PG&E struggles to find balance

To the Editor:

Guy McCarthy’s informative article about PG&E’s vegetation clearing program covered the basics. PG&E has a legal mandate for fire safety to better protect its power lines from not only branches, but also from trees intruding too close to its lines. Homeowners who care about their trees — especially green, healthy trees — can be alarmed or upset when they see them marked for removal.

Because I had many trees marked on my property, I contacted PG&E for answers. What I learned may be helpful.

PG&E has hired countless crews and has trained them to make tree selection judgments. But many tree markers are still learning. At my property numerous big, healthy trees were marked for removal, when PG&E managers later determined that all that was needed was trimming their branches.

Surprisingly, trees some distance from power lines can justifiably be removed by PG&E crews if the tree leans toward the lines or if oaks have long limbs leaning towards the lines. I learned that PG&E is willing to “top” many of those oaks where feasible - removing only the limbs that pose risk, while leaving the main trunk to re-sprout. They also will negotiate over other trees.

Many people mistrust PG&E because it is a giant utility company, but company officials made it clear the utility is trying to strike a balance between clearing sufficiently to minimize fire risk, while attempting to be sensitive to property owners.

For those who believe trees marked on their property aren’t within the 12’ strip along the outer edge of the power line or aren’t leaning towards the lines, they can contact the marking crews to negotiate. Communicating is key. Due to the urgency of PG&E’s clearing program pushing forward, if you delay contacting PG&E, it may be too late. Prompt communication may resolve your issue.

John Buckley

Twain Harte

TCEDA transparency

To the Editor:

A citizen responded to a recent Union Democrat article regarding my request for public documents from TCEDA and my very public follow-up lawsuit when TCEDA refused to honor my request. Under the California Public Records Act Request (PRA), citizens can request documents from their local government when they are concern that the agency is not being open and honest about their representation or performance outcomes.

When I submitted my PRA request to TCEDA, all that I wanted was the documents to back up their claims of positive economic development improvements. I paid for the reproduction and mailing costs of the documents. If they would have complied, that would have been it. They finally honored their obligations under the law and I got what I wanted. Case closed. Almost.

When a governmental agency or organization fails to comply with your PRA request, the law allows you to sue for the documents and recover your cost, whether you sue in Superior Court yourself or hire an attorney. If you lose the lawsuit, you can be on the hook for the entire cost, both for your lawyer and for the government’s lawyer(s). In my case, TCEDA hired a law firm with over 200+ lawyers. There is no monetary gain for me if I win. It is a risk, but worth it when you know you are in the right.

TCEDA gambled that I didn’t have the resources to sue big government. They were wrong. I risked much but gained so much more. Because openness and accountability define government transparency. In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with its citizens and is at the heart of how we hold public officials accountable. Such a small price for me to wager for such a large potential outcome — transparency and accountability for us all.

Ken Perkins


Criminal advisors

To the Editor:

Having held a top secret clearance and required to instruct employees on the Federal Records Act, I knew based on public information, that Hillary Clinton had done nothing prosecutable. But still, I figured that someone in her camp would be nabbed for something, perhaps Huma Abedin in relationship to her husband Anthony Wiener. That didn’t happen.

I’m now not surprised that some in the Trump cabal have been netted in Mueller’s investigation, I am surprised at the sheer number of criminals he surrounded himself with.

Manafort’s recent flip is interesting because when foreign advisor Papadopoulos suggested meeting with the Russians it only received tepid support, probably because Manafort had the real connections to Russians. Manafort likely cultivated the contacts for Donald Junior, intentionally leaving Papadopoulos in the dark because the discussions would have been a heads-up that dirt would soon be dished out through the hack of Clinton’s campaign. There was no reason to have a long meeting, it was held only a few floors away and candidate Trump could easily be informed without being involved.

We know that both Don Jr. and Trump lied to the public about the purpose of the meeting. We also know that the Republican campaign platform abruptly changed in favor of the Russians, and that General Flynn secretly met with Russians followed by Putin’s strangely out-of-character passive response to President Obama’s sanctions.

With the president being cornered on possible campaign violations for paying off a porn star I’m interested in how far the alleged corruption goes. Perhaps Manafort can shed some light there.

It sounds to me that a lot of criminal activity was going on. One thing is for sure, five criminals that advised Trump are now convicted felons and I think Mueller’s wicked hunt will snare a few more.

Jerry Snyder