Friday, February 20, 2009

CityWatchLA - Rich on Rhetoric … Light on Answers

CityWatch, Feb 20, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 15

Councilman Bill Rosendahl's highly anticipated Town Hall on Solar Energy Measure B drew a vocal audience of almost 300 people for a spirited debate that was rich on rhetoric but light on answers.

Ron Kaye minced no words as he opened his comments by declaring "If there was a three strikes law on failure on Solar Energy, the LADWP wouldn't be eligible." The room erupted in applause and the evening of dueling choirs was on as Brian D'Arcy, author of the measure, and David Freeman, former GM of the DWP, both dropped their opening position of "good jobs and clean air" and went after the panelists.

At one point Freeman responded to the criticism of Nick Patsaouras by charging "You were there (DWP Commission) for 4 years and you haven't got didely-squat to show for it."

D'Arcy and Freeman, who had a large number of supporters in the audience, were joined on the "pro" side by James Provenzano of Clean Air Now, whose contribution to the debate was limited to pointing out that solar energy was good for public health and that it was good for people.

Kaye and Patsauoras were joined on the "con" side by DeDe Audet of Venice Beach who threw two body punches that must have hurt. In her opening comments she pointed out that the must touted tax credits and depreciation that were a part of the plan no longer existed, quoting an August '08 letter from the IRS. There was no response.

Rosendahl had called for a show of hands, asking the audience who was in favor, who was opposed and who was undecided with an open mind. All three options drew thundering applause and when the evening was opened up for questions, it became apparent that most of those in attendance were there to offer opinions and only a few had questions.

In keeping with the unique and passionate nature of Venice, three of the speakers who spoke were from "Free Venice" and simply couldn't pass on the opportunity to protest the parking restrictions.

As the evening ground on, science became mixed with politics which became mixed with statistics, all of which led to a debate over the consulting reports that support the two sides.

As Rosendahl held up the PA Consulting report in one hand and the Huron report in the other hand, DWP GM H. David Nahai stepped up to clarify the difference between the two reports, referring the Huron report (favorable to Measure B) as a significant report based on extensive work and the PA Consulting report (critical of the DWP and Measure B) as a simple report assembled over a weekend.

Kaye jumped to his feet and shouted "You keep lying!" to which Nahai replied "You're the one who is lying." All of which could have simply dissolved into a battle of the reports, but DeDe Audet, who had stayed out of the fray all evening interrupted and threw her second punch of the evening. "Bill, I'm sorry, but there are actually three reports when you count the one prepared by the DWP. The PA Consulting report and the DWP report are close in their prediction of costs."

Critics claim the evening was dramatic but that too many questions related to the cost of the program, the unions involved, the timeline and penalties for failing to perform, product from China, shipping and transportation impact, private party participation and a host of related subjects went unanswered.

Rosendahl capped the evening with his proclamation that "Some studies give us hope, some studies give us doubt. We don't know the costs. This is a new day for Los Angeles and if you're undecided like me, hopefully you're closer to making a decision." (Stephen Box writes for CityWatch.)

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