If voters approve the initiative next week, they will give the Thurston Public Utility District, a water utility, the authority to pursue public electrical power.
The Alliance to Protect Thurston Power, which has blanketed the county with a direct-mail campaign urging a “no” vote on the issue, has raised nearly $540,000 in cash and in-kind contributions and spent $525,000, much of it on mailers and postage, PDC data show.
It was not immediately clear whether the fundraising total was a Thurston County record.
Puget Sound Energy has provided the bulk of those funds, including $325,000 in cash and $178,000 in in-kind contributions, such as consulting and other services. Private utilities such as Avista Corp. in Spokane, Portland General Electric and TransAlta of Olympia also have made cash contributions, totaling $15,000.
The Thurston Public Power Initiative, the grassroots effort that collected enough signatures to get Proposition 1 on the November ballot, has raised about $37,000, consisting of about $19,000 in cash, $9,000 in in-kind contributions and a $5,000 loan, the data show.
Contributors include Occupy Olympia, interim Thurston PUD commissioner Jim Lazar, the Olympia Food Co-op and Thurston PUD commissioner Chris Stearns.
The Alliance to Protect Thurston Power has used its funding war chest to produce several direct-mail pieces.
One asks voters whether they would rather have the power of PSE, reflected as a tower of stadium lights, or the Thurston County PUD, its potential power offering reflected as a single birthday candle. Another encourages voters to vote “no” on Proposition 1, stating, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Another, sent in the form of a bank check, asks voters, “Don’t sign Prop 1’s blank check!”
The Thurston Public Utility District also has released a mailer, giving voters a detailed look at how a PUD works and operates.
The group behind the public-power initiative has argued that it represents local, public control of a utility that could offer power at a cheaper rate.
Puget Sound Energy has countered with a study showing the potential costs the PUD might face to offer public power. The PUD has countered with its own study, offering three proposals for providing power to certain parts of the county but not countywide. Each side has disputed the results of the other side’s study.
Voters, meanwhile, also will elect a new District No. 1 PUD commissioner Tuesday, either Linda Oosterman, 69, or Steve Fossum, 48.
Both said Thursday that they were feeling confident going into next week’s election.
Oosterman was undecided on public power for some time, finally taking a stand against it at a Yelm City Council meeting and at a meeting of The Olympian’s editorial board.
Oosterman said she wouldn’t take a position until she had all the facts, and some of her concerns, such as how a public power conversion might affect taxpayers, were never answered to her satisfaction.
“I can’t support something where I don’t know what the financial bottom line is going to be,” she said.
Fossum, a public-power supporter, said he thinks voters will respond to his consistent and positive messages about public power and other options to serve the community. Each candidate has raised about $10,000. Oosterman has received contributions from several local officials, while Fossum has received support from several labor groups.
The PUD commission vacancy was created by Paul Pickett, who resigned this year. His seat was filled by interim commissioner Jim Lazar.