Is Art Torres helping PG&E, helping his son's political career, or both?

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Joaquin and Art Torres are both mayoral appointees who serve as presidents of their respective commissions.

As I’ve been reporting on how CleanPowerSF is being blocked by Mayor Ed Lee and his political appointees on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, one piece of the puzzle that I couldn’t quite figure out was why SFPUC President Art Torres took the position he did, offering little public explanation for his stance.

“His opposition to the rate vote was strange because he didn’t give clear reasons,” Eric Brooks, who has been led the grassroots campaign in support of CleanPowerSF, told us. Torres also hasn’t returned Guardian calls on the issue, and he refused a formal request from Sup. John Avalos to explain his position.

As a former state senator and longtime former chair of the California Democratic Party, Torres certainly has connections to Pacific Gas & Electric and the array of politicians that support it, include Willie Brown. But that just didn’t seem like enough for a senior statesman with a decent environmental record to sabotage San Francisco’s only plan for building renewable energy projects.

But some of my political sources have clued me into another possible motive, and it seems to make sense. Art Torres’ son is Joaquin Torres, who works in the Mayor’s Office and who Lee in February appointed to the Housing Commission, where Torres now serves as president.

And here’s the kicker: those sources also say that Joaquin Torres has already started running for the District 9 seat on the Board of Supervisors, which is now held by Sup. David Campos, who is running for Tom Ammiano’s seat in the California Assembly. And if Campos wins that race next year, Mayor Lee will get to fill it, possibly naming Torres to one of the most progressive seats in the city.

So dad gets to score political points with some powerful friends, and help launch his son’s political career in the process. These motives are beginning to add up.

Joaquin Torres is now deputy director of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, “where he leads Mayor Lee’s Invest In Neighborhoods Initiative to leverage City resources across city departments to maximize positive economic and social impact in low-moderate income neighborhoods and throughout San Francisco’s commercial corridors,” the Mayor’s Office wrote in February when Torres got appointed to the Housing Commission.

Sounds like the perfect job for someone being groomed for the Board of Supervisors, where he could have a serious impact on this city’s political dynamic, tipping policies in the neoliberal to moderate direction of expanding corporate welfare programs and speeding up gentrification.

Neither Torres has returned our calls, but I’ll update this post when and if they do. And while this is clearly just political speculation and conjecture, I have a feeling that I’m onto something here. So remember where you read it first.  

Comments

Gee, where have I heard that before?

Oh wait . . .

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

If the Progressives desperately find some way of shoving a form of public power down the throats of the voters, even though those same voters have always rejected public power at the polls, then surely those who side with the silent majority popular opposition to this Shell scheme are entitled a few tactics too, no?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

SFBG thinks snide tactics are fine when they work for the left, like some of Daly's tricks, but they cry foul when it works for the other side.

Turnabout is fair play.

Posted by anon on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

Sucks not having a life, doesn't it?

Posted by Sad on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

Getting banned from SFGate for trolling was the highlight of his last decade.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

But Jeez - go for long walks, acquire a real hobby, something.

Manically reposting the same dumb statement over and over again on a largely unread board - there has to be something better to do.

Posted by Sad on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

will be retained there against his will at some point.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

from a guy whose job it is to "maximize positive economic and social impact in low-moderate income neighborhoods and throughout San Francisco’s commercial corridors" to " hav(ing) a serious impact on this city’s political dynamic, tipping policies in the neoliberal to moderate direction of expanding corporate welfare programs and speeding up gentrification.

one really doesn't seem to lead to the other now, does it?

and while I'm at it, please spare us the "San Francisco’s only plan for building renewable energy projects" stuff. There is no plan. There are pie in the sky ideas about solar and wind and how all of this is going to be done cheaply and efficiently, but there is no plan for any buildout and that's why I'm against CleanPowerSF. we are being asked to pay for something and we have no idea what this something is or how much it is going to cost or how effective it is going to be. Eric Brooks can deny that all he wants, but those are the facts

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

passed down through Tim, that some boring utility company is somehow public enemy number one.

Of course the real issue is that SFBG wants the city to get all the profits that currently accrue to PG&E and redirect it to the city family so that their friends in SEIU can eat out pig happy forever.

Reason enough not to buy this crock. Clean power will be an expensive failure, although Shell will probably do well out of it.

Never forget that the people rejected public power every time it's been on the ballot. Now the extremists are trying to force it down out throats without the voters having a say. Ed Lee is on the side of the people here.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

Here again, is the local clean energy installation plan that the poster above claims does not exist.

It's a great plan, and will get San Francisco to 50% local clean electricity within a decade, while generating 1500 jobs per year.

See the plan at:

http://our-city.org/CleanPowerSF_Presentation_To_SFEnv_3-26-13.pdf

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

it is a pipe dream/wish list right now

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 5:05 am

The Board of Supervisors specifically approved a local clean energy build-out of this size, scope and timeline in September 2012; and now the plan for the build-out has been developed and is ready for action.

The only barrier holding up its implementation is the SFPUC Commission's failure set the rate cap and thereby start the program.

Furthermore when this plan was presented to the Environment Commission, the Department of Environment staff stated emphatically that they are ready, willing and able to implement the plan.

If the SFPUC does not act, it will be up to the Board, and Environment Commission and Department, to take the reigns and start up CleanPowerSF (so that the planet won't burn to the ground waiting for the recalcitrant SFPUC).

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 10:31 am

Here's another possibility. Maybe Torres, like every other Commissioner, doesn't think that the program acts in the best interests of the San Francisco rate payers, whom they are sworn to protect.

Steven's theory makes no sense. Well, maybe to him it does.

Where is any credible indication that Torres, a "senior statesman with a decent environmental record" is immoral enough of an individual to sell out his oath in order to maybe, possibly better his son's future?

And for Lee, all we know about his procedure for appointing supervisors is the Progressive Christina Olague, and that appointment didn't help her when she had to face the voters.

If anyone read this stuff it would be yellow journalism. As it is, it is just a tree falling in the forest. But yes, all six of us will remember where we read it first.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

The reason I gave Steven the quote I did, is that it really is unclear exactly why Art Torres voted no to the CleanPowerSF rate cap.

The reason I say this, is that the proposed rates for the program as they were presented to the SFPUC (and as they indeed stand now) are strongly competitive with PG&E rates. So rates weren't the reason Torres voted no.

And his only explanation was that the program is not what was originally intended by the Board or SFPUC.

However Torres didn't elaborate on that point very much, and so many of us are unclear as to exactly why he voted no.

Steven is simply putting forth his theory.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

Why even have a Board of Supervisors if the Mayor is just going to override their policies unilaterally?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:44 am

interest in everything that goes on in the city. He is also elected city-wide which the Supes are not.

So yes, in extremis, he should be able to intervene when the Supes get in wrong, and particularly in a case like this when we know the voters do not want it, but the Supes did an end run around them.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:09 am

Eight supes get to do an end run around the mayor. That's the law, the PUC has to set rates.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:29 am

at a level that makes clean energy look much cheaper than it is.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:59 am

Clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuel based electricity, because fossil fuel electricity requires constant purchases of fuel. Clean energy sources do not.

After installation costs are paid off, clean sources deliver essentially free energy for decades.

The concept that renewables are more expensive is a fairy tale dreamed up by the fossil fuel industry to absurdly compare -only- the -up front- costs of renewables with the lower cost of fossil fuel electricity coming from plants that are already built.

It is a ridiculous comparison.

And even competing with those already constructed fossil energy plants, renewables are -still- cheaper over time.

Because of this, the up front cost of clean energy programs can be spread out like a mortgage over two or three decades, with the ratepayer seeing the same or lower rates than those now charged by PG&E.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 10:41 am

CleanPowerSF is an opt-in/out program. If residents don't want it it, they can opt out.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

There will no doubt be many thousands of people who just default to the more expensive Shell program out of inertia, and that is so wrong. Choosing a new program should be an affirmative decision and not a passive default.

There is so much wrong with this Shell rollout.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

The proposed CleanPowerSF rates that SFPUC CleanPowerSF Director Kim Malcolm presented most recently will meet or beat PG&E rates. Period.

So the cost of CleanPowerSF to ratepayers is simply no longer an issue.

I am happy to acknowledge, and discuss, the fact that Shell is a nasty corporation.

But cost to ratepayers is moot. Because there isn't any.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

>"The proposed CleanPowerSF rates that SFPUC CleanPowerSF Director Kim Malcolm presented most recently will meet or beat PG&E rates. Period."

Then they need to PUBLISH those numbers. Just anecdotally mentioning them in a presentation isn't the same as PUBLISHING the numbers with supporting detail. It's just not the way that things work at this level.

Same thing with that 25 powerpoint presentation you keep referring to as proof that there is a plan. It has about 2 pages of numbers.

It is exactly why so many people are convinced that the CleanPowerSF people have no idea what they are up against. Everyone wants to stop poisoning the environment with fossil fuels, we just want a plan that we can believe in.

Don't tell us to relax because Kim Malcolm says that everything will be OK.

Posted by Troll on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

The Director of CleanPowerSF gave those comparison numbers, on record, in more than one public hearing.

And I am sure that there actually is a spreadsheet somewhere on the SFPUC website proving it.

I am not going to waste my time hunting down documents on the SFPUC site just to respond to your clearly cynical attacks on the program that are designed only to detract.

If you are so curious, look for it yourself.

I saw it reported live. And the people who are reading this who I am actually trying to reach with this information, know me well enough to know that I am telling the truth, with no exaggeration.

As to the build-out plan information there are deeper details to it, but I'm not going to bore the readership with that level of wonk.

Again, if you are curious, go to the SFPUC and ask for the information.

They are a public agency and required to give it to you.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

OK, I was skeptical about the price differential between CleanPowerSf and PG&E since everyone has been quoting $.11 vs $.079.

But you heard at a presentation that the prices were equal so that is enough proof for me. ABSOLUTELY no need for any further detail. We really don't need to know. Can you start building tomorrow?

I keep thinking back to the SF Weekly article about how nobody thought through the details of CleanPowerSF. But really, who needs details?

Posted by Troll on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

CleanPowerSF = ShellProfit$F. That's enough reason for me to oppose it. The opt-out instead of opt-in provision is a real kick in the teeth for people working two jobs and barely able to make rent, much less spend time figuring out what CleanPowerSF actually means.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

Can you explain how the opt out will be a 'kick in the teeth' when CleanPowerSF will not cost any more than PG&E?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 11:29 pm

From today's Examiner:

"In August, the commission voted against setting a maximum rate of 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is slightly higher than PG&E's approximate 9 cents per kilowatt hour."

11.5 vs 9 is a 28% increase.

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/san-francisco-supervisors-decry-f...

And if everybody.....Ed Lee, David Chiu, John Avalos, David Campos, the Examiner...are all using the wrong numbers and nobody on the CleanPowerSF side is correcting them then you have a massive failure to communicate.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 7:02 am

expensive. I've seen estimates of up to 50% higher.

Of course, Eric will claim otherwise but then he is very biased.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 10:24 am

If you don't want CleanPowerSF's renewable energy, then you can opt-out, which is an option that we don't now have for PG&E's dirty energy. The amount of misleading bullshit being spread about this issue by PG&E's apologists is really staggering. 

Posted by steven on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 11:46 am

Why can't we opt in if we believe in global warming or care about it?

Oh, and SFBG's bias about PG&E is legendary and goes back decades. What is really "staggering" is how you can maintain such hatred about what is merely a dull utility that does it's job. You have zero credibility on this matter, and Ed Lee is doing a good thing here knowing, as he does, that the voters have ALWAYS rejected this.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

State Law requires "opt out" instead of "opt in". Carole Migden was the author, I believe, because she didn't believe that most people would voluntarily choose CCA if given the option. She was right.

Posted by Richmondman on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

about clean power. But state law should not play cheap games like this. If it were that important then mandate it for everyone, except of course that the voters will not wear it.

Everyone should opt out just to send a message to these bullies.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

To repeat, 11.5 cents is the not-to-exceed rate cap. But it is not the predicted price of the actual program to customers, which is now projected to be around 9 cents, therefore meeting or beating PG&E rates.

And even if the CleanPowerSF rate -were- 11.5 cents, that increase is only on the cost of energy -generation- not on all of the other costs on our electricity bills, such as transmission and distribution charges.

On a $40/month electricity bill the 11.5 cent rate would only cost around $5 extra per month (or $60 dollars a year).

By comparison, basic cable television & internet costs $60 a -month-; so even in the worst case rate scenario, CleanPowerSF will be a great deal and competitive with PG&E.

Furthermore, PG&E's proposed clean energy program will cost 11.5 cents, again making even the worst case rate for CleanPowerSF one that will meet or beat PG&E's proposed clean energy prices.

All of this makes clear why PG&E's bought sock puppet Edwin Lee, is attempting to block CleanPowerSF.

As soon as CleanPowerSF goes forward, PG&E is going to be facing real competition for the first time in its history.

And once the city is filled with local clean energy installations taking much of our electricity supply off the grid, we won't need PG&E anymore, and PG&E will be finished.

It is no surprise that PG&E is suddenly buying big ads in the SF Examiner, a newspaper which has been running editorials in favor of CleanPowerSF.

I call on the Examiner to keep hold of its integrity and continue supporting CleanPowerSF.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:06 am

>"But it is not the predicted price of the actual program to customers, which is now projected to be around 9 cents, therefore meeting or beating PG&E rates."

Eric, do you have any theories as to why you are the only person on planet earth who makes this claim? I mean, you're right...there are newspaper editorials, op ed pieces, BOS meetings. And nowhere, nowhere, does anyone make the same claim that you do.

Why doesn't CleanPowerSF put out a press release correcting the fact that everyone (except you) is saying that their rates are higher than PG&E.

You would have thought that Avalos or Campos would have said something by now, wouldn't you?

Do you have ANY theory as to why every member of the BOS and every editorial writer is wrong and you are right?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 4:10 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

The proof of the much lower projected rates for CleanPowerSF (see link & directions below) is right where I told you it was weeks ago when you began trying to fool people into believing that the current rate is not lower than the rate that was projected in April.

It looks like you were not able to figure out how to watch the hearing video that I directed you to, and that someone has to hold your hand on this, so here are very specific directions for you.

1) Go to http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=165

2) Next to the listed 08/06/13 hearing date click on 'Video'

3) Advance the video to the 1 hour, 34 minute, and 40 second mark (134.40) and then sit back and watch for one full minute.

In that minute, you will see SFPUC CleanPowerSF Director Kim Malcolm place a slide on the screen which clearly states that the new projected rate for CleanPowerSF is between 9 and 11 cents per kilowatt hour; and that PG&E's rate will be 9 cents for dirty power and 11.5 cents for PG&E's proposed 'green option'.

You will also hear Director Malcolm make clear that PG&E's 'green option' will actually be around 12.5 cents by next year when CleanPowerSF is launched.

So. CleanPowerSF will clearly beat PG&E in a direct competition on clean energy prices, and will likely even deliver its clean power at rates -matching- PG&E's -dirty- power rate.

And the only way that you can claim otherwise is to deceptively refer to outdated news reports from 5 months ago, as you have repeatedly done.

The Board of Supervisors were well aware that there is a new and lower 11.5 cent no-to-exceed rate cap for CleanPowerSF, and they spoke of this in recent hearings.

The Board was not however aware of the new 9-11 cent rate projected for CleanPowerSF, because that is such new information that they have not yet gotten a report from the SFPUC on that new projection. And that is why they haven't mentioned it.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

The proof of the much lower projected rates for CleanPowerSF (see link & directions below) is right where I told you it was weeks ago when you began trying to fool people into believing that the current rate is not lower than the rate that was projected in April.

It looks like you were not able to figure out how to watch the hearing video that I directed you to, and that someone has to hold your hand on this, so here are very specific directions for you.

1) Go to http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=165

2) Next to the listed 08/06/13 hearing date click on 'Video'

3) Advance the video to the 1 hour, 34 minute, and 40 second mark (134.40) and then sit back and watch for one full minute.

In that minute, you will see SFPUC CleanPowerSF Director Kim Malcolm place a slide on the screen which clearly states that the new projected rate for CleanPowerSF is between 9 and 11 cents per kilowatt hour; and that PG&E's rate will be 9 cents for dirty power and 11.5 cents for PG&E's proposed 'green option'.

You will also hear Director Malcolm make clear that PG&E's 'green option' will actually be around 12.5 cents by next year when CleanPowerSF is launched.

So. CleanPowerSF will clearly beat PG&E in a direct competition on clean energy prices, and will likely even deliver its clean power at rates -matching- PG&E's -dirty- power rate.

And the only way that you can claim otherwise is to deceptively refer to outdated news reports from 5 months ago, as you have repeatedly done.

The Board of Supervisors were well aware that there is a new and lower 11.5 cent no-to-exceed rate cap for CleanPowerSF, and they spoke of this in recent hearings.

The Board was not however aware of the new 9-11 cent rate projected for CleanPowerSF, because that is such new information that they have not yet gotten a report from the SFPUC on that new projection. And that is why they haven't mentioned it.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

Eric, I did look at the video to see WTF you are talking about.

The CleanPower SF Director mentions a lower CleanPowerSF cost, providing ZERO detail or backup about how she got there. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

This was seven weeks ago and in that time period she hasn't been able to successfully convey these game changing numbers to the BOS members fighting on her behalf. And she has kept silent while outdated numbers have been used by everyone.

For seven weeks.

Apparently they're leaving it to one commenter on the SFBG blog to talk up these dramatic game changing numbers.

And then you wonder why people have no confidence in CleanPowerSF

Posted by Guest on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

If you go back to the 1 hour and 23 minute mark Malcolm discusses how more competition in the market and lower costs of clean energy generation have made the market radically more competitive. This resulted in 11 different companies bidding on Sonoma's program, just a few months ago, when only one even came close in San Francisco in 2010.

And as I explained earlier, the Board of Supervisors was on summer break during Malcolm's presentation to the Environment Commission, and didn't re-engage any serious meetings until September 10th, (which was the day that they questioned the Mayor about CleanPowerSF) so it is no surprise whatsoever that they were not aware of the new projected rates when they were questioning the Mayor on the very same day that they got back to serious work.

Why don't you do yourself a favor before making even more of a fool of yourself, and actually watch Malcolm's full presentation before making claims about it based on watching 60 seconds of it.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

no one who starts his post out with the preteen gossip girl text shorthand "OMG" deserves a serious response in the first place ;)

Posted by racer x on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

just bumping a troll comment past the jump

Posted by troll bumper on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 12:06 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

just bumping a troll comment past the jump

Posted by troll bumper on Sep. 23, 2013 @ 12:05 am

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