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.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.