TURN’s new executive director, Mark Toney, discusses the challenges that lie ahead as TURN continues its mission of protecting California utility consumers and their environment.
Letter From Our Executive Director-May 2008
When I heard that TURN was looking for a new executive director I immediately expressed interest, and after a lengthy interview process I started work on January 1st, 2008 as TURN’s new executive director. My goals are to expand on the solid base of support and accomplishments I have inherited from former executive director Bob Finkelstein, who has shifted gears into the position of TURN’s legal director, with the assistance of the talented and dedicated TURN staff.
I am thrilled to be returning to utility consumer advocacy. After graduating from Brown University in Rhode Island, I founded Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), where I was the executive director/chief organizer from 1986 to1994, working on such issues as benefits for home daycare providers, parent involvement in bilingual education, and preventing utility shut-offs in the winter for low-income families with a Percentage of Income Payment plan. More recently, I served as executive director of the Center for Third World Organizing and earned my doctorate from UC Berkeley.
TURN’s mission to keep essential services affordable and accessible to every person in California is more crucial than ever. The economy is in a downturn, and thousands of customers are shut off every month. At the same time, environmental concerns, and utility attempts to take advantage of those concerns, are driving bills up. The California Public Utilities Commission has turned a deaf ear to consumer complaints, giving the utility companies virtual carte blanche to raise rates regardless of costs.
With the strength and commitment of our members behind us, TURN will be expanding our efforts to demand legislative action where currently no regulatory accountability stands. Please be sure to read about TURN’s 2008 legislative agenda. Your support will be crucial to our campaigns to protect consumers’ privacy by requiring phone companies to offer unlisted numbers free of charge and to prevent rate discrimination against rural phone customers. We will also attempt to stop the utility companies from contracting with unscrupulous payday lenders and require them to educate customers on how baseline rates can save them money while creating a truly greener California.
TURN will continue as the loudest and strongest voice of consumers in California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, advocating for affordable renewable energy and effective energy efficiency programs. At the same time, our opposition to the free market agenda of big energy and phone companies will remain a cornerstone of our policy efforts, and we will not stop exposing, documenting and protesting the disastrous consequences of both electric and phone deregulation on California’s residents. With your support, we can move our agenda, and our state, forward in protecting not only the planet, but the people as well.