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Publicly-owned electrical utilities are common in Washington.  It's my
impression that they are generally managed to break even over the long
haul and are constrained from 'feathering' the obvious nests by municipal
budgeting processes that are pretty public.
 
Public Utility Districts supply power in many parts of the state to wide
territories and sometimes have surplus capacity.  The Chelan PUD, with
the support of the public in its service area, has been particularly
noteworthy for using the profits made from selling power to Seattle and
to for-profit utilities ("investor owned" -- you've seen the ads).  They
have built an extensive network of parks along the Columbia and Wenatchee
Rivers, and run a good museum at Rocky Reach Dam.  If you're planning a
vacation, you might think about taking advantage of those subsidized
resources.
 
It intrigues me that the people of Chelan County are happy to use "their
money" for parks and other amenities in this form (as they are and more
typically +used to be+ to use "federal money" for innovations of various
sorts) while being among the most vigilant in the state in the way of
holding local taxes down.  The facilities that the PUD has subsidized are
well designed, extensive, and heavily used.  They are located in prime
locations throughout the county which only a few years ago were
inaccessible wastelands.  Chelan residents are visibly proud of these
facilities, and use them often.  If you put a proposition on the ballot
to lower electrical rates by a few cents and raise property taxes by the
offsetting amount, it would fail fail fail!
 
Putnam Barber
Seattle