A proposal to give the city-owned utility more autonomy from City Hall has opened the door to its possible future sale and created a dispute among the city's lawmakers.
The City Council will vote Monday on whether to place a measure on the November ballot to make the utility a nonprofit corporation with its own board. Councilman Paul Little said the move is simply designed to allow the Water and Power Department to more easily sign contracts and compete in 2002, when other companies will be permitted to sell electricity in Pasadena.
But opponents of the nonprofit status noted that one small wording change in the council proposal would open the door to the sale of the utility. The language declares that the city "may" run the electric utility, a change from a long-standing charter that says it "shall" do so.
Mayor Chris Holden and Councilwoman Joyce Streator oppose the measure, saying it is a back-door attempt to prepare the electric operation to be sold. They believe such a move would create financial problems for the city government.
Another member of the Council, Ann-Marie Villicana, is leading a citizens campaign that could lead more directly to the sale of the utility. Villicana and allies are gathering signatures in an attempt to put another measure on the November ballot that would require Pasadena to sell the power agency.