Rohnert Park on Tuesday became the second Sonoma County city to opt out of the first year of Sonoma Clean Power, while Santa Rosa's leaders continued to push back against the June 30 deadline set for the decision.
With the exception of Councilman Jake Mackenzie, Rohnert Park council members either flatly rejected joining the public power agency that intends to replace PG&amp;E as the county's principal power supplier, or said they had too many unanswered questions.
"The government should stay out of this," said Vice Mayor Joe Callinan. "We have no place in the power business. We're having enough trouble paving our streets."
A conflicted Santa Rosa City Council, meanwhile, stressed that the June 30 deadline was not something it could meet because it hadn't finished hiring two separate consultants it needed to help it make up its mind.
"We'll get there when we get there, and hopefully it'll be soon," Mayor Scott Bartley said. "We are trying our best."
The vast majority of the City Council's four-hour special meeting Tuesday involved residents and advocates of Sonoma Clean Power urging the council to show some leadership and join the fledgling public power authority for its inaugural year.
Many of those who packed the council chambers held up bright signs that read "The Power of Choice. We want it. Please vote yes."
Tish Levee, a 73-year-old renter, said she's done everything she can to reduce her greenhouse gas emissions, including not driving a car and turning down her thermostat. But as a renter, she can't install a solar array to lower her electricity emissions further, and she said she would gladly join the authority to accomplish that goal.
"Please give me and all of your constituents the choice to have cleaner energy and reduce global warming by voting for Sonoma Clean Power," Levee said.
Advocates ticked off a litany of benefits they said the authority would bring to participants, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, giving residents an important choice, breaking up PG&amp;E's monopoly on power markets and reinvesting money into the community instead of lining shareholders' pockets.
Others, however, urged the council to be cautious. Resident Maureen Middlebrook applauded council members for taking their time and hiring consultants to help get their questions answered before making a decision.
"You're opting all of us into a program and that's a huge responsibility," Middlebrook said.
Sonoma Clean Power officials have said Santa Rosa, which represents nearly 35 percent of PG&amp;E electric meters in the county, would be an important partner because its residents and businesses would give the authority greater leverage to negotiate lower rates with power suppliers.
Some characterized the city's participation as vital.
"Buy-in from the largest city in the county is critical," said Debbie Meekins, president and chief executive of First Community Bank, which has agreed to lend the authority the startup money it needs.
Council members are well aware that the authority desperately wants Santa Rosa to participate, but the pressure to do so is creating a rift on the council between those who want to act now and those urging a more deliberate course.
Councilwoman Julie Combs expressed concern that the city was hiring not one but two consultants to help its three-member subcommittee answer outstanding questions.
"It really alarms me to hear that we're hiring a legal and a technical consultant," Combs said.
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