January 23, 2014
A Proposal for Councilmember Sawant

Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is the new chair of the council's Energy Committee. In a Seattle Times article on a proposed rate increase for Seattle City Light, Sawant outlined her agenda for the committee saying, "The committee in the coming months would examine issues including the situation of workers at City Light, executive salaries, and the relation between global financial markets and the rates people in Seattle pay." While she's at it, I'd like to propose another idea for consideration.It was offered to the council members in 2008 but none ever replied; all afraid to touch a Seattle political third rail. However with socialist Sawant overseeing City Light maybe they should reconsider. In summary, I proposed selling Seattle City Light to a private company and using the proceeds to endow the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. A privately owned utility would still be regulated and rate controlled but not by Sawant and the rest of the council subject to reelection grandstanding. Regulation and rates would be set by the Washington State Utilities Commission staffed by energy professionals. Endowing the Parks Department would remove a large part of the taxpayer funded city budget freeing up funds for other uses; maybe even a tax cut.

In today's fragile economy, there should be no political third rails. Every idea deserves consideration.

Posted by warrenpeterson at January 23, 2014 08:40 PM | Email This
Comments
1. Great idea! But it makes too much sense. Obamabots will blindly follow the socialist instead.

Posted by: Mike on January 23, 2014 09:43 PM
2. A private entity would invest capital in Seattle City Light only in exchange for the promise of future profits, which would require higher rates (or lower costs) than Seattle City Light currently charges. So your proposal would increase electricity rates indefinitely in order to create one-time revenue (the sale price of SCL) which would then be converted back to annual income through the endowment, which would pay for parks, so that the city could spend on other things or reduce taxes. It's the equivalent of raising electricity rates to subsidize other parts of the city budget. Why is that a good idea?

Posted by: Bruce on January 23, 2014 10:15 PM
3. Warren must love parks, and hopefully golf. Take the Skagit dams, for instance. Dam construction averages $2,000/KW. Skagit dams produce 711MW. That's just shy of $1.5B. And that just dam construction, no land or access. No power distribution.

Anyways, if we spent $20M each to turn Lincoln, Discovery, Sand Point and Seward parks into championship golf courses and financed operations and maintenance at $0.5M/YR each for 50 yrs, that's only $180M. Dam, er, damn, we've still got $1.3B left from the Skagit dams alone! I say we go for it, but only if Republicans get four great golf courses out of it.

Just imagine, Warren, 18 holes carved out of Seward park, each with water, mountain and city views. A links course at Sand Point. A driving range at Denny. Ah, Republicans and golf.

Sadly, if Republicans are involved, SCL assets would get sold off to cronies for pennies on the dollar and golf resorts will get built.

Take Benton Harbor, MI, for instance, to see an example of Republican generosity towards their golfing, crony buds - a golf resort for the 1% where there was once a beloved city park on Lake Michigan, sold on the cheap. And for the residents of Benton Harbor? Minimum wage jobs changing the spoiled bedsheets of the rich instead of the middle-class factory jobs at Whirlpool they lost when that great American company split for Mexico and cheap labor.

On the upside, now that Republicans have had their way with them, at least the residents of Benton Harbor aren't being poisoned by their drinking water and a train hasn't blown up while passing through town. Not yet, anyway. So, yeah, they have that going for them, if very little else.

By comparison, it makes a socialist like Sawant seem kind of tame, doesn't it?

Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on January 23, 2014 10:27 PM
4. In today's fragile economy, there should be no sacred cows. Every idea deserves consideration.

Yes, there should be no sacred cows. Unfortunately, privatization is the sacred cow of conservatism, even when the logic for it does not exist. (Especially with respect to a "fragile economy".)

In summary, I proposed selling Seattle City Light to a private company and using the proceeds to endow the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department.

Which is a zero-sum game. It makes no sense as you present it.

A privately owned utility would still be regulated and rate controlled but not by Sawant and the rest of the council subject to reelection grandstanding.

"Reelection grandstanding" is nonsensical when you've just been elected to office. Try "fulfilling the mandate for which she was elected" -- a socialist isn't going to take an action to make a company rich at the expense of her own constituents.

Endowing the Parks Department would remove a large part of the taxpayer funded city budget freeing up funds for other uses; maybe even a tax cut.

All else being equal, what you are proposing is not "freeing up the city budget". It is only moving money around at best, and supporting private sector monopolies at worst. Not only that, but you are either proposing a higher overall financial burden on everyone, or a tax cut subsidized by high electricity users.

Bad policy, but hey -- it's hard to shake conservative sacred cows, right?

Posted by: demo kid on January 23, 2014 10:36 PM
5. @1: Great idea! But it makes too much sense. Obamabots will blindly follow the socialist instead.

He presented nothing, except for the implicit assumption that privatization would result in more efficiencies (which has not been proven for public utilities). All you're showing is that you're unwilling to question the conservative party line.

Posted by: demo kid on January 23, 2014 10:39 PM
6. @2: Crap -- took too long and you said it pretty spot on in three sentences!

Posted by: demo kid on January 23, 2014 10:58 PM
7. Demo....are you saying gov is more efficient than the private sector? If so...please let us know where. Education -no, transportation-no, package delivery-no, health insurance- no, construction-no-thanks to union/ prevailing wage, and much more.

Smaller gov is efficient...it does the least to enable the most.

Posted by: Dengle on January 23, 2014 11:14 PM
8. @7: Demo....are you saying gov is more efficient than the private sector? If so...please let us know where. Education -no, transportation-no, package delivery-no, health insurance- no, construction-no-thanks to union/ prevailing wage, and much more.

Again, sacred cow much? You're simply repeating the party line about privatization, not doing the research.

For public utilities, evidence shows the benefits are a toss-up *at best*. Private companies need to make a profit, while public not-for-profits... well.. don't. Public utilities can have lower costs of borrowing to support capital improvements. In terms of charges, private utility companies can see fit to increase costs and cut back on service quality to improve profits if they have a local monopoly, as you cannot simply go with another water or electricity provider. So yes, there are certainly cases where the private sector can be more efficient at doing certain things, but actual evidence is inconclusive as to whether there is a net financial benefit to privatization of utilities in THIS case.

Now, if you don't have that efficiency benefit, this whole exercise is less than pointless. If the City were to accept a rational bid on a power company, the returns on investing those funds should be no more than equal to the increases in total electricity charges necessary for the private utility to turn a profit. And, considering that: a.) the City may not negotiate a good price for it, and b.) the return on investment may not be as high for city investments as private sector ones, it might turn out that City residents would not even get a good deal on a sale. See, for example, the absolutely insane sale of Chicago parking meters to the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund (brokered by corrupt Democrats, by the way -- criticism of this approach goes beyond party).

Posted by: demo kid on January 24, 2014 12:30 AM
9. @8

"Blah, blah, blah, blah"

But you'll still stick with your sacred cow socialist right?

Posted by: Mike on January 24, 2014 03:50 AM
10. @9: But you'll still stick with your sacred cow socialist right?

Who cares? If sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling "socialist!" is all that you have left to dispute this, this discussion is over.

Posted by: demo kid on January 24, 2014 06:24 AM
11. I just read Warren's 2008 proposal to privatize SCL and found 2 major flaws. First, he doesn't account for profit that the buyer would require. Why would someone invest $3 billion (or whatever) if they would not make a profit? So electricity rates would have to rise even more than he said. Wow, a great step in this "fragile economy", right? Second, he doesn't account for inflation. The endowment income might pay for park expenses this year. But if we used all the endowment income, the principal would decline in real dollars, and very quickly would erode to the point where it covered only a small part of parks. That's a terrible long-term plan.

Of course this "proposal" doesn't have a prayer of happening, but its flaws illustrate the way ideology trumps logic in conservative circles these days.

Posted by: Bruce on January 24, 2014 09:54 AM
12. I am no fan of Sawant but you are quite racist to bring up "sacred cows".

No wonder Republicans have the reputation that they do.

Posted by: Raj on January 24, 2014 10:14 AM
13. #12 - Please, the word police are making it impossible to say anything without someone being offended. The term "sacred cow" clearly conveys my meaning, is understood by all and is in no way racist. Nor should it offend Hindus any more than saying someone attacked in a newspaper was "nailed to the cross" should offend Christians. There are offensive stereotype references that are offensive but even then one needs to hold to the First Amendment. That same amendment gives people the right to use words and Raj the right to protest same.

Posted by: Warren Peterson on January 24, 2014 11:04 AM
14. So Warren@13, did you deliberately add "sacred cow" to this post (it was not in your 2008 proposal) just to emphasize Sawant's different-ness? Even though the post had nothing to do with Sawant, let alone her heritage? Or was it a total coincidence?

And wouldn't it be offensive to say that, say, the fired teacher at Eastside Catholic was "nailed to the cross"?

Posted by: Bruce on January 24, 2014 11:19 AM
15. The term "sacred cow" is just wrong in this context anyway. The proposal was ignored, not because we in Seattle are reflexively opposed to even considering such a plan (which is what the "sacred cow" cliche means here), but because, as Bruce notes, a rational analysis immediately reveals it's just not a very good plan.

But, Warren, what do you think of Council Member Sawant's proposal to look at executive salaries? Think there might be opportunities for increasing the efficiency of City Light in such a proposal?

Posted by: tensor on January 24, 2014 11:23 AM
16. You say the term "sacred cow" clearly conveys your meaning, but I don't see how that expression has much to do with the substance of your post. Has anyone ever defended SCL as a sacred cow? But your proposal, to raise electricity rates in order to create profits for a new corporation, makes no sense. Not in a fragile economy, not in any economy.

Posted by: Bruce on January 24, 2014 11:24 AM
17. I'm about your age, Warren, and I've been busted by PC cops before. It's just consideraton of others. Eh, no big deal, I suppose, unless one doesn't possess such consideration.

In gray areas, wouldn't context be everything? Take your example. How about a Hindu scornfully writing that a Christian should be nailed to the cross? Twice, including their closing words? I can see how that might offend at least some some evangelicals. Heck, I might cut that person some slack the first time, but the second? It might be time to say something. To call that person a religious bigot would be little over the top, just as your being called a racist was over the top. But is what you wrote deserving of comment? In my opinion, yes.

You didn't go there just once. You went there a couple of times. You even closed with it. Given that there's so much out there about this woman's background, some might conclude that going there as you did smacks of intent. Could this just rhetorical monotony? Possibly. But now your own over the top "Puh-leeze, the word police..." smacks of scorn. It doesn't seem so gray to me anymore.

Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on January 24, 2014 11:56 AM
18. I give up. I've deleted the S C word some find so offensive and substituted "political third rail."
Hopefully we can now take the discussion back to the subject. A simple study, perhaps funded by an independent think tank or university, of the proposal to sell City Light and endow the Parks Department would answer the doubters or prove them right.

Posted by: warren peterson on January 24, 2014 12:42 PM
19. "A simple study..., of the proposal to sell City Light and endow the Parks Department would answer the doubters or prove them right."

To be a little more direct with my earier point, in 2009 PSE was sold for $7.3B. Rather than request a study, you need to reconsider your proposal as I seriously doubt anyone believes that the Seattle Park Department needs an endowment measured in the billions of dollars.

Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on January 24, 2014 01:25 PM
20. @8, 10,

Research? Your research amounts to a couple of paragraphs of your own words. Like your idol Obama, a flourish of rhetoric, and then nothing to back it up. And also like your idol, what you are really good at is impressing yourself.

Posted by: Mike on January 24, 2014 04:41 PM
21. Mike, if you want to make a case for selling City Light, then please do some research of your own. All you have done is repeat glibertarian rhetoric about the wonders of the free market. Your non-answer @9 shows how little value you have contributed to this discussion

I have to give Warren credit for chutzpah, though. His response to Seattle electing a Socialist was to advocate she do the exact polar opposite of what she'd said she'd do. Better yet, he took an idea that was ignored the last time he pushed it, and simply re-posted it, with no new content -- or, indeed, with any reason we should look at it again.

The crowd here was exceptionally bitter about Sawant's election, especially given that a flat-out Socialist can succeed where any number of well-financed Republicans would have failed miserably. At least Warren's post isn't the bitter whine her election originally precipitated here, so that's some progress, at least.

Posted by: tensor on January 24, 2014 05:29 PM
22. @9: But you'll still stick with your sacred cow socialist right?

Who cares? If sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling "socialist!" is all that you have left to dispute this, this discussion is over.

Posted by demo kid at January 24, 2014 06:24 AM

This discussion is over after your post. Socialist/marxist is what Savant is. Anyone who doesn't agree with that statement is irrelevant to say the least. America is not a statist society no matter how much you and your ilk propagandize.

I am glad she was elected, because it shows that Seattle is a statist wannabe City-state and her loony ideas with take center stage and all the leftwingnuts said -Goooollllllllyyyyyy ! Detroit went bankrupt thanks to 50 years of liberalism out of control. Big city dwellers (i.e. Seattle) are slow learners and obstinent.

Posted by: KDS on January 24, 2014 09:39 PM
23. There are plenty of ways to quite dramatically improve your home without costing the big bucks.
Really look towards changing out the filter once every month.
Compare your home improvement loan offers from several different lenders.

Posted by: San Diego trash removal on January 24, 2014 11:15 PM
24. @18: Hopefully we can now take the discussion back to the subject. A simple study, perhaps funded by an independent think tank or university, of the proposal to sell City Light and endow the Parks Department would answer the doubters or prove them right.

Dear lord -- are you channeling Jim Miller? Plenty of studies HAVE been done about privatization. The conclusion? The evidence is inconclusive as to whether the impacts would be positive or negative.

@20: Research? Your research amounts to a couple of paragraphs of your own words. Like your idol Obama, a flourish of rhetoric, and then nothing to back it up. And also like your idol, what you are really good at is impressing yourself.

I do impress myself. However, I am not in the habit of posting full literature reviews on comment pages. Conversely, by your standard, you and Warren haven't proven your case, either.

I would, however, suggest that you read all about the experiences Chicago has had with privatization. Great example of how a corrupt public entity can willfully sell out their constituents to make a buck or two. It is truly a bipartisan read, and one that should give any constituent pause.

@21: I have to give Warren credit for chutzpah, though. His response to Seattle electing a Socialist was to advocate she do the exact polar opposite of what she'd said she'd do. Better yet, he took an idea that was ignored the last time he pushed it, and simply re-posted it, with no new content -- or, indeed, with any reason we should look at it again.

It's like Warren is intentionally ignorant, or completely contemptuous of representative government. I hope the former, I fear the latter.

Posted by: demo kid on January 25, 2014 04:27 AM
25. @22: This discussion is over after your post. Socialist/marxist is what Savant is. Anyone who doesn't agree with that statement is irrelevant to say the least. America is not a statist society no matter how much you and your ilk propagandize.

And you cannot even read, apparently, Socialism is irrelevant here -- the economics of the situation is what matters. Claims that privatization would be more efficient here are unsubstantiated, and without that, there is no good reason to do it.

Posted by: demo kid on January 25, 2014 04:46 AM
26. Socialism is irrelevant here -- the economics of the situation is what matters. Claims that privatization would be more efficient here are unsubstantiated, and without that, there is no good reason to do it.

Posted by demo kid at January 25, 2014 04:46 AM

You are talking out of both sides of your mouth and dead wrong. If privatization would not be efficient in Seattle (i.e. free enterprise), then statism would have to be by your estimation. You have demonstrated that you are a statist who can't be trusted by that crackpot comment - something we already knew.

As previously stated, this discussion is over. In reality, Seattle is a mixture of a free market and redistributionist (statist/socialist) economy. Savant wants to accelerate the trend toward a predominantly socialist economy, while the rest of the Seattle Silly council are not so gung ho on that idea.

Posted by: KDS on January 25, 2014 09:12 AM
27. "As previously stated, this discussion is over."

And then you keep on writing. Whatever. Enough of the nitwit.

Odd, what one socialist can do to a Republican's core values. Warren is advocating for more centralized state regulation by the Utilities and Transportation Commission, creating a larger state government while taking regulatory authority away from a city's elected officials. Not only that, he wants to throw billions at Seattle's parks instead of using that money for tax breaks.

Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on January 25, 2014 11:24 AM
28. @26: If privatization would not be efficient in Seattle (i.e. free enterprise), then statism would have to be by your estimation.

You're not even bothering to read and comment on what is being said here -- you're just vomiting back conservative catchphrases. You haven't even addressed the economics, and you don't need to be s socialist to think this is a bad idea.

Let me boil it down this way, and maybe your brain might be able to catch up. If keeping SCL as a not-for-profit would result in lower overall costs for business and residents of Seattle (and Shoreline, LFP, etc.), should it be sold?

Just a simple answer would suffice. I'm NOT saying anything about the costs and benefits of each, what political philosophy is behind it, etc. All I'm asking is whether you would accept public ownership if it made economic sense, or if you are simply advocating for privatization on your own personal political grounds.

Savant wants to accelerate the trend toward a predominantly socialist economy, while the rest of the Seattle Silly council are not so gung ho on that idea.

Again, this is irrelevant to the main point of the post. Warren isn't objecting to Sawant's discussion of charging higher rates to commercial customers, but the whole notion of a public not-for-profit utility to begin with. Many people that disagree with Sawant and are not "socialist" still don't think that Warren's idea makes sense.

Posted by: demo kid on January 25, 2014 01:41 PM
29. "Savant wants to accelerate the trend toward a predominantly socialist economy"

By raising commercial electric rates? Don't be silly. The PSE KWH rate during winter for medium-sized (50-350KW demand) commercial electric service is $.089/KWH. Their demand charge is $9/KW. The SCL rate is $.0609/KWH, with a $2.18/KW demand charge. Simply put, SCL could raise it's rates for commercial customers by over 40% and it would still not be as much as the private sector PSE.

And yet presently SCL residential rates are the second highest in the state, lower than only Orcas Island. It simply makes sense to revisit SCL's commercial rates.

Suggesting that SCL commercial rates be raised isn't the stuff of socialism and statism. It's just common sense. But it's fun reading how Warren and KDS want to expand the reach and power of the state to regulate yet more of it's citizen's utilities, taking away the power to regulate from the locals. Is that how you fight socialism and statism, KDS? Seeking more state power and less local control? Really?

Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on January 25, 2014 03:16 PM
30. @29: Suggesting that SCL commercial rates be raised isn't the stuff of socialism and statism. It's just common sense.

I'd be very interested to see how people would react if this opposition to socialism actually meant equalizing residential and commercial rates. I'm sure that if folks were to see their home utility bills double as a result, they may rethink "socialism" as a concept...

Posted by: demo kid on January 25, 2014 03:45 PM
31. "if this opposition to socialism actually meant equalizing residential and commercial rates"

It should be clear by now that only a socialist statist redistributionist marxist communist would go along with the fascist notion that businesses and corporations paying only $.06/KWH pay a little more so that residential customers, who already pay nearly 100% more at up to $0.115/KHW, don't have to dig even deeper into their pockets.

Posted by: Dr. Zatoichi, the Blind Surgeon on January 25, 2014 09:03 PM
32. @28-31 - Evidently, neither of you are insightful enough to understand that Warren's post is tongue in cheek, but you are taking him too seriously. That is why I don't respond to your quips about him, because they don't really reflect Warren's reality. You call my comments irrelevant - only in your mind. That's just an excuse so that you can write in your parallel universes and extrapolate Warren's comments which are nothing more than a proposal. I say the proposal is preposterous and then the discussion is over.

Kudos to Warren for doing a good job at pushing your buttons and getting you to talk out of both sides of your mouths - yet we all know you are statists at heart. I daresay you would not look at the Federal Government as needing to be downsized except for the military.

Posted by: KDS on January 25, 2014 10:15 PM
33. @31: Sorry, yes, you're right -- looked at that a little too fast.

Posted by: demo kid on January 25, 2014 10:40 PM
34. @32: Evidently, neither of you are insightful enough to understand that Warren's post is tongue in cheek, but you are taking him too seriously.

What is "tongue-in-cheek" about the basic premise of privatization? Don't think that means what you think it means.

That's just an excuse so that you can write in your parallel universes and extrapolate Warren's comments which are nothing more than a proposal. I say the proposal is preposterous and then the discussion is over.

That is a great way of dodging the question: if keeping SCL as a not-for-profit would result in lower overall costs for business and residents of Seattle (and Shoreline, LFP, etc.), should it be sold? And if, as you say, you don't agree and Warren meant it "tongue-in-cheek", what's the point of this post?

Kudos to Warren for doing a good job at pushing your buttons and getting you to talk out of both sides of your mouths - yet we all know you are statists at heart.

What "both sides"? We've been clear here.

I daresay you would not look at the Federal Government as needing to be downsized except for the military.

I think that downsizing is fine if it accomplishes the goals of providing better services. Government services should be eliminated if they are redundant and have little public purpose versus their cost. (The definition of "public purpose" may differ between us, of course.) Warren here is just talking about downsizing for the sake of downsizing, not really to achieve any practical goals.

Posted by: demo kid on January 26, 2014 11:44 AM
35. "Third Rail" I'm offended! Those haters that will not even consider the benefits of multiple spouse marriage love to throw around the term "Third Rail", sometimes without realizing the pain and hurt they inflict. Warren, Please find another term that is less offensive.

Posted by: Moondoggie on January 27, 2014 12:43 PM
36. "Third Rail" I'm offended! Those haters that will not even consider the benefits of multiple spouse marriage love to throw around the term "Third Rail", sometimes without realizing the pain and hurt they inflict. Warren, Please find another term that is less offensive.

Posted by: Moondoggie on January 27, 2014 12:44 PM
37. 36. "Third Rail" I'm offended! Those haters that will not even consider the benefits of multiple spouse marriage love to throw around the term "Third Rail", sometimes without realizing the pain and hurt they inflict. Warren, Please find another term that is less offensive.

Dude, if you don't want to go to a Big Gay Wedding, just decline the invitation. Sounding this bitter, a year-plus after We The People voted it into law, just makes you sound inconsolable.

(Although this DOES give new meaning to the adage, "Social Security is the Third Rail of American politics.")

Posted by: tensor on January 27, 2014 01:24 PM
38. tensor---My joke dealt with politically correct phrases, and I voted for legalizing gay marriage.

Posted by: Moondoggie on January 27, 2014 08:38 PM
39. Moondoggie -- thank you for your clarification, and for your support of marriage equality.

Warren keeps trying to claim Seattle rejects his ideas due to some irrationality in our politics or leadership, when the comment thread here shows our willingness to consider it. The exact cliche he uses matters less than the insult behind his charge.

Posted by: tensor on January 29, 2014 12:27 PM
40. I wish Auntie Didi would try to ride on top of one those electric Seattle Buses and get electocuted!

Ba Ba bump!

Posted by: LOL on January 30, 2014 09:13 PM
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