The Grumpy Troll

Ramblings of a grumpy troll.

Who benefits from referendums?

In the below, please note that I am a Resident Alien in the USA and do not get to vote. That will change when I become a citizen.

I currently live in Santa Clara. Santa Clara operates its own municipal electricity company. SC also delivers, to all residents, a calendar/agenda each year which includes a summary of finances. So we get to see a huge amount of money flowing in as revenue and a huge amount flowing out again as costs. But the "small" profit in there absolutely dwarfs all the rest of the revenue which the municipality makes. It's more than half of the total revenue and an order of magnitude more than the next largest sources of revenue, Property Tax and Sales Tax. If you go to then you can download the calendar as a PDF yourself - look at July.

The electricity is also cheaper than the privately owned companies sell electricity for.

So, it's: a reliable source of major revenue, providing reliable electricity more cheaply than the local private companies offer it for.

It's perhaps not a coincidence then that Santa Clara is comparatively wealthy, with good schools and decent public works projects.

A politician anywhere else, looking to introduce a new municipal electricity provider, would have to be incredibly stupid to not be looking at the successful examples and trying to copy what works.

Proposition 16: Taxpayers Right to Vote Act

The television commercials started up a while back, talking about how evil it was that politicians might commit to starting municipal power companies without consulting the electorate and campaigning for a referendum to force a referendum on any such measure.

The early commercials made a token attempt to say that it might be okay to have municipal power, but people should have the right to decide; it appeared to be carefully worded to create the impression that the politicians were being underhanded and that municipal power was also bad, while the campaigners could claim the moral high ground of not actually giving an opinion on the topic.

The more recent adverts have dropped the fig-leaf.

So ...

I believe it to be a very sorry state of affairs when major corporations are campaigning for public voting on a topic, because they're so confident that they'll be able to out-spend and out-advertise the municipalities that voter referendums are more favourable to them than cold business logic. The whole point of democracy is the informed voting of the populace. This Proposition 16 shows, by its existence, that the money is very confident that the populace would never be adequately informed in such votes.

It's also of note that one of the worst forms of bureaucracy is to strip people of the authority to make decisions and to push all decisions to faceless committees made up of enough people that bad actors can be anonymous and people can play mind games to sway decisions.

What can be done?

Whining about the way the world is does nothing. Pushing back, helps. I am pushing back with my opinion, pointing to a few basic facts about how municipal power is working out here.

If you've heard how evil municipal power is but haven't heard how well it works in Santa Clara, you might ask why not?

It's unfortunate that each Proposition gets new shell companies set up to fund and promote them, so that the People can't learn who the repeat offenders are in these half-truth misdirection campaigns and learn who to fact-check very carefully.


Phil P
Firedrake, I apologise. I didn't realise CF was running for Senator. She's claiming to be a good thing for jobs???
Phil P
Firedrake: nope; HP was Carly Fiorina, it's Meg Whitman of eBay who is running.

Twice gotten phone-spam from her campaign. She's most eager to let us know just how tough she'll be on immigration. The message felt racist and really ticked off the household voter.
And you have the woman who single-handedly turned HP from a profitable company to an industry joke that had to be bought out before it went bust... planning to do the same to the state you're living in. I guess people really do forget things within a couple of years.

-- random Firedrake