Editorial, THE MODESTO BEE
Somewhere Hiram Johnson is smiling.
But the voters proved they saw through the spiel. Despite spending $46 million to pass the initiative, PG&E lost its campaign.
The utility’s stockholders should take note. Proposition 16 failed most heavily in PG&E service areas. Two-thirds of voters in Yolo County, where in 2006 PG&E narrowly defeated an effort by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to expand into its territory, rejected Proposition 16. San Francisco, where PG&E is headquartered, voted it down by 68 percent.
We’re a little troubled that Proposition 16 was favored by a slight majority of Stanislaus County voters, many of whom benefit from power provided by public utilities — the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. The local results suggest that either valley voters were swayed by the misleading label — the “taxpayers’ right to vote act” — or that the MID and TID need to do more to explain the advantages that public utilities offer.
How can PG&E fend off competition? But doing it the old-fashioned way — by offering better service and cheaper rates.
Voters also wisely rejected Proposition 17, another initiative put on the ballot by a self-serving business. Mercury General, an insurance company, spent $16 million to pass Proposition 17, but lost in the end.
Voters can sometimes be bamboozled into approving bad initiatives. But this time they saw through the smokescreens.
Finally, we’re pleased that Stanislaus County voters and those around the state supported Proposition 14, which will create an open primary called top-two.
There would be only one primary ballot, open to all candidates and voters. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would advance to the general election, similar to the way county supervisors and other local officials are elected.
The goal is to force candidates to appeal to a wider range of voters than just the ideologues in their own party. Voters saw so much of that in this election — from the governor’s race down to Assembly contests such as the 25th — that they wanted to shake things up and to see a wider choice of candidates, especially some centrists.
We sincerely that will happen when Proposition 14 goes into effect in 2012.