For the past few years, Pacific Gas & Electric has been a vortex of negative headlines. It has been grilled about its \u201csmart\u201d meters\u2019 accuracy and health impacts, executive bonuses, and the questionable safety of its gas lines since the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion. Critics stalk PG&E and its regulatory overseers at the California Public Utilities Commission. They\u2019ve held press conferences, shouted down company executives and regulatory authorities at meetings, and spread derisive messages about the utility all over the Internet. Now, a similar phenomenon is besetting Southern California Edison. For the most part, Edison has been viewed favorably in Southern California, or at least as a benign necessity. Enter Edison\u2019s new PR problem. Boisterous customers who suffered losses in the recent power outage caused by hurricane force winds interrupt a CPUC hearing on the utility\u2019s response, drawing a circle of Los Angeles County sheriffs. Onlookers whip out their cell phones to video the interaction. In Santa Barbara, Tea Partiers rail against digital meters, seeing them as an invasion of privacy and a path to unwanted energy rationing. A Malibu resident goes from public meeting to meeting to denounce the utility before lawmakers and regulators for supposedly covering up its role in a 2007 fire that burned down 14 homes in the swank ocean enclave that\u2019s home to celebrities. A brigade from Chino Hills dawns matching yellow tee-shirts emblazoned with \u201cHopeForTheHills.org\u201d to protest the utility\u2019s looming transmission towers for a new line to deliver wind power. An information technology employee shoots up an Edison office, killing two and wounding two before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. He claimed he didn\u2019t like management. Police swarm the Edison building while a pack of TV crews broadcast the tragedy to a stunned audience. An Edison worker reportedly fell into a radioactive waste tank at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, possibly around the same time that its new steam generating system sprung a leak in one of its tubes last week. The leak caused minor venting of radioactive steam. Speculation surrounding the accident runs wild, particularly in light of years of bad employee morale at the nuke serious enough to prompt federal regulatory intervention. Minority and ethnic business groups contest a massive Edison rate hike, singling out employee benefits. Frustrated, they strike out to tear down those with decent benefits and salaries as if it will solve today\u2019s economic problems. It rings faintly of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker\u2019s anti-union legislation and emanates from a surprising constituency in California. Over the past year, it seems like Edison--along with more and more of the nation\u2019s major institutions--has descended into the Season of the Witch. No matter what Edison does--good or bad--it\u2019s to blame. And so it goes. An increasing number of residents are suspicious of just about any statement or action by major institutions, be they in the corporate, academic, or government world. Some of it may be warranted and it clearly stems from an impatient public that wants to be heard, but lacks any cohesive and viable vision for an alternative way--be it for providing reliable and sustainable energy to homes and businesses or for governing the state or nation. The public\u2019s irrational overtones can drive an institution to hide in an attempt to protect itself and to prevent its own employees from having to endure degradation, just like a celebrity may retreat from a raving stalker. This is not the best course. It\u2019s better to reach out and renew relationships with old friends, critics, and the vast majority of customers who remain rational. It may require bending internal rules of bureaucracy, but it\u2019s likely to payoff in the future, both in terms of good will and even financially by minimizing costly opposition even to the good things you do. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power showed how this can be done in the face of adversity, with its seemingly ever-present spokespeople on news radio shows during the wind storm blackout, providing progress reports on restoration efforts and tips about where residents could go for help in the absence of power. Close communication by LADWP with firefighters and police, transportation officials, and others dealing with the outage and debris strewn streets burnished good relationships that will help in future crises while building organizational credibility. Yes, ignore the stalkers, but don\u2019t forget the vast majority of us. Communicate with us. Enlist us in the work ahead. We\u2019ll respect you for it.