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Angeles County | Community News File / Pasadena

Voters to Decide Future Sale of City Utility

July 22, 1998

Voters will decide at the ballot box in November whether the city should have the option of selling the municipal-owned electric utility.

The City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to place the measure on the ballot. If voters approve the measure Nov. 3, it will change the language of the City Charter that only allows city ownership of the utility.

Council proponents of the measure said it does not mean they want to sell the utility, but want to keep open that possibility. Opponents, backed by city employee unions, said the transfer would diminish the security and confidence of utility workers.

"We need flexibility and options in 2002 when Pasadena's utility market deregulates and the city loses its monopoly on providing power," said Councilman Paul Little.

City officials say there would be few--if any--buyers for a utility burdened with a $130-million debt. Any sale, officials said, would not occur until the debt is paid off in 2002.

Last year, the council raised city electrical rates 11% to 15% and agreed to reduce a transfer from the utility to the general city treasury from $8 million to $5 million annually to pay off the utility's debt.

Little and other proponents stressed that any sale would still require another vote of the electorate.

But a citizens group led by Councilwoman Ann-Marie Villicana would like to go a step further. The group is continuing to collect signatures to place additional initiatives on the November ballot: to repeal the electric rate hike, end the transfer to City Hall until the debt is paid, and require a 5% cut in city expenditures.

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