Hello my legions of followers (ha!) I know you are not used to me waxing political, but, for the next couple of weeks, I am doing a political series. Why? Because I think voting is important, I want to provide some insight for my fellow voters in AZ. I have decided that as I go through my ballot, I will post blog entries on my decisions on who to vote for. Take it or leave it. I am a registered Democrat, and an elected Precinct Committeeman in Legislative District 20, so keep that in mind. I do have a bias, but ultimately, I want to elect officials who will do the job, and do it well. These are my candid opinions, do with them what you will. This blog post is my summary of the Arizona Corporation Commission.
What Is The Corporation Commission?
Article 15 of the Arizona Constitution establishes the Arizona Corporation Commission. Only 7 states have constitutionally formed Commissions. Arizona is one of only 13 states with elected Commissioners. In the 37 other states, Commissioners are appointed by either the governor or the legislature.
In most states, the Commission is known as the Public Service Commission or the Public Utility Commission. Our Commission, however, has responsibilities that go beyond traditional public utilities regulation. These additional roles include facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety.
By virtue of the Arizona Constitution, the Commissioners function in an Executive capacity, they adopt rules and regulations thereby functioning in a Legislative capacity, and they also act in a Judicial capacity sitting as a tribunal and making decisions in contested matters.
What are it's term limits?
Officials elected to the Corporation Commission serve a four year term, as determined by the Arizona State Constitution, Article 15, Section 1. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/const/15/1.htm
How many people make up the Corporation Commission?
There are five members of the Corporation Commission.
What are the qualifications for this office?
There are none.
How does partisanship play out for the commission?
It would seem that because of the ability to regulate industry, politicians that favor business may be swayed to work in favor of the companies at the expense of the consumer. Inevitably we have to pay the rates, so this is an important office. It means your bills can go up or down depending on who you vote for, and the type of energy available to you (renewable, etc.) will be determined by your vote here.
Why do I care about this office?
I care about the environment. I also do not want my bills to go through the roof, and I believe that when I have a choice of utility providers, meaning COMPETITION in the market, this will provide better rates. I feel that consumers of energy have a responsibility to help pay for it's cost, including chipping in a bit for Research and Development. The Corporation Commission is one legislative body that can do more than many others to get the ball moving on renewable energy. It is my opinion that we need a little risk taking to make that happen, and someone who will stand up to corporations. I think that it is important to be well versed in business and industry to sit on this commission, I feel that energy does not have to have such a high environmental cost.
Terms to note:
RES - Renewable Energy Standard, which in short mandates that 15% of Arizona's energy be generated from renewable sources by the year 2025. You can read more about this here: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2006/03/arizona-passes-15-percent-renewable-energy-standard-44229
A good FAQ with a little more information on the Commission can be found here: http://www.arizonaic.org/news/prezmessage/presmessarchive/32-pm030308
Also, if you have time, give a listen to KJZZ's coverage:
http://kjzz.org/news/arizona/archives/201007/hn_corpreps - Republicans
Meet the Candidates
My method for assessing the candidates and gathering information is as follows (in this order):
- I watched the Clean Elections Debates: http://www.azpbs.org/vote2010/
- I read the candidate statements: http://azcleanelections.gov/2009-2010-docs/General_Candidate_Statement_Pamphlet.sflb.ashx
- I looked at the candidate endorsements to see who
- I did a google search to get a sense of what people on either side of the aisle were saying about the candidates.
Below is my take on each candidate, and finally, how I am voting for this position.
Brenda Burns (R) http://www.brendaburns2010.com/
Endorsements: AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, NRA, John McCain, The rest you can find here: http://www.brendaburns2010.com/BrendaBurnsEndorsements.html
Clean Elections Debate Summary
Brenda is a former state legislator who states her accomplishments as regulatory reform, former house Majority Leader and former Senate President. Brenda feels it is important to ensure that the industry has a reasonable rate of return, and the commission should look out for the employees of the companies. She would like to work with the legislature on overlapping issues to provide stability to the industry. Brenda would like to explore deregulation to have free market principles, but wants to be cautious to avoid harming the rate payers or companies. She agrees with RES and feels it is important to keep the energy diversified. Brenda thinks nuclear should be pursued and would listen to the company's recommendations on nuclear. She feels that nuclear can be considered renewable. Most important issue facing the commission: Planning for the future to provide energy needs at lowest possible rates
My opinion: Brenda consistently discusses her concern for the energy companies and mentions deferring to them on several issues, I am a little uncomfortable with that. Her endorsements include several business advocacy organizations and industry players. While I think that the Corporation Commission should work with energy companies to provide Arizonans the best rates and service, they should be independent thinkers. I respect the fact that she disagreed with Barry Wong (who THANKFULLY did not make it through the Republican primary) using the utility companies as a form of immigration law enforcement. In the articles that I read online. Burns is respectful in her disagreements and does not make inflammatory statements or derogatory commentary in a hard partisan manner. She stands on the merits of her own accomplishments and leaves it to the voters to decide what party they would like to represent them. I thought this article was a good summary of where she stands: http://sedonatimes.com/brenda-burns-%E2%80%93-arizona-corporation-commission-republican/
David Bradley (D) http://www.bradleyforarizona.com/
Endorsements: Sierra Club, AFL-CI to name a few, the rest you can find on the main page of the candidates website
Clean Elections Debate Summary
David Bradley's focus is on developing clean energy standards and planning ahead for growth. He wants to push new industry standards to facilitate green industry growth. David feels that the Commission should not defer to the legislature and thinks it should set the tone, and then work with the legislature. He Agrees with RES, and does not think that nuclear energy is a good investment, it is too unstable. He states that the projects using it have gone over budget and that rate and tax payers would bear the burden. He feels the most important issue facing the commission is planning for the future and jobs.
I really like that Bradley consistently articulates his desire to use the Commission to champion exploration into new forms of energy, instead of relying on finite resources. In some instances he is a little overzealous in his desire to cut out the legislature, it is unrealistic to think that the Corporation Commission can make any strides toward change without having them onboard. Bradley speaks knowledgably about the issues facing Arizona including planning for future growth and the importance of ensuring that considerations are made when communities are built, not just afterward. A good article to read: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/arizona/politics/unplugged/article_2367b988-9ed1-11df-b218-001cc4c03286.html
Gary Pierce (R) http://garypierceforarizona.com/
Endorsements: AZ Chamber of Commerce, AZ Right to Life, Arizona Realtors Association to name a few, endorsements are not listed on his site. Google it.
Clean Elections Debate Summary
Pierce is the only incumbent on the ticket. He is a former small business owner and former AZ House Representative. He feels that the role of the Commission is to push agenda items and do rate making. Pierce thinks that the Commission should work with legislature on overlapping issues, and help them implement policies. He stated that utilities have a fixed cost no matter if they are deregulated. Pierce agrees that RES is a good idea. He believes renewable energy, starting out, needs a tariff to offset the cost of infrastructure, research and development as long as the cost does not increase out a reasonable range. Pierce states that line extension should be a compromise between the company and the consumer, local generation of power would benefit both parties. He feels that the most important issue facing the commission is keeping rates low to encourage economic development.
My Opinion: I think that Gary Pierce is well versed in the legalese of the Corporation Commission and has a firm grasp on the important issues that should be addressed. Gary Pierce is the only candidate on the ticket who resorted to party bashing in his statement, he uses the term "Obama-ites" to refer to his opposition, and in articles I found online, threatened to cut off power to Los Angeles (who gets 25% of their power from Arizona) when they boycotted the state over SB1070 (http://www.fireandreamitchell.com/2010/05/19/gary-pierce-commissioner-of-arizona-corporation-commission-threatens-to-cut-off-electricity-flow-to-los-angels-as-payback-for-state-boycott-l-a-mayor-antonio-villaraigosa-responds/). I have no issue with people disagreeing, however, politicians should be respectful and recall that they represent a diverse constituency and should not alienate the people who they are supposed to represent. I don't think that the Corporation Commission should be used for political grandstanding, stick to it's charter, deliver energy at a reasonable cost.
Jorge L. Garcia (D) - Deceased 10/15/2010
My prayers go out to his family. Out of respect, I will refrain from providing my analysis of this candidate.
Rick Fowlkes (L) http://rfowlkes.com/positions.html
Endorsements: I could not find any except for 2008 (when Fowlkes ran as a Republican)
Clean Elections Debate Summary
Fowlkes has an MBA from ASU and is a Structural Engineer by profession. He states that he has industry experience in the areas the commission regulates and wants to bring competition to the electric power provider slate. Fowlkes feels that it is most important look out for the rate payers and thinks that industry should not have monopoly status. One of his primary goals, if elected, would be to end the monopoly system for electric power industry in this state. He states that the legislature should work with the Commission, and reminds voters that the Legislature has already acted to end the monopoly system, but the commission has not followed through. Fowlkes feels that industry is rewarded for being inefficient. He thinks that competition will hold down rates better than the Corporation Commission can. He has done over 30 projects with solar, disagrees with RES because of tariffs, and thinks nuclear energy is more economic and should be considered, as well as hydro electric. Fowlkes considers nuclear to be a legitimate alternative to fossil fuels, and nuclear should be considered in the 15% for RES. Fowkles thinks that offline power generation should be considered in rural Arizona. He feels that the most important issue facing the commission is to end the monopoly system and bring about competition.
I am an engineer by profession, and thus, have a great deal of respect for Mr. Folkwes because he is not a career politician. He has really studied this material, and is passionate about making important changes. I do not like that he such a champion for nuclear energy. While I understand that over time, the cost of nuclear (in dollars) levels and becomes cheaper, the cost in the grand scheme is not worth it to me.
The other two
You'll notice on your ballot that there are two other candidates from the Green party: Theodore Gomez and Benjamin Pearcy. For those of you who follow Arizona politics, you will chuckle, because you will remember the controversy. The story goes that they were recruited by "Republican Party operatives" to "steal votes from the Democrats. " I have no opinion on the matter, however, Neither has a web site, and it is difficult to find ANY information on them. Their statements in the clean elections guide are summarized as such:
Pearcy: "I am a musician, not a politician"
Gomez: "We are homeless and live on Mill Ave"
That's all I have to say about that.
During the debates, none of the candidates discussed new technologies for enabling consumers to monitor their energy use or incentives for builders to include infrastructure that will allow them to do so. I think that the Corporation Commission should try harder to engage the rate payers around taking accountability for energy use and educating them on effective ways of saving energy. Now, the good part, who am I voting for?
David Bradley and Rick Fowlkes.
Why? I respect Brenda Burns and any of my Republican friends who choose to vote for her have my stamp of approval, however, I am cautious about her constant mention of deference to the industry. I would never vote for Gary Pierce. While I do believe he is good at what he does, I think that the reason why so much does NOT get done in this country is because of the divisive practices in the two-party system. How can you sit down to work at a table of people who you publicly disrespect and alienate. I do not have a problem with anyone expressing their belief system, but in any other job interviewing process, would it be your strategy to bad mouth all of the other candidates in order to make yourself look good? No. You would do your best to represent who you are and what you stand for, and keep anyone else out of it. I am very tired of people who have no respect for their leadership and practice fear mongering and division. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I hope it helps you!