency, fossil generation against alternative sources, low prices and environmental protection. When faced with these questions, the market will always answer "Show me the money."

The utilities and power generators, looking only at the bottom line, are pushing to reduce the work force and undermine union pay scales and working conditions. Any facilities taken over by MUD will have to guarantee the work force first crack at the job under existing or better union contracts.

Beyond the issue of money and budgets, a SF&BMUD will give the people of Brisbane and SF control over their basic utility needs, provide long term stability, and take back the portion of their bills that are profits now sent to private investors.

Copies of the full position paper are in the office or may be gotten from the Bay Area Labor Task Force for Public Power, (415) 626-1175.

Further on power. If you haven't done so, right now urge your representatives in Sacramento to oppose the governor's Edison settlement as an outrageous giveaway!

Regional Wrap-up

Four times a year representatives from our Northern California networks meet to discuss issues, share activities reports, and coordinate joint strategies. Representatives at the June 23 meeting in Berkeley were from Sacramento, Marin, Central Contra Costa, Southern Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley and San Franciscofive of us in person along with mailed input from

West Contra Costa and Mendocino.

Issues on which various have networks have acted in the past three months included health care with continued emphasis on single-payer and universal coverage; nursing home wages and staffing; local redistricting; living wage; election funding reform; ABM and Star Wars, and, of course, the energy rip-off. Details on these actions and how to join in are available our office.

We were delighted to hear that Southern California GPs networks are finally stirring. On behalf of the Northern California region, Aroza Simpson has been pushing them to form a region like ours, and four networks met and authorized Joan Lee of Sacramento to speak for them as well as us, making the GPs voice now statewide in Sacramento.

Doris Copperman, Central Contra Costa and National GPs treasurer, reported that national is shaky but still functioning. It is the leading organizing force behind SPAN (Stop Patient Abuse Now) coalition which is suing drug companies for patent abuses. If you are prescribed Taxol, Synthroid, Prilosec or Cardizem CD, you might wish to sign on to this class action suit. Doris and Catherine deLowry, former National GPs Convenor, are developing a national e-mail list to coordinate GPs activities. We in S.F. have signed on. If you want to join in, we have forms in our office.

Joan Lee enumerated the many bills she has supported in Sacramento on our behalf. The S.F. board of directors discusses many of these measures to educate ourselves and our members and to urge individuals to act on the causes they support. Joan serves us on the advisory committees of the state Department of Health Services on Assisted Living; Real Choice Grant Training Program; Patient Rights; and through her the GPs are members of CLEAR (Consumers, Labor, Environment Attorneys).

Among the many bills before legislators in Sacramento currently are SB 480: Study of the feasibility of universal health care; SB38: Predatory Lending (yes); SB 333: Review of Elders Deaths to identify and prevent elder abuse (yes); AB969 IHSS (urge governor to sign).

We'll be back in September!

The Newsletter of the San Francisco Gray Panthers is published each month, and distributed free of charge to members and friends of this nonprofit organization.

Editorial Board: Rebecca Hirshleifer, Mitzi Raas; Publisher, Astrid M. Spector; Art Director, Fannie Biderman; Proof, Lurilla Harris; Circulation: Harold Greenblatt and Mary Francis Smith. Printed by Graffik Natwicks; Webpage design: Barry Simpkins

Back to Newsletters

Back to Gray Panthers Home Page