Ah, it’s fall in Northern California.
There is slight crispness in the air. The egrets are starting to head south. The mornings bring a slight chill and the Sierra is occasionally blanketed with a slight dusting of snow that melts away in the warm mid-day autumn sun as the breezes kick in.
It’s all a sign that the magical days of endless mirth is approaching. Shoppers scamper down the aisles intent on their mission grabbing provisions as if it were already Black Friday. Families pack up to hit the road to spend their days with relatives gathered under LED and incandescent lighting that actually work. And many are lighting holiday candles. That’s because they have no choice. Fall these days — and apparently for the next decade or so — in Northern California means lights out as the Grinch (aka PG&E CEO Bill Johnson) who stole our power is forcing the elderly in need of electrically powered medical equipment to fear for their lives while struggling families like the Cratchits have to toss out what precious little fresh food they have meaning Tiny Tim has to go without nourishing milk.
Meanwhile in his warm cozy mansion with lights a blazing and working freezers loaded with a year’s supply of caviar, lobster and filet mignon, Mr. Scrooge (also played by Bill Johnson who pockets a base salary of $2.5 million a year as CEO of Part-time Gas & Electric) is ready to sit down with his underling corporate vice presidents to open a bottle of Silver Oak Winery’s best vintage.
As they peer out the great picture window looking toward the Coastal Range they soak in the beauty of hillsides as they looked hundreds of years ago before those annoying little people built homes on them and lit them up at night using electricity, Scrooge doles out bonus checks. It is theirs for driving the company into bankruptcy for the second time in 20 years, overseeing the first American power company that is a convicted federal felon on probation, and setting the standards of safety and maintenance that made it possible for their company’s equipment to kill 85 people and burn 14,000 homes.
Yes, life is good in Northern California these days if you are the CEO of PG&E. You’re like the warped version of the Wizard of Oz. Instead of your company actually doing safety, maintenance, and replacement work with the forced offerings of the munchkins that you expect to cower in front of you while you keep raising their electrical rates, you pull a lot of public relation levers unleashing bravado and booming promises.
That’s cool but you know what the best part is? It’s when the little guys pull back the curtain and expose the PG&E corporate structure for the incompetent, fibbing, and profit maximization above safety culture that it has been for going on a quarter of a century if not longer, the flying monkeys in Sacramento PG&E keeps in peanuts needed to help feed their campaign machines simply flap their wings and make a lot of noise.
It is why the next governor of California should be Sam Liccardo. He is the Democratic mayor of the state’s third largest city, San Jose.
Liccardo is pushing a plan to help the peasants rise up against PG&E and their stooges in Sacramento. The plan is simple. He wants the cities and counties that have been at the mercy of PG&E ever since they introduced brownouts into the lingo in 2002 and then graduated to blowing up or burning up ratepayers in the name of maximizing returns to force the state to say PG&E is no longer fit to operate as an investor-owned utility in California. Liccardo wants to turn Pinocchio Gas & Electric into a non-profit cooperative for both gas and electric. It would essentially free 16 million people from the clutches of a company that burned through their last 14,000 second chances in Paradise last year.
No disrespect for Gov. Newsom, who can go to the mat to make sure undocumented immigrants between ages 18 and 25 get free health care and who’ll take on Donald Trump if he coughs wrong, but nothing is coming out of his office that will undo any of the damage PG&E has done and will do to Northern California and the serious disruption of the lives of 16 million people for what its CEO promises to be for at least the next 10 years.
Even after Johnson told the California Public Utilities Commission that PG&E expects to keep playing with the light switch for the next decade as that is the minimal time it will take them to undo the mess of the electrical system they and no one else created, the best Newsom and the legislature could do was churn our indignant press releases.
Our elected leaders in Sacramento who have been brainwashed by the PG&E Wizard into thinking they have no power over PG&E’s fate are still dancing to PG&E’s tune.
It’s the same old song. The state won’t do anything to stop what is arguably the largest mass murderer in California history that has repeatedly diverted rate increases approved only for the purpose of maintenance and replacement of equipment older than methuselah to other more pressing needs such as fat bonus checks for its corporate executives even though PG&E can’t operate without out the blessing of the CPUC and by extension that of the governor and legislature.
Make no doubt about it. The dark days many in Northern California experienced and many more ahead are not the sole doing of PG&E acting alone. Without PG&E’s silent partners in crime — although they can be loud when they are mightily pounding their chests in indignation at how PG&E is treating 16 million constituents — Paradise would not have been lost, a San Bruno neighborhood leveled, 93 people killed, and for countless millions to suffer economic losses so the equipment PG&E has run into the ground can be turned off to escape the fact PG&E has allowed its system to become the No. 1 corporate threat to human life and property — not to mention wildlife — in California.
If they — the governor and the legislature — can’t come up with a way to stop rewarding PG&E for the sorrow and destruction they have rained down on California, then we are the fools for not making the No. 1 issue in the next election and every election after that until the plague upon Northern California’s soul is eradicated and replaced with a system that represents the best interests of 16 million Californians and not Wall Street interests or PG&E corporate bonus checks. We need to elect only those to office with the courage to take down PG&E.
We can start with electing Sam Liccardo governor.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.