More Desperate Attacks from our Fossil Fuel Funded PUD Opponent

October 13th, 2018

OLYMPIA, WA—In July of this year, candidate Andrew Saturn was physically assaulted by campaign staff for opponent Linda Oosterman due to a smear campaign lead by her and her campaign team. Yesterday, our opponent had a private citizen file a frivolous and false PDC complaint against our campaign, full of fuzzy math and incorrect assumptions. Our official response is pending. The very same day, our opponent also abused her authority as a currently-elected Thurston PUD commissioner and used the office of Thurston PUD General Manager John Weidenfeller, and other Thurston PUD resources, to publish a misleading attack against our campaign. This in itself is a violation of RCW 42.17A.555, which prohibits elected officials from using their government offices or resources for an election campaign.

In the statement, it is claimed that our campaign made “false statements” about the following items:

PUD Commissioner pay: Per the State Office of Financial Management and the PUD’s own financial records, PUD Commissioners take home nearly $29,000 per year. Commissioner pay is set by the state legislature, and increased for cost of living by the Office of Financial Management. Per the PUD’s own meeting minutes available on their website, meetings last about 2 hours. This comes out to about 4 hours per month for official meetings, or 48 hours per year. While this doesn’t include unofficial or extra meetings and duties, this is the required public meeting time. By comparison, a typical full-time employee works about 2,087 hours per year. The PUD only pays seasonal workers $2.70 over the $11.50 state minimum wage ($14.20 per hour, or roughly $29,000 per year). When our campaign said that the PUD pays workers “near minimum wage,” and that PUD commissioners take home more in a few months than workers, this is what we were talking about. Strangely, the PUD statement also claims this campaign is mistaken about commissioners being able to turn down some or part of their salary. The option to turn down some or all of your salary, as an elected official, is very clearly an option as defined in state law. This campaign’s demand is that no worker be paid under $27 per hour. Claiming an “average” salary and including benefits in calculations is a very misleading and anti-worker tactic.

Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act: The statement also claimed that our campaign was lying when we said that meeting minutes, schedules, etc were not available on the PUD website. This is clearly visible if you visit the saved copy of the PUD website over the past few months, which shows that the page was left blank beginning early this year. The PUD General Manager was made aware of this issue in a meeting earlier this year, and at the time also denied reality. The PUD has since replaced the page with an entirely different page and claimed that page existed the entire time. Interestingly, Commissioner Chris Stearns claimed, at a Thurston County Democrats meeting, that even if the website was left blank, that’s fine because [PUD Commissioners] “publish meeting announcements in the paper of record.” We contacted The Olympian, and they could not locate any ads or announcements placed by the Thurston County PUD in the past year. This campaign aims to provide expanded transparency by not only ensuring the website is up-to-date, but upgraded and modernized. Further, this campaign aims to implement additional public meetings, or “commissioner chats,” beyond the bare minimum required by state law.

Assistance for Low Income Customers: The statement claims that the PUD offers discounts for low income and senior customers. This is simply not true. The PUD website links to a 3rd party program, “Project HELP,” which offers only $50 per year, which is not nearly enough to help people pay their bills. The PUD’s website does not currently list any other discount programs. This campaign aims to implement and promote a clearly-promoted and direct discounted rate program for seniors and low-income customers.

Conservation: The statement claims that this campaign was misleading when it said the PUD needs to do more for conservation. While it is true that the Thurston PUD does provide vouchers for modernized plumbing and fixtures, they have only given out four for the entire county, and do not currently advertise or promote this program. This is simply not acceptable when the Thurston PUD alone has nearly 9,000 customers, and there’s nothing stopping the PUD from offering rebates and vouchers to non-customers in our county. With over 100,000 people projected to be moving to Thurston County over the next 10-20 years, we need to start treating conservation as a priority. This campaign aims to implement a marketing campaign advertising the benefits of conservation and upgrades, similar to those done by private utility counterparts.

Clean Water: The statement claims that our campaign was incorrect, and that the PUD tests for lead and copper every three years. While it is true that the PUD tests water for lead and copper, our campaign statement was that this is not enough. Our ground water is all connected. The PUD’s water sources aren’t completely isolated from everyone else’s. When our entire county is seeing degraded water quality, toxic algae blooms, and other issues due to things like septic leaks, historical contamination, stormwater runoff, and development, the PUD should be working with the state and county and other agencies to ensure our water quality is as high as it can be.

This is yet another desperate move by our opponent, who is primarily funded by fossil fuel monopolies, lobbyists, and investment banks. Many of these companies are invested in fracking, which poisons our water and our environment. This further displays that our opponent is completely out of touch with the struggles of regular working families.

Our campaign aims to provide 100% accurate information about our currently-elected PUD officials and our Public Utility District, and we are the only campaign to sign the Pro-Truth Pledge. Our campaign is also 100% funded by regular working people and small contributions. We have rejected all PAC and corporate money in this election.

We’re also proud to have the sole endorsements of the Thurston County Democrats, 22nd Legislative District Democrats, Washington State Green Party, South Puget Sound Green Party, Puget Sound Socialist Party, Washington Farmer-Labor Party, Indivisible, The Political Revolution, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), as well as over two dozen current and former elected officials, environmentalists, and other subject matter experts.

The Thurston County Public Utility District is a public utility owned by residents of Thurston County. It is responsible for operating 303 water systems in Thurston County, and often acts as a satellite management agency, helping about 10 other public and private water system owners in diagnosing and resolving issues and improving their own systems. With over 8,400 direct customers, and over 600 via outside systems, the PUD serves over 9,000 customers county-wide.

Andrew Saturn is a union tech worker, designer, engineer, and lifelong progressive activist running as a first-time candidate in a non-partisan county-wide race for Public Utility District Commissioner. Saturn believes regular working people deserve a seat at the table, not for-profit corporate monopolies and their lobbyists. General Election ballots go out between October 19th and November 6th, 2018. In-person voter registration deadline for the 2018 General Election is October 29th, 2018.

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