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Sonoma Clean Power expected to tweak policies at Tuesday meeting


Sonoma County officials are set to debut a fledgling public power agency next week by taking on several key decisions in the first open meeting of the Sonoma Clean Power Authority.

In what looks to be a closely watched hearing Tuesday, officials are set to approve $2.5 million in startup financing for the effort and make changes in how the authority’s board is composed and how it will be governed.

power1The proposed moves are being scrutinized by government watchdogs concerned about the ultimate shape, purpose and viability of the power venture and by city representatives who are being pressed to decide by early next month whether their jurisdictions will participate.

The meeting may act as the first public test of the county’s renewed pledge to work more closely with cities to develop the power agency.

“People are sitting back because they want to see if we’ll deliver,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane.

Of eight cities being courted by the county, Santa Rosa, representing the county’s largest municipal power market, and Sebastopol, Sonoma and Cotati all have decisions on the line. That means the debut comes in a critical period for the agency, which intends to begin serving homes and businesses Jan. 1 and displace Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as the area’s dominant electricity supplier with a greener energy portfolio.

Cities’ decisions have been complicated by a county timeline that originally asked them to decide by June 30 whether to join the first-year rollout.

Cloverdale, Petaluma and Rohnert Park opted out, and subsequent pressure from Santa Rosa council members led the date to be moved to July 9.

Only Windsor so far has joined unincorporated parts of the county. On Friday, county supervisors abruptly postponed their planned selection of an interim chief executive for the agency to allow the town to participate in the process. Windsor Councilman Bruce Okrepki is to be seated on the power authority board Tuesday.

The delay will also allow a representative from each undecided city to have an advisory role in the selection.

Before Friday’s last-minute reversal, several city representatives had voiced frustration with the county’s move to pick a top manager before seating a fuller board.

“If they are truly a partner, they would consult with us,” said Santa Rosa Councilman Gary Wysocky. “It’s a major decision.”

County officials acknowledge their schedule has been fast-paced, on a subject that can be complex. Tension with cities over other county-driven initiatives hasn’t helped.

“A lot of this is about trust because it’s a startup business,” Zane said. “We need to admit that our communication has been far from perfect. Maybe we’ve gotten a little ahead of ourselves.”

Of the changes proposed for adoption Tuesday, city representatives welcomed some while other officials, including critics outside government, say the moves don’t go far enough.

A key change requested by smaller cities would prevent the county and Santa Rosa — representing the largest areas of power use and more than two-thirds of the potential weighted voting shares — from changing the agency’s joint powers agreement without also having the support of two-thirds of the voting members. It would also limit the ability of the county or Santa Rosa to unilaterally block changes.

Cotati Mayor Mark Landman, whose city pushed for the revision, called it a signal the county was honoring its pledge.

“There’s other areas for improvement, but this step indicates that we can work together and accomplish those changes in the future,” Landman said.

Another revision to the joint powers agreement — essentially the agency’s constitution — has drawn fire from critics for falling short on ratepayer protection.

It would add a fourth appointee representing residential customers to a ratepayer advisory committee. The seven-member committee would be filled out by three representatives for commercial or industrial customers.

Leaders of Sonoma County Conservation Action, the largest local environmental group, say the ratepayer committee is still without a definitive role or a sufficient budget, shortcomings that leave protection for the agency’s paying customers “very weak,” the group said.

“They (the ratepayer committee) should have mandatory reports in public on all rate issues,” said David Keller, the group’s board chairman. “They also should not be dismissible at the will of the board of directors. You want them to be adversarial.”

Keller has also argued for citizen appointees to the larger authority board, saying such oversight is needed to make up for the professional demands and special interests that can control elected representatives.

“Otherwise the entire board is run at the behest of senior staff,” Keller said.

While county documents state the agency would exclude nuclear sources from its non-renewable portfolio, some advocates have also called for an outright ban — built into the agency agreement — on nuclear power purchases. (The renewable portfolio, meanwhile, would start at 33 percent, and under California law could include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric projects.)

County officials say such policy questions are better left to discussion once the authority is more broadly formed.

“While it may not be perfect, this is the best approach we can take at the moment,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo. “We’ve gotten to a point that we feel local cities should feel compelled to give it a shot.”

Some city leaders voiced appreciation for the county’s recent show of flexibility. Friday’s freeze in the CEO selection, after hours of interviews with three final candidates, will allow Windsor formal input through a repeat closed-session screening July 2.

In a different setting over the next week, mayors for Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Cotati will also get their chance to meet and interview the candidates, county officials said.

“I think it’s a benefit to the CEO coming in,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, the board chairman. “We don’t want to have that person come in and not have met or have the backing of those other city members. … It’s moving us ahead, although in a strange sort of way.”

Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley said the executive selection had not been “a make or break issue” for him. But he welcomed the chance to provide input.

“It doesn’t hurt us to have more information,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors is set to start Tuesday morning’s hearing in the supervisors chambers with an awkward bit of business. As the board brings on Okrepki from Windsor onto the authority board, Rabbitt plans to remove Supervisor Susan Gorin, the shortest-serving county board member.

Ultimately, the authority board could include nine members — one from each city and the county. (Healdsburg is not in the mix because it has its own municipal utility.)

“I’m the low guy on the totem pole,” Gorin said, adding that Rabbitt had sought her consent on the shakeup.

The power authority is also set to approve the $2.5 million in startup financing from First Community Bank. The line of credit will support administrative and office costs, plus negotiations with PG&E. It will be guaranteed by the county through the $1.76 billion county treasury.

Other proposed changes to the joint powers agreement under discussion Tuesday include:

A declaration that renewable energy credits would be used only as a cost-saving “transitional method” to reduce the county’s carbon footprint while planning for build-out of local power generation projects. The credits are derided by critics as a greenwashing tool because they allow a power user to claim renewable sources while actually getting standard-sourced power from the grid.

A provision stating that a participating municipality is not liable for the debts or obligations of the power agency unless the governing board of that municipality agrees to assume any of the debts or obligations.The addition is meant to address concerns voiced by city leaders that their taxpayers could be liable should the venture fail.

A provision that would guarantee that any amendments proposed by cities which join the authority by July 9 would be brought forward for consideration within the first three meetings.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

13 Responses to “Sonoma Clean Power expected to tweak policies at Tuesday meeting”

  1. R.B. Fish says:

    Thanks Andrew for your work. However, it seems apparent we have long lost honest representation for the general tax paying public. The BOS with over 70% voting for liberal democrats have their own buddies in ssimiliar elect agencies like the IRS, NSA, FBI, State Department, DOJ like in Washington,DC. It’s all about the phoniness of an ideology and how to use for personal gain. Castro, Arafat and all the rest did it. They will slowly chip away at individual wealth and property for the masses. Non comrades and whisteblowers will fall by the wayside with only a few supreme leaders.

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  2. James Bennett says:

    Buckle up.

    We are going to be taken for an expensive ride.

    If the Water Agency and the local Rat Pack are driving, it will be bumpy.

    And expensive.

    Figures some of the most devout cronies in the county would chime in. Mark Landman, Wysocky and Zane.

    This deal represents total corruption; Cap ‘n Trade, no over sight, eminent domain?

    Again, ‘Public Private Partnership is an oxymoron.

    We will come to understand how moronic it really is in due time.

    I guess the worse it gets, the more folks will wake up.

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  3. andrew simpson says:

    (Emailed June 24)

    Dear Supervisors:

    Sonoma Clean Power as presented by yourselves, the Water Agency, County Counsel and outside advisors is predicated on bad acts including lies and fraud, from inception. I will detail these bad acts in the coming days, in further writings. These bad acts include:

    1) use of County funds to make payoffs disguised as consulting fees on Sonoma Clean Power

    2) exclusion of public from Sonoma Clean Power Steering Committee meetings

    3) refusal to provide contractually assured public access to Sonoma Clean Power financial information

    4)Water Agency lies–in writing–that misrepresent County contracts in relation to Sonoma Clean Power finanical information

    5) Breach of fiduciary duty by the Water Agency by refusing public access to vital financial information–to which the public is legally and contractually entitled– which underpins capital budgets and debts potentially in excess of one billion dollars

    6)Massive misrepresentation of citizen’s power delivery and rate opportunities by the devious, deliberate and self-serving exclusion of Healdsburg/NCPA from the feasbility study

    8)Massive, devious misrepresentation of Sonoma Clean Power’s risks by the exclusion of a standard financial presentation in the Sonoma Clean Power feasibility where such standard presentation incorporates a balance sheet showing the build up of all assets and debts and enables the integral analysis of cash flow in relation to debts and capital spending

    9)Massive devious concealment of Sonoma Clean Power’s Water Agency-directed pilot project called Sonoma County Independence (“SCEIP”) including the spending of $60 million in an effort that produced only 20 jobs a year (by the Water Agency’s own count) and reduced CO2 emissions by 6000 tons a year, or one half of one percent of the County’s oft stated goal of 1.3 million tons a year CO2 reduction (25% below 1990 levels)

    10)Sustained concealment of the County’s hidden annual subsidy of SCEIP of $3 million a year; concealment of the fact that the County intends to fund these osses–in addition to the $60 million already wasted–WITH ANOTHER $60 MILLION HIDDEN SUBSIDY OVER THE NEXT 20 YEARS.

    I believe that the Board of Supervisors, Water Agency and County Counsel are complicit in fraudulent efforts to create Sonoma Clean Power as a conduit for payoffs and graft to campaign contributors and person of influence in Sonoma County. I believe that Sonoma Clean Power as currently envisioned will cost county rate payers 10% to 20% more than feasible local alternatives; will have no impact on CO2 emissions or jobs; and will serve only to enable skim and graft that is the primary career preservation technique of the incumbent Supervisors, Water Agency senior managers and County Counsel senior attorneys.

    To that end, I sent the email below to city council members in Sonoma County yesterday. (See this comment thread’s June 23 7:38 pm entry for that email) It is designed, specifically, to create a yardstick against which any candidate proposed by County officials for the CEO position in Sonoma Clean Power may be measured. It is my belief that ANY candidate you offer, when measured against this yardstick, will be an exemplar of the phrase “front man”.

    Yours truly,

    Andrew Simpson

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  4. Emerson Burkett says:

    RE Steveguy, “The County of Sonoma is setting itself up be scammed and ripped off by fake green promises from coal burning mega-corporations”. A while back I wrote a letter to the editor at the PD; essentially asking if anyone remembered the ENRON scandal. Our Myopic BOS doesn’t stand a chance with these big time operators. Hell, the State of California got scammed by ENRON. What makes thes clowns think they know any better?
    Extra Kudos to Andrew Simpson for his long, but thorough look at the BOS and the “infamous” SC Water Agency. Transparency anyone?
    Fix the damn roads and if you want to play with electricity; hook up with Healdsburg, duh!

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  5. Phil Maher says:

    And the county treasury is primarily funded by what mechanism? Guess what there, rocket scientists, as the “guarantor”, the taxpayers are already on the hook for $2.5mil the moment the loan paperwork is signed. Whether a municipality is the direct source of those taxes and liability or not, taxation on any level is not mutually exclusive to where and to whom the check is written to, as it all comes out of the pockets of the citizens, regardless of where you call home.

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  6. Grapevines says:

    “MendoTech” the only positive thing about this “Ponzi Scheme” is that at least PG&E will retain the responsibility of delivery and maintenance of the utility. This in itself will save it from going into the disrepair that the roads have become.

    But I applaud “Follower’s” statement as being dead on as to the rest of this fiasco in the making.

    The Water Agency is bedazzled over the possibility of having all the funds generated by being able to bill for electricity and gas. And what do they intend to do with that money??

    Why they will have to establish a whole new Department of Energy here in Sonoma County of course. They’ll staff it with managers, sub managers, and sub-sub managers with overvalued salaries, pensions, and benefits.

    And if anyone does not believe this, just look at the not so SMART train. The overall manager Farhad Mansourian, is being paid $750.00 a day, to oversee a 50 or so mile railroad. And the head accountant, for a choo-choo that isn’t running or accepting fare’s yet, is hauling in $500.00 a day.

    Can you just imagine how much they want to pay the “ENERGY CZAR?”

    The possibility is that there isn’t enough “0′s” in math to describe it.

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  7. andrew simpson says:

    This message was sent on June 23 to city council members in Sonoma CountyL

    Questions The Board of Supervisors, Water Agency and County Counsel Would Prefer You Didn’t Ask CEO Candidates for Sonoma Clean Power

    Here are the main categories:

    · CEO candidate’s background applicable to Sonoma Clean Power

    · CEO candidate’s familiarity with Sonoma Clean Power financial plan

    · CEO candidate’s commitment to transparency and community engagement

    · CEO candidate’s commitment to driving down electricity rates and CO2 emissions in Sonoma County and to job increases in Sonoma County

    · CEO candidate’s familiarity with recent County of Sonoma efforts on clean energy including Sonoma County Energy Independence (“SCEIP”)

    · CEO candidate’s policy on outside auditors

    · CEO candidate’s commitment to ethical leadership and management practices

    Note that with respect to Water Agency lying and breach of fiduciary duty we provide details in Exhibit I


    1) Have you ever had profit and loss responsibility for any business unit of any size?

    2) Have you ever worked in a senior leadership job in a competitive market environment?

    3) Have you ever run a start up company? Have you ever run a local power company? 3.

    4) Could you outline the key market, operational and financial risks for Sonoma Clean Power?

    5) Could you outline the future of the global, then local energy business and how Sonoma Clean Power will survive?


    6) . Have you read the feasibility study on Sonoma Clean Power? http://www.scwa.ca.gov/files/docs/carbon-free-water/cca/CCA%20Feasibility%20Report%20101211.pdf

    7) Does it bother you that there is no balance sheet in this plan?

    8) Does it bother you that there is no way to estimate capital spending, debt, or cash flow adequacy without a balance sheet?


    9) Does it bother you that the Water Agency—with County Counsel’s support– lied to prevent public review of the Sonoma Clean Power financials and economics? (see Exhibit A and Appendices I and II)

    10) If you were CEO of Sonoma Clean Power would you publicly commit to making your operations transparent to the public?

    11) Would you publicly commit to making public the excel spread sheets underlying the forecasts for income statement, balance sheet and cash flow for Sonoma Clean Power?

    12) Would you seek public comment and present your plans at meetings open to the public?


    13) Are you aware that the Water Agency publicly acknowledged that Healdsburg/NCPA rates are 10%% to 20%% lower than Sonoma Clean Power’s (and PG&E)?

    14) Are you aware that the Water Agency steadfastly refused to include, or make reference to, to the prospect of having Healdbsburg/NCPA run, or even participate in, Sonoma Clean Power in the Water Agency feasibility study?

    15) Would you publicly commit to considering alternatives to bring the best possible rates to Sonoma Clean Power’s rate payers?

    16) If it turned out that Healdsburg/NCPA were likely able to offer dramatically lower rates than the current proposed vendors, would you solicit a proposal from them for power provision to Sonoma County?

    17) If it turned that Healdsburg/NCPA were likely able to not only offer dramatically lower rates than current proposed vendors but were, on objective management and finance criteria, better qualified to run local power in Sonoma County according to the best standards of public service, would you consider requesting a proposal for Healdsburg/NCPA’s large scale takeover of Sonoma Clean Power?

    18) Would you be willing to state explicit goals for CO2 emissions reduction and for job increases?

    19) Are you aware that the Water Agency ran a pilot project for Sonoma Clean Power called Sonoma County Energy Independence )(“SCEIP”)?


    20) Are you aware that the Water Agency and the Board of Supervisors spent $60 million on SCEIP 2009-2013, and that on an annual basis during this four year period added only 20 jobs (for a total of 80 jobs over four years) and reduced carbon emissions by only 6000 tons a year compared to a County-and-cities goal of reducing CO2 by 1,300,000 tons a year. In plain English, are you aware that the BOS/Water Agency prior track record on local clean power was $60 million spent, with no effect on jobs on clean air? Were you aware that the federal government blacklisted SCEIP loans from secondary mortgage market trading almost from SCEIP’s inception?

    21) Were you aware—in a County a billion behind on pensions, and a billion behind on roads, that the County’s cash losses from SCEIP now exceed $3 million a year’ and that the County intends to fund these losses for another 20 years totaling $60 million invested in a failed program with plans to invest another $60 million to keep it going?


    22) Have the BOS and Water Agency discussed with you their plans to roll SCEIP into Sonoma Clean Power as a way of masking SCEIP’s operational and financial failures?

    23) Will you insist on hiring outside auditors to review the books of Sonoma Clean Power once you become CEO?

    24) If you discover payoffs, fraud or massive waste would you make a public report of these findings?

    EXHIBIT I Water Agency Lies

    Finally, here’s question 9 again:

    Does it bother you that the Water Agency—with County Counsel’s support– lied to prevent public review of the Sonoma Clean Power financials and economics? (see documents below)

    On October 4, 2011, just prior to the publication of the Sonoma Clean Power Feasibility Study (linked above in question 6) a member of the public asked the Sonoma County Water Agency for the excel spread sheets underlying the financial projections in the Feasibility Study. The Water Agency replied on October 4, 2011: “I am checking with our consultant whether those pro formas are proprietary”.
    Then on October 13, 2011 sent the Sonoma Clean Power Feasibility Study with this note: “enclosed is feasibility study: excel spread sheets used to calculate rate scenarios are proprietary”.
    So the Water Agency sent spread sheets but those contained only the summary numbers, not the underlying math formulas showing how the calculations were made. The distinction is crucial. Absent the underlying math formulas, the public can’t readily replicate the spread sheets to test their accuracy; nor to test alternative assumptions such as growth rates in end users, rates, capital spending plans, financing, etc.

    In response to this refusal to provide the detailed spread sheets on Sonoma Clean Power, the public member asked for the Water Agency for a copy of the consulting contract. The Water Agency simply ignored this request.

    The Water Agency did, however, later respond to the same request sent by the First Amendment Coalition on November 17 under a California Public Records Request. Here’s what the Water Agency’s consulting contract with its consultant, dated June 2, 2011 says:

    12.6 Assignment of Rights. Consu1tant assigns to Agency all rights throughout the world in perpetuity in the nature of copyright, trademark, patent, right to ideas, in and to all versions of the plans and specifications, if any, now or later prepared by Consu1tant in connection with this Agreement.
    12.7 Ownership and Disclosure of Work Product. All reports, original drawings,
    graphics, plans, studies, and other data or documents (” documents”), in
    whatever form or format, assembled or prepared by Consultant or Consultant’s
    subcontractors, c6nsu1tants, and other agents in connection with this Agreement
    shall be the property of Agency.

    Do you know what that means? It means everything the consultant does for the Water Agency belongs to the County. That means everything the consultant does for the County is in the public domain.

    So the public member repeated the request for the detailed spreadsheets and got this reply from the Water Agency on December 16, 2011: (cc’d to County Counsel):

    Specifically, you are requesting that we obtain for you the underlying spreadsheets used by Dalessi to make the calculations provided to the Water Agency in his CCA feasibility analysis. Dalessi provided, and we have already turned over to you, spreadsheets that contain the results of those calculations. The spreadsheets you are requesting contain not only the results, but the underlying arithmetical formulas used to create the results. Dalessi has informed us that he considers these spreadsheets to be proprietary trade secrets.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    1) This Water Agency contract with the consultant, dated June 2 2011, says the consultant assigned all rights for the work product (12.6) to the Water Agency; and that all of consultant’s work is public property (12.7).

    2) The contract also says (16.8). “This writing is intended both as the final expression of the Agreement”: meaning, if it’s not in writing in this Agreement, it doesn’t matter.

    3) The Water Agency did a contract with a different consultant (MRW) on July 1, 2011. That contract was identical to the Dalessi contract but included one single different provision in its section 12.7: “Notwithstanding the foregoing, SCWA shall not obtain any rights in or ownership to Consultant’s (MRW’s) proprietary rate model or any other intellectual property created by Consultant (MRW) before the execution of the Agreement.”

    So what?

    If MRW had done the spread sheets on Sonoma Clean Power and withheld the details by claiming the formulas were proprietary, the Water Agency would have had a strong argument that they were precluded from releasing the spread sheets to the public.

    But the spread sheets weren’t done by MRW. They were done in a separate report with Dalessi’s name on it.

    What does this mean?

    It means the Water Agency lied.

    The Water Agency created an explicit mechanism for its consultants to enable them to keep their work out of the public eye. They just did it too late to have that mechanism apply to the only contract that matters, the Dalessi contract–the contract that says, unconditionally, “the public can see all your work’>

    Then the Water Agency made up a story.

    They didn’t want the public to gain access to the Dalessi spread sheets. So they said that the contract provisions they agreed with MRW were also in force in the Dalessi contract.

    That’s a lie. This lie was based on the Water Agency’s assumption that nobody in Sonoma County would actually go read the Sonoma Clean Power consullting contracts; then compare Dalessi’s–which had no carve out for proprietary material– to MRW’s, which did.

    By telling this lie, the Water Agency not only lied. They breached a contract provision; and they breached their fiduciary duty to the Board and to the citizens of Sonoma County.
    The contract breach was this: the Dalessi and MRW contracts both say (10.1) “The parties expressly recognize that (Water) Agency personnel are without authorization to order extra or changed work or waive Agreement requirements”.
    The Water Agency waived the public’s right to access to consultant work product without putting the change in writing; and without getting Board of Supervisors’ approval.
    But that contract breach by the Water Agency pales in significance to this point.

    The Water Agency gave away rights reserved to the public, without authority, by stating that the consultant could keep his spread sheets secret.

    Those spread sheets are the vital document in the feasibility study. They warrant public scrutiny: not the least because those spread sheets do not include balance sheet nor show projected capital expenditures nor show projected debt obligations.

    Finally: the Water Agency asserts they don’t have the spread sheet either.

    That means the Water Agency is asking the citizens—and their city councils—to approve a plan for which the Water Agency itself has not done the numbers; doesn’t understand the numbers; and has no concept of the risks involved because of capital spending and debts not evaluated in relation to revenue.

    Here’s what this means in sum. The Water Agency lied to prevent public access to the crucial hard data underpinning a billion dollar capital project. The Water Agency itself hasn’t run the numbers itself and doesn’t understand them. These statements need to be taken in conjunction with the Water Agency’s failed stewardship of its $60 million energy pilot project, Sonoma County Energy Independence (“SCEIP”); the County’s undisclosed but continuing losses in SCEIP ($ 3 million a year); the County’s undisclosed intention to subsidize SCEIP’s continuing losses for another 20 years; and the County’s undisclosed intention to conceal the SCEIP prior and continuing losses in Sonoma County Energy Independence.

    This is the way in which Sonoma Clean Power will be managed.

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  8. Steveguy says:

    Scroll down to Follower, that is called a nutshell. We can blather on all we want, yet the ‘people’ seem to have trust in the untrustable.

    We are forced to opt out, which seems the best decision with this scam. If we had a real plan that reduced rates and was clean and green EVERYBODY would be all for it !

    The County of Sonoma is setting itself up to be scammed and ripped off by fake green promises from coal burning mega-corporations.

    The hate Monsanto, yet love Con-Edison ? What the heck ? ad nauseum, we shoul go with Calpine and Healdsburg Power model, not this scam. Behind the curtain scam.

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  9. Beef King says:

    “While it may not be perfect, this is the best approach we can take at the moment,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo. “We’ve gotten to a point that we feel local cities should feel compelled to give it a shot.”

    Carrillo should be fired, recalled, voted out, or in some manner removed from authority for being reckless with County resources.

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  10. MendoTech says:

    Just wait until the county’s power distribution system is in the same condition as the roads!

    Of course these out of control bureaucrats will have moved on to bigger and better scams by then.

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  11. Emerson Burkett says:

    To Follower,
    Bravo! Short, sweet and dead on.

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  12. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Follower, and you trust big business to take care of your interests and give you a fair deal? A monopoly no less? A little competition will be good.

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  13. Follower says:

    SURELY someone supports this.

    If that is you, PLEASE tell me exactly what County Agency has so impressed you with its efficiency, productivity, honesty and competence that you are convinced this will be anything short of a complete disaster.

    There is nothing I would love more than to feel that my County Tax dollars are in good hands.
    But at this point that would take a nearly lethal dose of the most intense hallucinogens known to man.

    …or severe brain damage.

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