WatchSonoma Watch

Power agency panel gets down to business



With five newly seated city representatives, an expanded board of directors for Sonoma County’s startup public power agency got to work Thursday, reviewing a preliminary first-year budget and a timeline geared toward a power purchase deal, plus various staffing and financial decisions looming over the next four months.power lines

The now eight-person Sonoma Clean Power board began the day with a roll call featuring new faces, including Cotati Mayor Mark Landman, Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes, Sonoma Councilman Steve Barbose, and two representatives from Santa Rosa — Councilman Jake Ours and Councilwoman Robin Swinth.

They joined the county’s two ongoing representatives, Supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin, and Windsor Councilman Bruce Okrepkie, who was seated in June.

The board’s first order of business was to pick a chairperson. After Zane’s quick nomination of Landman — a gesture, she said, to the cities — which deadlocked on a 4-4 vote, Barbose nominated Gorin, whose district takes in the city of Sonoma. She was elected unanimously. Landman then was elected vice chairman.

“This is not just a chair effort,” Gorin said. “It’s a team effort. It’s all eight of us just moving this grand adventure forward.”

Geof Syphers, the agency’s interim chief executive, spent much of the two-hour meeting giving an update on the next four months of operations, including work to negotiate a power supply contract with four final bidders.

The core terms of that agreement, spelling out nearly everything but final price, could be released to the public in September, Syphers said. A deal could be executed after that, possibly in October, depending on the turnaround time for state utilities regulators in approving the agency’s implementation plan.

The venture, billed as a greener, competitively priced alternative to PG&E, aims to begin supplying electricity to at least 10,000 customers, and possibly up to 20,000, by the start of next year. The rollout will be aimed mostly at commercial customers, Syphers said.

But an ongoing clash between its main ideals — to shrink the county’s carbon footprint through greater reliance on locally generated, renewable power — and calls for lowering customer rates could complicate its rollout.

The conflict, evident throughout the initiative’s public development this year, surfaced again Thursday. Sonoma Clean Power advocates urged the board to stick to program goals, calling for at least 33 percent of power from renewable sources, with profit going to build local generation projects.

“If rates are competitive and we have a 33 percent renewables minimum, then we should invest the difference between income and expenses in localizing energy resources and not in further lowering rates,” said Ann Hancock, executive director of the Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign.

Ratepayer advocates, however, called for at least some portion of profits to regularly be put back into rate stabilization.

“The idea here is to have Sonoma Clean Power do something for the average ratepayer,” said Bob Williamson, a Mark West-area resident active on government fiscal issues. “Now rates are set to just be competitive to PG&E and the profits, because people are paying more than necessary, are going to fund the people who are pushing this project.”

Syphers conceded the tug-of-war existed, calling it “twin issues” that pull the ultimate price customers pay in different directions.

“Navigating that has been something that is really important,” he said.

The board named four members — Zane, Swinth, Kyes and Okrepkie — to a side committee that will provide ongoing feedback to Syphers and others handling the power contract negotiations.

Deputy County Counsel Steve Shupe said the committee appeared to comply with open meeting laws because its four members did not constitute a numerical majority on the main board.

The directors approved a conflict-of-interest code covering the board and appointees on two advisory panels for business operations and ratepayer protection.

The board also agreed to regularly meet at 8:45 a.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month in the Board of Supervisors chambers.

Up for approval at the Aug. 15 meeting are the first-year budget, the agency’s implementation plan, a staffing plan and bylaws for the board.

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

11 Responses to “Power agency panel gets down to business”

  1. Greg Karraker says:


    Thank you for your kind words about my blog.

    But here’s a thought. You say government can do great things, and cite WWII and Hoover Dam as examples.

    One reason the US won WWII is that we bought superb technology from private contractors including Boeing (B17), Grumman (F4U Corsair) Lockheed (P38 Lightning) North American Aviation (P51 Mustang) Packard (most tanks, I believe) and Willys (Jeep) The government had the means to tax and pay, but not the ability to innovate. It did have the power to conscript and inspire, which kept the fighting forces fighting.

    About Hoover Dam: I am guessing it was designed and built by Bechtel, but will have to research that one.

    The point remains: Government has the ability to enforce the collection of revenue, and sometimes the ability to spend it wisely, and even more rarely, the ability to rally citizens around a good cause. But it almost never has the ability to do the actual work.

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  2. James Bennett says:

    Government can be awesome.
    Some observers it might say that this chapter begins to emulate Hitler’s rule:

    -Corralling the populace next to trains.

    -Fluoridating the populace.

    -Indulging in propaganda.

    -Indoctrinating our children.

    The Agenda has contrived “environmental” reasons to blow up hundreds of our dams.

    Thank you for the interaction.
    One would have to do more than read Watch Sonoma County to learn about The Agenda for the 21st Century. Or their new name; Future Earth.

    No matter how much I repeat myself.

    Repeat myself.

    I promise it’s time well spent.

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  3. observer says:

    For Greg:

    Your blog is engagingly written.

    We seem to agree that ICLEI/Agenda 21 may not be a nefarious plot.

    Here’s a point of possible difference. I think government can do great things. Things the private sector can’t do on its own. Like defeat Hitler. Build huge hydroelectric projects like Hoover Dam during the Depression. Build highway systems and bridges. Police Wall Street.

    Or even bring clean power to Sonoma County.

    The latter challenge is our government challenge in micrososm.

    I was–and am–a proponent of Sonoma Clean Power. On the condition that it be run transparently and in the public interest.

    It comes down to leadership. Do we elect and appoint people who act in the public interest?

    Or we do pay the price for not paying attention; and end up with the bought-and-paid-for’s who are currently at the top of County government?

    Sonoma Clean Power is a great idea; dishonestly led and executed not in the public interest.

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  4. James Bennett says:

    There’s a big difference between belonging to Kawanis and belonging to ICLEI.

    Kawanis isn’t about eroding our Constitution, property rights and the free market. Kawanis doesn’t call for a complete transformation of our way of life.

    The entire Republican National Committee UNANIMOUSLY pass a resolution denouncing Agenda 21/Sustainable Development/ICLEI/Smart Growth et all.
    http://www.republicanassemblies.org/rnc-adopts-resolution-exposing-agenda-21/ (read it)

    Of approximately 600 ICLEI Charters in the US, I believe almost 200 by now have quit their membership.

    Watch Sonoma County is a political interactive site. Sonoma County is a template for Agenda 21 programs throughout the US. Agenda 21 is THE dominating force shaping our local landscape in every way. Most all the stories on here are associated with it’s implementation. If main stream media largely isn’t covering the most important subject of our time, then this can be a venue for some of us to connect the dots.
    This isn’t some little fringe sub-culture ideology. Globalists wish to transform (reduce) human life on the planet. This is a global plan.

    Smart Growth looks the same in Austin Texas as Honduras as Hanoy as China. They’re messing with Australian farmers in the Outback too. In fact, remember reading about all those new empty cities in China? Now a million farmers and rural people a month are being forced off their land at gun point by their military (without means to support themselves). Their land and way of life for generations taken from them. Here it’s more subtle and incremental. Thats’ what Plan Bay Area is about.

    The ONLY reason I’m on here speaking sharply against this crap is because of it’s importance to our well being.

    This isn’t some little fringe sub-culture ideology. Globalists wish to transform (reduce) human life on the planet. This is a global plan.

    Smart Growth looks the same in Austin Texas as Honduras as Hanoy as China. They’re messing with Australian farmers in the Outback too. In fact, remember reading about all those new empty cities in China? Now a million farmers and rural people a month are being forced off their land at gun point by their military (without means to support themselves). Their land and way of life for generations taken from them. Here it’s more subtle and incremental. Thats’ what Plan Bay Area is about.

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  5. observer says:


    You said:

    “This really feels like our neighbors exercising some bad judgment, and it got out of hand.”
    “Sounds like a quote from post WWII Germany.”

    Good point.

    Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” when covering the Eichmann trial.

    She was referring to the seeming ordinariness of the Third Reich’s middle managers.

    The County of Sonoma isn’t Germany of the 1930’s and 40’s.

    But one similarity between the two resonates.

    The middle managers—in the County’s case, the Supervisors, Water Agency seniors, County Counsel and the Auditor Controller—are only following orders.

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  6. Greg Karraker says:


    I agree with you 300%. In fact, I’m writing a book about how dysfunctional and harmful local liberal governments can be. The chapter I’m working on right now is called Agenda 21: Nefarious Plot or Dorky Idea?

    I think it’s the latter. When this whole thing was invented at the Rio Summit in 1992, I think it was the result of many well-intentioned minds trying to design a blueprint for future growth. That blueprint was based on some flawed assumptions, including human activity = global warming, and wealth inequities = need for government redistribution.

    Some subsets of these flawed assumptions include cars bad, bicycles good, suburbs bad, urban infill good. ICLEI has created massive amounts of plans, presentations, design aids, etc. that help their member cities implement this monodimensional approach to planning.

    Most city council members and planners, being the schlubs that you rightly paint them to be, use these ICLEI planning tools instead of their own common sense and imagination. It’s just laziness, the wish to be accepted by the herd, and the wish to appear hip and contemporary that drives a lot of the adherence to Agenda 21 ideas you see in liberal city after liberal city.

    It’s still the road to hell, but it features traffic calming, a roundabout every two blocks, and huge bike lanes. But it’s paved with recycled concrete and good intentions.

    As an aside, you may be amused by this post in my blog at thelittlepicture.net It’s called Invasive Species Threatens San Francisco Parking Spaces.


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  7. Follower says:

    “This really feels like our neighbors exercising some bad judgement, and it got out of hand.”
    Sounds like a quote from post WWII Germany.

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  8. observer says:


    I’ve always liked reading your commentary. It’s pretty consistent. Here’s the part that I don’t get. ICLEI and Agenda 21, if I understand your point of view, aren’t like joining the Kiwanas. It’s more of a deep belief that one can be part of a global effort that gets traction, locally; and convinces its local associates to lie, cheaet and steal in the name of this larger effort. Instead of just lying, cheating and stealing the normal way: regular white collar shenanigans: self interest to excess as American as apple pie and Wall Street.

    But your view sounds at least vaguely akin to a militant cell organization.

    I don’t see it that way.

    I think County governance is more like a club, like Rotary or the Kiwanas putting on a Sonoma County production of “Babbitt”, Sinclair Lewis’ grotesque on middle class sin and anomie. These are just ordinary folks. They have weight problems and mortgage payments and unfufilled dreams. They just want to get ahead in life. And joining the County governance club probably ssemed like a good idea at the time: everybody was doing it, the stakes were pretty low, a few payoffs here and there, some contract skimming, no big deal.
    Then somebody got ambitious and said, hey, instead of skimming 5% off of every million dollar contract, why don’t we create a billion dollars worth of revenues and contracts? 5% of that will buy a lot of friends.

    This really feels like our neighbors exercising some bad judgment, and it got out of hand.

    What am I missing?

    Andrew Simpson

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  9. James Bennett says:

    Andrew: The culture is ICLEI.
    An insideous government within our government.

    Elected officials are there to lodge a charade that resembles something we were taught in civic’s class, but nothing could be futher from the truth.

    Economy; in Agenda 21 language by definition IS Public-Private Partnerships.

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  10. observer says:

    Our County leaders’ corruption is so reflexive it’s not conspiracy.

    It’s culture.

    The folks on the Board of Supervisors, Water Agency leaders, County Counsel and Auditor Controller are so used to fibbing in public forums they’re genuinely nonplussed—baffled—by the suggestion that official mendacity is somehow inappropriate.

    The Water Agency, for example, created, funded and directed the $60 million fiasco that became Sonoma County Energy Independence (“SCEIP”); then asserts, with aplomb worthy of a cat burglar, they had nothing, really, to do with SCEIP—even while they’re preparing to bury SCEIP’s massive losses under the umbrella of Sonoma Clean Power.

    Think of a cannibal tribe’s standard of comportment.

    Not eating other humans would be considered unseemly, around the cannibal tribe’s stewpot.

    It’s really about culture.

    Similarly in County governance circles, it’s considered unseemly—inappropriate, really—to uphold the public interest in any material budget matter: for example, there’s the question of SCP electricity rates now on the table. The tribal leaders’ argument is that rates charged to the public really don’t matter. What matters is taking all the available cash and sticking it into projects that will enable skimming cash back to the County real decision makers , the campaign contributors and influencers who run things around here.

    Andrew Simpson

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  11. Emerson Burkett says:

    Dear Power Agency,
    So, when do I get my “OPT OUT” notice? I cannot wait to mail it back in. Also, please keep your greedy hands off of my Property Tax dollars; no way do I want to underwrite this Myopic vision of our future. Thanks

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