Letter From Our ED—April 2005

There’s strength in numbers. TURN knows the truth of that adage all-too-well.

Normally we think about it in terms of the strength TURN gains from its thousands of members. There is no way to adequately express the value that our members provide to the organization and its staff, or to thank our members sufficiently for your support.

TURN also gains “strength in numbers” in the work that we do through our collaboration with a wide variety of parties. TURN never shies away from a fight when it’s “us against the world.” But we also try to gain advantage where we can by working with like-minded groups or, more rarely, groups that are opponents in other settings but have similar interests for a particular purpose.

The best example of late is probably in the area of the utilities’ conservation and energy efficiency programs. The deregulation disaster is still with us in too many ways, but one positive development has been an increased commitment to conservation programs as a means to avoid shortages in the future. Unfortunately, when the utilities operate such programs they end up spending far more on programs for industrial and commercial customers, with programs targeting residential customers always getting short shrift.

TURN has sought to respond by promoting innovative programs that target residential customers, and by eliminating utility oversight in favor of an independent administrator that would judge programs more on their merits and less based on whether they make the biggest industrial and commercial customers happy. We have found common cause in this effort with a wide variety of consumer representatives, including the City and County of San Francisco, San Diego’s Regional Energy Office, the City of Oakland, and the Commission’s staff. Working together allows consumers to speak with a stronger voice.

In the telecommunications arena, TURN has for years worked both formally and informally with some of the biggest names in the industry—AT&T, MCI, Sprint—as well as a host of smaller companies. This works when the interests of our members and consumers in general align with the interests of these companies, as they often do because these companies are trying to compete with our local monopoly phone service providers—SBC (formerly known as Pacific Bell) and Verizon (formerly GTE-California). Ensuring that the rules for competition are fair and prices charged to competitors reasonable helps foster meaningful competition (which should serve both competitors and consumers) and reduces the risk that the monopolies will be able to raise prices for consumers who don’t have choices. So when we can we even join forces with phone companies to advance the interests of our members.

TURN has the good fortune of having staff advocates who regularly perform above-and-beyond all reasonable expectations on behalf of our members and constituents. But we will never have the level of resources that the utilities bring to bear on these matters. Working with coalitions that have common cause helps us better leverage our resources without ever compromising our pro-consumer agenda. At TURN, we’ll always demonstrate our “strength in numbers” in as many ways as we can.

Sincerely,

Executive Director
Bob Finkelstein