The Salt River Project (SRP) Utility Board and Council Elections on April 2, 2024, have come and gone, propelling us once more into the intricate dynamics that govern our utilities. Pivotal changes were anticipated, some seats exchanged hands, yet a glaring issue persisted: 49% of SRP’s ratepayers remain disenfranchised, stripped of their right to vote (highlighting the disenfranchised ratepayers).  

This predicament speaks volumes about the crux of democracy within utility governance. SRP, serving a significant 240,000-acre area in the Valley, holds a monumental role—you might say, the second most impactful office affecting Arizonans’ daily lives. Its decisions directly influence utility rates, energy source policies, and the approval of bonds for capital improvements. Yet, nearly half of its constituents have no voice in these critical decisions. 

Key Issues at Hand: 

Inequitable Voting Rights:

The SRP board votes are based on an acreage system established in 1937, rendering renters and numerous residents in key communities—such as Queen Creek and Ahwatukee—powerless in the election process. 

A Daunting Challenge for Change Advocates:

Lauren Kuby’s uphill fight for a spot on the SRP board showcases challenges for candidates advocating renewable energy and sustainability. Despite an increase in engaged voters, the system’s inherent bias overwhelmingly favors incumbents holding vast acres. 

Minimal Voter Turnout:

This year’s elections once again highlighted the minimal engagement, with a mere 1–2% voter turnout. This alarming figure is not surprising given the convoluted voting procedure which requires online ballot requests, qualification by acreage, and navigating through less intuitive forms. 

A Cry for Clean Energy Ignored

Results indicate a shift to ‘clean energy’ candidates, highlighting a key concern – SRP stakeholders advocate for a faster transition to renewable energy, a plea seemingly disregarded by the utility’s management.

The recent election interference by SRP’s CEO, Jim Pratt, further complicates the landscape. Trying to influence the election through internal communication not only undermines democracy but also highlights SRP’s governance lacking accountability.

Why Voting Rights Matter: 

Giving all ratepayers voting rights isn’t just procedural; it’s about making utility governance truly representative of constituents’ needs and wishes. Making decisions that reflect the collective will of the people SRP serves requires being informed. Without this democratic right, the utility board functions in an echo chamber, out of touch with how their policies affect everyday Arizonans. 

The Way Forward: 

4 ‘clean energy’ candidates beat incumbents in preliminary SRP election results. To foster meaningful change, it’s imperative that we stand together to support initiatives aiming to reform SRP’s outdated voting system. Advocating for the one person, one vote principle ensures equal representation for all ratepayers, regardless of property ownership or acreage. Equally important is the push for transparent and accessible elections, ensuring clarity for all SRP constituents to engage.

What Can You Do? 

Change starts with awareness and thrives through collective action. I encourage all citizens and SRP ratepayers to back fair voting rights and swift transition to clean, sustainable energy sources by SRP. SRP’s governance should reflect democratic values by empowering every ratepayer to shape utility service futures.

In a time focused on environmental stewardship, reform within SRP’s governance structure is crucial. Together, we can pave the way for a utility that excels in production, democracy, and accountability.

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