PR pressure puts down two ballots on public utilities

SAN FRANCISCO: A coalition to defeat two controversial public

utility propositions was successful last week, even when an

anthrax-related controversy delayed the voting results by almost a

week.



Singer Associates - together with agencies BMWL & Partners, Jim Ross

Consulting, and Storefront Political Media - developed the strategy to

thwart two propositions placed before voters on November 6.



Proposition I would create a municipal utility district so that

utilities like electricity, gas, cable, and phone would be run as city

services rather than by private industry. Proposition F would have

replaced the Public Utility Commission with a San Francisco Water and

Power Authority.



The Chamber of Commerce, The Committee on Jobs, Communications Workers

of America, and other union groups opposed the measures.



The coalition conducted an e-mail and television campaign to oppose

them, highlighting union fears of job losses. The campaign was called

"No to the $3 Billion Bill," alluding to the amount of money the

propositions would allegedly cost taxpayers.



PG&E, the utility made notorious in the film Erin Brockovich, also

opposed the bills. But although PG&E was vocal in its opposition, the

coalition did not join with the company. "Because of its Chapter 11

filings, PG&E has no credibility with voters in San Francisco,"

explained Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates.



In fact, PG&E had, what Singer called, "perhaps the worst campaign

catastrophe I have ever seen," when it announced the day before the

election that it had tripled its profits to $771 million.

Proponents of the propositions handed out copies of the news stories

about PG&E's wins to San Franciscans on election day.



The vote was complicated when officials decided to open absentee ballots

away from the main counting location out of anthrax fears. Poor

communications by the election officials led to accusations of fraud.

The count was finalized last Sunday, but the local media is still

questioning whether the results will be certified.



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