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Reading Supervisor Luis Alejo’s commentary in the Monterey Herald this morning, I was struck by the difference between politicians and the rest of us. They weigh the political ramifications of each decision while the rest of us expect decisions to be based on simple merit.

Alejo was explaining his objections to the structure of the Monterey Bay Community Power agency, a new government entity that will broker electricity for customers in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. The point is to encourage the use of renewable energy such as solar power while attempting to negotiate consumer prices below those of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

Monterey County government signed onto the arrangement over the objections of Alejo, the former state assemblyman who is expected to return to the Legislature at some point. In his Herald piece, he explained that he feels Monterey County is being treated unfairly because it has 57 percent of the population in the three-county territory but does not control a majority of the votes on the governing board. The votes are apportioned to the cities and counties under a complicated formula. Alejo argues that if the Monterey County can’t have most of the seats, voting should be weighted by population.

“Why does all this matter?” he writes. “It matters because this new governing board will soon be making multimillion-dollar decisions, investments, purchases, local job creation and benefits, and potentially siting future solar or wind projects … . However, when those decisions get made, Monterey County governments will not have fair or equitable representation.”

The supervisor is correct that Monterey County’s population could warrant another vote or two on the governing board. I don’t share his concern about the ramifications, though, because I have more faith than he does on the people who will be casting the votes.

It is my expectation that the 11-member board will make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the people throughout the three counties and what is in the best interest of the agency and its goals. When the agency starts hiring people, I expect it to hire the most qualified people and people who are able to address the needs of a diverse district. I don’t figure that the board will try to hire more people from Santa Cruz than from Hollister just as I don’t figure that a larger group of Monterey County representatives would favor applicants from Monterey County.

I read the enabling legislation for new agencies of this type and I didn’t see the word patronage anywhere.

Alejo

If the agency becomes directly involved in creating energy, I expect it to put solar panel and windmills in the most efficient locations, not the spots with the greatest political benefit or the fewest political liabilities. Where should the agency’s office go? Probably in a fairly centralized location that offers the best possible lease terms.

Alejo has become a career politician and he’s good at it. Unfortunately, perhaps all that time in the arena of partisian politics, lobbyists and campaign contributions has caused him to see everything through a political prism. Call me naïve, but we have lots of joint powers agencies making decisions for us in the areas of water, bus transportation, sewage treatment and other facts of life and I would like to think that the decision-makers aren’t thinking parochially every time they make a decision.

If Alejo is right and this new agency is essentially an orchard for the growing of political plums, then we probably would be better off without it. For now, though, let’s just hope that each agency that appoints a representative makes it clear that the goal is to provide renewable energy at reasonable rates and not make political points.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jason Reed March 26, 2017, 12:55 pm

    Well said!

  • Howard Scherr March 26, 2017, 12:56 pm

    Great commentary Royal. The important thing is to provide an alternative to PG&E’s monopoly, and bring rates down for central coast ratepayers. If it looks like the Commission is becoming a patronage machine, address it directly. Don’t fight to make sure that one jurisdiction gets the lion’s share of the patronage–fight to make sure decisions are made fairly and transparently.

  • bill leone March 26, 2017, 1:21 pm

    It is difficult to determine any single politician’s decisions; however, when they vote or take a stand against the community’s interests, regardless of the cause (ignorance, stupidity, or indebtedness to corporate interests), the time has come to replace them.

  • Jan Shriner March 26, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Thank you for writing this perspective out. I was disappointed by Alejo’s position about the proportional representation being more of a priority than allowing the option to be provided to the constituents of the unincorporated county. Thank you Supervisors Adams and Phillips and Chair Parker for supporting Community Choice Energy.

    • Eric Sand March 27, 2017, 11:20 am

      Hi Jan,
      Supervisor Mary Adams is the chair for this year and if it was at all possible I would have Supervisor Jane parker share the position at the same time….then we would have real transparency….!

      • Eric Petersen March 27, 2017, 8:50 pm

        Elect Jane to represent all five districts? Then she might be too busy to be the only Supervisor to meet with constituents (and those living in other districts) on a regular basis.

  • chris mack March 26, 2017, 9:06 pm

    The MBCP was a no brainer for me, It is the best of both worlds. If one doesn’t want to be in it opt out. Our supervisors have enough on their plate and should trust others in this project. After all Monterey County was asked to join, they did not do the asking.
    I did not know much about Alejo, but it he appears to be as it is said a “career politician” which in my humble option is not one who leads with the community’s best interest. Besides he could be on to bigger things when this all gets going.

    Thank you Royal for the out line and Sups Parker and Adams for seeing the sensible simple yes vote and Philips for stepping out side his comfort zone and trusting in others.

  • Ron Chesshire March 26, 2017, 10:28 pm

    When forming a JPA fair representation is a key and important element. Alejo brings up a good point that this new agency is not formed representationally like many of the other Power agencies. In fact the governance structure of the new JPA is strange and interesting at best. You can’t blame Alejo for being concerned and skeptical but, I’m sure many of you will throw as many stones as you can conjure up.

    The concept of MBCP is a good one and I am in support of it. But, as far as representatives of entities/agencies acting in a non-parochial manner or carrying out the goals established when it was formed, one only has to remember, MPWMD. Naïve? No. You just had an occurrence of brain flatulence while writing? We’ll try not to hold it against you, this time, which is more than you did for Alejo who was carrying out his duty, just like the other 4 Supervisors.

  • Julie Engell March 27, 2017, 8:35 am

    I think the Monterey Bay Community Power agency is an exciting idea even if I don’t completely understand how it would all work. Like most of the responders here, I don’t worry too much about who wins the job and contract “plums.” However, there could be some “turds” in the offing, too. And those with the least representation are the ones most likely to deal with those. You don’t have to look too far to notice that major infrastructure isn’t generally located in wealthy communities, at least not in Monterey County.

    Even windmills and solar arrays have environmental impacts, and most of them are pretty damn ugly. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t be transitioning to renewable power resources ASAP. However, to minimize impacts and to fairly distribute those impacts in the region, I hope the agency will concentrate placement of facilities in already developed areas regardless of socio-economic considerations.

    Monterey County encompasses much greater acreage than either Santa Cruz County or San Benito County, which could mean that Monterey’s open space would be deemed the most “logical” for placement of new power generating facilities. Monterey County has the largest population, much of it economically and politically disadvantaged. In my observation, those populations are often inadvertently and/or even intentionally targeted to live next door to facilities that nobody else wants next door to them.

    I’m ambivalent about the agency — glad we’re participants, worried Alejo is right. Maybe I’m just guilty of thinking like a politician, because in my book, hoping for the best isn’t the same as voting for the best.

  • Karl Pallastrini March 27, 2017, 2:19 pm

    I agree with Ron and Julie on this one. I think Alejo has a good point in exercising his position to question where the locus of control for this new agency would be. It is about looking out for Monterey County. His peers on the Board of Supervisors see it the way they see it. In this case, he was out-voted, which is a healthy process for any governing Board. Hope no one is expecting a unanimous vote on the issues. Does it matter where the governance of the agency will be? I don’t know. Since the goal is altruistic, probably not. Should one of our Supervisors call to question a rather obvious question of representation? I say yes. He shouldn’t be painted into a corner as a career politician for simply suggesting and representing an alternate view from the majority.

  • Dan Turner March 27, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Alejo gives the word “ambition” a bad connotation. First, running for office as a Monterey County Supervisor when he doesn’t intend to finish out his 4 year term is immoral and unethical. This supervisor gig is just a political placeholder for him as he prepares to run for higher office in the state or for the US Senate. But why does he continue to carry on so, after the vote on it is over, about the unfairness of the voting arrangement on the MBCP? Remember that PG&E is going to be the loser in this new deal. They’d make greater profits if this community energy plan never happened. So, Alejo could be carrying on like this to establish his bona fides w/corporate campaign donors who will be very important in his next run for office. He may be seeking to demonstrate to those corp folks that he is someone they can count on to support their interests, regardless of how their interests conflict w/what’s best for the rest of us.
    And I know this isn’t about Supe Phillips but I want to say that I don’t believe him when he says that he changed his vote from “No” to “Yes” on MBCP because he did a lot of research and discovered, by golly, that community power actually was a good thing. I think it is more likely that he realized that, since most (all?) of his constituents live on unincorporated county land, they might have come after him w/pitchforks if they felt that his vote was the one that prevented them from sharing in the benefits of community power. The man is a rock-ribbed reactionary and it must have killed him to have to vote for such a progressive program.

  • Karl Pallastrini March 29, 2017, 7:35 pm

    Hello Dan. I realize that Alejo has political aspirations beyond Monterey County. Point taken. Regardless, his dissenting vote still carries validity. He is correct in his summation of where the preponderance of citizens live in the tri-county approval of the MBCP, and assigned locus of control. Really two different issues. You can have a valid minority position as a carpetbagger, and still be a carpetbagger.

    • Dan Turner March 31, 2017, 3:01 pm

      Alejo doesn’t give a flying fadoo about the fairness of the representation. That’s a lot of crap. A smokescreen. A red herring to throw you off the scent when he is really just trying to show big corps that they can trust him to carry water for them in the future. Alejo is just the worst sort of politician. Should be hoss whipped.

  • bill leone March 30, 2017, 1:29 pm

    Actually, I checked Alejo’s voting record, as well as his campaign contributors. The only objection I could muster was his being backed (considerably) by Real Estate Developers. Other than that, I found his votes & his backers (mostly unions) to be cool. I would be interested in what he had to say about his vote on MBCP.

    • Dan Turner March 31, 2017, 3:05 pm

      My reply, above, to Karl pretty much covers your comment. The problem is that you’ve got a point – Alejo is, in many ways, the best that our political system has to offer – and that’s the heart of the problem. If you think critically about it, there is no other reason for an intelligent politician like Alejo to carry on as he has to this point unless he is trying to make sure that big corps noticed what he is doing.