City voters flipping 'no' switch on Prop. 412 deal with Tucson Electric Power
55% voting against Tucson franchise agreement with utility
Proposition 412, a 25-year deal between the city of Tucson and Tucson Electric Power, didn't spark voters to cast their ballots for "yes." It was being defeated by a 55-45% margin as the first election returns were released Tuesday night.
289,770 ballots in the all-mail election were sent out last month, addressed to each registered voter in the city. Just more than 58,800 had been returned prior to Tuesday. The first batch of election results released just after 8 p.m. Tuesday included 62,847 ballots.
The single issue on the ballot in the spring special election was a renewal of an agreement granting access privileges to TEP inside the city limits.
Voters were asked to determine is the franchise agreement will be extended for another 25 years, including an existing 2.25% fee on monthly electric bills for TEP customers within the city, and a new 0.75% "community resilience fee."
If the results hold up and the proposition is defeated, city officials and representatives of the utility corporation will have to return to the negotiating table to hammer out another potential contract — which would have to be approved by the voters.
The proposition was supported by most of the members of the City Council, who along with backer Mayor Regina Romero are all Democrats. Top business leaders and public sector unions also weighed in behind the deal with TEP. But the local Republican Party and an assortment of progressive activists opposed the measure.
Councilman Steve Kozachik, who represents the neighborhoods along a stretch of North Campbell Avenue that would have had a planned major powerline project undergrounded with funding from the new contract, was the sole member of the Council opposed to the proposition.
"It's clear the community expects more from the utility than just charging us to comply with our ordinances. I will continue to demand TEP adheres to our undergrounding (regulations) on scenic and gateway corridors but they need to dip into shareholder earnings and also commit to real identifiable decarbonization work," Kozachik told the Sentinel on Tuesday night. "25 years is a generation's worth of climate change. It's a new day for electric providers all over the country. I look forward to partnering with TEP and modeling that reality."
"We can do that through an MOU and leave the franchise agreement boilerplate but this is our one opportunity for a quarter-century to get it right," he said. "We can do better than what the voters just correctly just rejected."
Later in the evening, Romero tweeted a statement that she "respect(s) the voters' decision not to approve" the proposition.
The "Yes on 412" campaign, largely funded by TEP, didn't make any public statement on the results Tuesday night.
The Prop. 412 agreement would have only applied inside the Tucson city limits, and only registered voters in the city were able cast ballots in the election. Just more than 21% turned out, according to the first results.
If the deal had been approved by voters, the additional revenue would have been to put some new power lines underground, and pay for some activities under the city's Climate Action Plan.
The new fees were set cost about $1 per month for residential customers, and about $2.65 monthly for small businesses, city and TEP representatives projected.