The California Public Utilities Commission is weighing how to increase public participation without requiring members of the public to become formal intervenors. Commissioner Tim Simon called increasing public access \u201ccrucial\u201d--particularly when utility rates and services are at issue. Right now, proceedings are dominated by what he called \u201cfrequent filers,\u201d those who are mostly competing industry insiders. \u201cSometimes the frequent filers can become insulated,\u201d said Simon, \u201cand not see the impact on larger communities.\u201d Simon leveled his criticism at a Sept. 13 CPUC meeting discussing how to improve public participation in the agency\u2019s quasi-judicial decision-making process. He bemoaned, for example, only \u201ctwo people\u201d showing up at a recent public participation hearing in Long Beach on a Southern California Edison rate hike proposal. The San Francisco meeting marked the kickoff of an effort commissioner Mike Florio is spearheading to open the agency\u2019s doors to the public. Florio said the meeting was \u201conly the beginning.\u201d Carol Brown, advisor to CPUC president Mike Peevey, suggested the agency change the way it runs meetings to allow dialog and real communication between the public and commission personnel. \u201cLet them ask questions,\u201d she said. \u201cWe almost never let them ask questions, much less provide answers.\u201d Commissioners and staff discussed a broad array of steps they plan to explore to increase public involvement, including changes to make the agency\u2019s website more user-friendly. Without knowing the docket number for utility rate hike proceedings and other matters pending before the commission, Florio said \u201cit\u2019s pretty tricky\u201d to find information. Commissioners and staff also advocated using community-based organizations to help with public outreach and to facilitate participation in public hearings. They further advocated plain language public notices and bill inserts. Legal notices in newspapers and bill stuffers are now steeped in legalese. The Utility Reform Network executive director Mark Toney called on CPUC commissioners to get out of San Francisco several times a year and hold regular business meetings in different cities around the state. The commission formed working groups to figure out how to implement these and other ideas discussed this week.