CityWatch, Jan 13, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 4
DWP Workshop Notebook
By David Lowell and Stephen Box
DWP General Manager, H. David Nahai, spent Saturday morning giving a three-hour "Renewable Energy" presentation to a crowd of approximately 70 community leaders representing Neighborhood Councils from throughout the city, most of whom were sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the discussion of Measure B to come up.
Measure B is the City's proposed "Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Act," which has been called "risky" by the City's own analyst and will appear on the March 3rd ballot. Nahai and Assistant GM Aram Benyamin went to great lengths to steer clear of the topic, instead demonstrating incredible message control and sticking to the polished PowerPoint presentation that was well received.
Their efforts to bypass B went askew, however, when Councilman Bill Rosendahl dropped by and jumped into the mix, announcing "I have not made up my mind. I voted to put it on the ballot but I haven't voted to support it because, frankly, I want to understand the details that are to be presented to us as a Council. I might end up supporting it, I might not."
Rosendahl echoed the sentiment of literally everybody by stating "I believe whole-heartedly in Solar. We're in California. It's Sunny. My roof is flat." He continued by endorsing the DWP's union and the opportunity to bring more people into the DWP workforce while at the same time developing the private sector partnerships and supporting solar housing collectives such as proposed in Mar Vista.
Rosendahl polled the room and found that many were opposed to measure B, that many were undecided, that everybody reckoned that they had an open mind and that there were two people in support of Measure B, one of whom was Gary Baratta who explained "Solar Power has to go forward. There is absolutely no reason not to go forward. The DWP is the only party in a position to develop the infrastructure necessary to deliver power." Gary went on to urge Nahai to ignore the City Charter and to stop contributing funds to the City's general funds.
This softball suggestion from Baratta allowed Nahai to respond vigorously that the DWP would by no means violate the City charter and that it was their desire to abide by the rules and obligations and processes.
Nahai called the meeting a success saying "I think it went well. There were many probing questions and the feedback from the audience was that the presentation was very comprehensive. It was a good meeting. As for Measure B, the DWP has no position on Measure B. We are waiting on financial reports from Huron and we will release them as part of our outreach."
Jack Humphreville “thought the presentation was great, very informative and very interesting. The thing is,” he said, “I came to hear about Measure B."
DWP Advocacy Committee Chair Soledad Garcia agreed, "Solar energy is not the issue, we're all for it. The DWP has much to answer for if we are to work together to develop a solar plan for Los Angeles.”
Rusty Millar, Co-Chair at the Silver Lake NC was unconvinced saying "The LADWP asks us to trust them but they never came to the Neighborhood Councils as required by the City charter and they never revealed any information on the cost of Measure B. I want to know how much, how it will be paid and what the fiscal impact on the city will be."
Barbara Moynihan Burke called the entire process "A travesty!. I was there in Van Nuys when they voted on Measure B. It was called as a "special" with 24 hour notice and then it was over. No financials, no information, no opportunity for feedback from the community. I protested to Council President Garcetti based on process and based on content and yet it's still underway."
Jeff Jacobberger and Tony Butka both referred to the meeting as an informative and comprehensive big-picture presentation of the future of LA's Renewable Energy program but both also left with their expectation of a discussion of Measure B unmet.
Observers Everett Littlefield and BONC Commissioner Al Abrams seemed destined for the Diplomatic Corps. They both argued for open minds. Littlefield said "I'm union and I believe in unions but not when we're getting less for more. I have an open mind and I think like an investor, I think like a rate payer, and I think like a homeowner who wants to install solar. I need to know that everything we do is financially sound." Abrams echoed and said "It's our DWP, we're the stakeholders. We owe it to the DWP to wait and see, to keep an open mind and to evaluate the Huron financial report."
In summary: the Department got good marks for their solar presentation but disappointed many when they avoided the hot-button Solar Energy Prop B issue.