To a certain extent, the outcome of the vote on Proposition 1 will represent voters’ confidence in the three commissioners of the Thurston Public Utility District.
If the proposition passes, these three individuals will have the authority to put Thurston taxpayers under unprecedented debt, perhaps as much as 10 times what the county owes for the vacant Accountability and Restitution Center.
They will also be charged with the responsibility of managing a complex electric utility, with no oversight. Under state law, the Utilities and Transportation Commission regulates private utilities. There is no similar agency overseeing public utility districts.
Proposition 1 supporters say that voters provide that oversight. If commissioners aren’t doing their job, voters can toss them out of office when their six-year term ends.
Of course, voters can change commissioners, but no future vote can reverse a commitment to hundreds of millions of public debt.
Most voters probably don’t know the names of the PUD commissioners, much less have any idea about their competency.
Those who have attended a Thurston PUD meeting, however, can attest that it is a largely chaotic experience. Commissioners do not appear to follow any formal rules of order.
Thurston voters would feel more confident in public officials who exhibit decorum and professionalism, and who were proposing to take a cautious approach to managing taxpayers’ money and electrical assets.