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Berryhill sides with high-priced PG&E against farmers, families & business

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POSTED September 1, 2010 2:25 a.m.
Is Bill Berryhill against South County farmers, hardworking small businesses, and struggling families being crushed by oppressive PG&E power rates like his brother Tom Berryhill?

It is a legitimate question for Manteca, Escalon and Ripon voters who overwhelmingly rejected PG&E’s bid to amend the California Constitution in June to make their monopoly on energy costs virtually ironclad and who will go to the polls Nov. 2 to decide whether Bill Berryhill should be trusted to represent the three communities for another two years in the California Assembly.

Tom Berryhill – who does not represent the South County but instead Stanislaus County that has the benefit of much lower Modesto Irrigation District electrical rates – ripped into South San Joaquin Irrigation District in a mailer this past week. Tom Berryhill – easily confused with his brother Bill Berryhill who does represent the area - repeated the PG&E claims that SSJID is being reckless and irresponsible and therefore should be stopped. And exactly what should SSJID be stopped from doing? Berryhill – who claims to be a friend of farmers – wants to stop a conservative, farmer-dominated board from replacing PG&E and reducing power rates at least 15 percent across the board.

It gets more interesting. A first cousin of the Berryhills – Mike Berryhill – is running for Congress. First cousin Mike is a former Turlock Irrigation District board member. The TID took over a large chunk of PG&E territory a few years back to lower power rates. Perhaps Tom Berryhill’s attack on SSJID is a ringing endorsement of his first cousin Mike’s Democratic opponent in the Congressional race?

This has triggered an outrage among South County farmers who happen to be Republican that hasn’t been seen since the days Dean Andal launched a recall of the just elected Assemblyman Mike Machado back in the early 1990s. Machado was a farmer – and a Democrat – who in the eyes of Andal was reneging on a promise not to vote for Willie Brown as speaker of the Assembly. That recall failed at the ballot thanks in large part to money pouring in from traditional Republican sources to back Machado the Democrat. It set the stage for the Democrats to enjoy control of a Republican seat in the Assembly for years.

Judging by some of the angry responses from farmers who also happen to be Republicans – they used terms such as “prostitute” to describe Berryhill – it is safe to say the Republican elite may have just shot themsleves in the foot again.

You have to consider who Berryhill is attacking. They are not just fellow farmers. They are the latest in a long chain of local government leaders at their best.

The SSJID for the past 22 years has not raised taxes. Can either Berryhill claim that the state that they have helped to run has done the same thing?

The SSJID has delivered balanced budgets for, at the least, 22 years on time. Can either Berryhill make that claim in terms of their legislative service?

The SSJID has no debt and has just invested in six years of capital improvements all at once. Perhaps either Berryhill would like to explain how the state isn’t building infrastructure and has actually “borrowed” a chunk of the voter approved bonds to finance the state budget deficit.

It is clear where Berryhill stands - in the pocket of mega-corporations who use state-imposed price supports through the California Public Utilities Commission to deliver his constituents in PG&E territory some of the most expensive power costs in the nation while at the same time assuring PG&E of making a nice tidy profit.

And if they’re friends of farmers, he’s got a funny way of showing it. Agriculture with its heavy use of wells to pump water, dairy operations and almond hullers – is often looking to save quarter of a cent per production unit to stay afloat. If they could enjoy rates more in line with MID and TID that all three Berryhills enjoy it could make a difference from staying in business or another farm folding and sending our food production to Latin America or overseas.

Politicians & PG&E are obviously the perfect combination to keep power rates high.
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