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Unusual Council Coalition Seeks Alternative to War with PG&E

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Fresno leaders will meet again with PG&E later this week. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Less than a week after a discussion, but no resolution, members of the Fresno City Council met with Pacific Gas and Electric on Monday. More meetings are scheduled for later this week.

The main complaint from Mayor Jerry Dyer, other councilmembers, and the development community: delays in electrifying housing and commercial projects. Consequences of not providing power to new homes include homeowners losing out on lower mortgage rates.

Fresno councilmembers Miguel Arias and Mike Karbassi spoke on the phone with PG&E management “about the current situation regarding delayed electrification of critical housing projects, commercial spaces, and educational assets,” according to an Arias news release.

Last Thursday, the City Council delayed a proposal to hire a consultant — the first step for the city to bypass PG&E and provide or deliver its own electricity.

Both Arias and Karbassi voted for the delay. Arias, at the time, said the proposal was vague.

Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday. Arias and Karbassi will participate with Councilwoman-elect Annalisa Perea, state Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, State Center Chancellor Carole Goldsmith, and PG&E management.

Arias and Karbassi say the goal is “to establish a 60-day action plan to address our city’s top priority projects for rapid electrification.”

City leaders and PG&E are also met at the Fresno City College west campus today for a closed-door meeting and tour.

A Follow-Up to Council Debate

The two-hour council debate last week saw unusual allegiances on the city dais.

Councilman Garry Bredefeld, the most conservative councilmember and most outspoken against the expansion of government, said he trusted the city to run the electric grid more than PG&E.

Bredefeld constantly criticized PG&E’s record, often bringing up the company’s legal woes.

He was joined by Councilman Tyler Maxwell, part of the council’s liberal bloc of four. Maxwell, a housing advocate, was concerned about how PG&E delays affected the city’s homebuilding problems. He emphasized on the dais that the vote was to hire a consultant, and not make any final decision.

Councilman Luis Chavez also favored hiring a consultant.

Arias and Karbassi were joined by Nelson Esparza and Esmeralda Soria in delaying any decision. Karbassi often sides with Bredefeld on the most contentious of city issues; Maxwell often joins Arias, Esparza and Soria.

“Our current situation in getting homes and buildings electrified within the City of Fresno is at a critical moment. Last week’s lengthy debate about a hypothetical, multi-billion-dollar government takeover of electric service did nothing to turn on a single new light bulb in our city. The only pathway to solving these problems immediately is working with our local utility and focusing efforts on rapidly bringing these properties on-line. We are grateful to open a dialogue between PG&E’s highest leadership and the Fresno City Council,” Arias and Karbassi said in a news release.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email