Friends and foes give CPUC president a raucous send off

19 December 2014 by Steve Blum
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Mike, half the people are here are here to congratulate you on your retirement…the others are here to make sure you’re retiring. It’s pretty indicative of the dynamics of this agency.
Danny Curtin, California Conference of Carpenters

Those few words summed up a sometimes laudatory, sometimes vitrolic 3 hours as friends, past and present colleagues, anti-wireless activists and others praised and attacked retiring California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey at his final meeting yesterday in San Francisco.

It began with 30 speakers congratulating Peevey on the work he’s done in his 12 years presiding over the CPUC. The line up included several former commissioners, including Rachelle Chong and an impassioned Tim Simon who highlighted, among other things, the CPUC’s leadership in broadband development and closing the digital divide. Congratulations were read from former governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed and reappointed Peevey to the job. Many speakers talked at length about Peevey’s early career as a union organiser; fewer words were devoted to his time as a utility executive.

The accolades went on for 2 hours, an appropriate testimonial interlude for some, but aggravating to a large and increasingly testy contingent of the tin foil hat brigade, who were there to oppose new wireless electric smart meter fees which were on the agenda (and later approved). When their turn came, an even dozen stepped up to lambaste Peevey personally (at one point prompting a brief conversation between the speaker and a police officer) and the commission generally as they damned radio communications in all its aspects, and flogged the various other grievances they carried.

After a lunch break, commissioners worked through the agenda. At the end, current commissioners expressed their respect for Peevey’s leadership. The meeting wrapped up with Peevey’s own reflections about his term as president – more on that Monday.

Representatives from regulated public utilities were notably absent, not surprising given the ongoing accusations of back room dealing by Peevey and others. Governor Jerry Brown didn’t send a message either, but he’ll have the last word: he will shortly be appointing Peevey’s replacement.