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Friday, September 2, 2011

Ed Lee's Praise of PG&E Draws Fire

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 1:35 PM

click to enlarge You take the good, you take the bad... - SMI23LE
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  • You take the good, you take the bad...

Mayor Ed Lee's kind words for PG&E -- a company whose name conjures up horrific images of fire -- are drawing some fire of their own.

Fellow mayoral candidates Dennis Herrera and John Avalos this morning issued press releases blasting Lee's "lavish praise" for PG&E. As quoted in this Examiner article, Lee presided over a heartwarming, press-friendly event featuring kiddies, baseball, and the company that blew up the adjacent town.

PG&E donated $250,000 to a program promoting baseball and literacy among San Francisco tots, which elicited this Lee quote: "Isn't that a wonderful contribution from a great local corporation? ... They're a great company that gets it."

That this donation came two days after the National Transportation Safety Board chastised PG&E for its carelessness and one day after a gas leak led to a Cupertino house going up like an old Christmas tree was coincidental, according to the company. 

In any event, Herrera let it be known that he has no interest in praising PG&E. He'd rather bury them, noting he's filed a "notice of intent" to sue government regulators for inadequately overseeing PG&E pipelines.

Herrera, in the midst of an endorsement meeting -- not with a newspaper that's spent nearly half a century targeting PG&E, by the way -- was not available for an interview. Nor was Avalos. Lee's camp, however, claimed the criticism of the mayor was mere grandstanding -- at the expense of fire victims and disadvantaged, illiterate kids, no less.

"Mayor Lee's comments praised PG&E's support of a literacy program -- period," said Lee spokesman Tony Winnicker. "Holding PG&E accountable for the loss and suffering they caused doesn't mean not recognizing them when they do something good."

Winnicker then passed SF Weekly's contact info to Jim Messemer, the founder and CEO of RBI, the nonprofit that benefited from PG&E's largess. Messemer noted he was "very thankful" the mayor and others have backed his charitable efforts, to which PG&E has helped to provide "desperately needed" resources. "Our primary initiative is around literacy. ... The fact this has become political, it really breaks my heart."

Baring an unforeseen gas leak and its fiery aftermath, we'll update this article when Herrera and Avalos call back.

Update, 2:05 p.m.: Herrera rejected Winnicker's suggestion that he "owed an apology" to the victims of the San Bruno fire for supposedly exploiting them as part of a political ploy. Rather, said the city attorney, the mayor should choose his words more carefully.

"You can sit there and thank a company or individual without calling them 'a great company' that 'gets it,'" Herrera says. "Clearly, if you look at their relationship with the community and ability to keep the community safe, they're not getting it done in that area. Sure, everyone appreciates the contribution to help literacy. But I don't think that's a very good choice of words." 

Update, 4:15 p.m. Supervisor John Avalos questions why Lee would "help PG&E do its PR work and make themselves look like a peachy outfit."

A $250,000 donation to needy kids "doesn't make a multibillion-dollar corporation a 'great corporation.' You don't have to say PG&E is a 'great corporation.'"

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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