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Public Power advocate barnstorms Puget Sound

In February, former member of Congress and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich flew in from Cleveland to kick off Power to the Public, a campaign to bring public power to Thurston County. Kucinich has deep roots in the public power movement, going back to his successful efforts to save Cleveland’s municipal electric utility when he was mayor.

If the Power to the Public initiative appears on the ballot in November 2020, and if it passes, the measure would give Thurston Public Utility District the authority to provide electric service. This could lead to Thurston PUD replacing electric service currently provided by Puget Sound Energy.

Kucinich raced through a packed schedule of meetings with activists, visits to schools and colleges, and public events. He gave eye-opening presentations to students at Olympia High School, SPSCC and St. Martin’s University. He then swept from Olympia to Bellevue and on to Bellingham, speaking to large crowds in each city.

Supporters of the public power initiative expressing some of the enthusiasm generated by Kucinich when he described the benefits of the community owning its electric utility system. Photo by Mike Pelly

In Olympia, Kucinich gave a rousing talk to over 100 attendees, describing his history and the cause of public power. Audience members peppered him with questions from “how do you finance a take-over of PSE?” to “what do you think of the Green New Deal?”

In Bellevue, he spoke to those seeking to create a new PUD in East King County. Many are climate activists who see the PUD as a way to end PSE’s addiction to coal and natural gas, using local control to promote conservation and renewable energy. If created, East King County PUD would have one of the largest customer bases in Washington State.

In Bellingham, Kucinich pitched public power and local control to an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred people. Whatcom PUD provides electric service, but the beneficiary is a single customer—an oil refinery. Bellingham is considering a plan to phase out natural gas, and many residents would like to gain local control over their energy future by having Whatcom PUD take over PSE. With one progressive PUD Commissioner already in office, the initiative hinges on electing a second progressive Commissioner (on a board of three), this fall.

After an intense week in Washington state, Kucinich returned home, but he left behind activists inspired to ramp up the effort for public power. You can support Power to the Public by collecting signatures and making a donation. Learn more at Power to the Public.

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