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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meet the New LAFCo, Same as the Old LAFCo

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge campos2_thumb_200x300.jpg

The White House handover has put us in a contemplative mood here at SF Weekly. Time passes, the seasons change, and the wheel of fate turns. But some things are constant -- among them the intellectual rigidity of San Francisco's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), a little-noticed board that has an outsize influence on city energy policy.

San Francisco was abuzz yesterday with the announcement of appointments to Board of Supervisors committees. Missing from the coverage was the new constitution of LAFCo. Joining Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi on the commission will be rookie Supe David Campos (pictured), ensuring that LAFCo's fanatical devotion to public power, or some iteration thereof, remains intact.

Don't fault yourself if you've never heard of this commission. As SF Weekly managing editor Will Harper explained yesterday, LAFCo is a paragon of bureaucratic anomalies in a city with no shortage of them. For eight years, the commission -- on taxpayers' tab -- has kicked around various ideas for wresting the city's power grid from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. It is now playing a leading role in shaping a dubious Public Power Lite venture called CleanPowerSF, the subject of a recent SF Weekly cover story.

LAFCo functions as a shadow agency to the Public Utilities Commission, whose mayorally appointed board has been disdained by the city's extreme political left for its reluctance to endorse public power. LAFCo, under the control of the supes, has traditionally been stacked with sworn enemies of PG&E.

Campos continues that tradition. During the campaign he flaunted his public power bona fides, citing his previous battles with PG&E as deputy city attorney. With LAFCo getting ready to implement CleanPowerSF in 2010, you can bet progressive supes don't want someone on board who will rock the boat.

That's too bad. LAFCo wouldn't be the worse for a new commissioner willing to take a tough look at how CleanPowerSF could be tweaked -- even at the cost of ideological purity -- to decrease the program's risks for city residents. (A city controller's report estimates that the program will increase the average resident's electricity bill by 24 percent.) For now, it looks like LAFCo will be up to business as usual.

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Peter Jamison

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