The Solar 8: Our Legal Defense

The question of whether the “No on Prop. B” ballot argument is false and misleading will go before Judge David Yaffe at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday Jan. 8, 2009 in Department 86.

Mitchell Schwartz, president of the Los Angeles League of Convervation Voters and a partner in a new public affairs consulting firm specializing in labor and environmental issues, filed suit Dec. 18 against the author of the ballot argument Jack Humphreville, a long-time activist and member of the DWP Committee that operates with a memorandum of understanding with the utility as well as the  DWP Committee that operates outside the agency as an independent watchdog.

The seven others who signed the ballot argument — Soledad Garcia, Humberto Camacho, Kristine Lee, Nick Patsaouras, Joe Pulido, James O’Sullivan and myself — were not named.

The so-called Solar 8, had great difficulty finding a lawyer to handle the case during Christmas week, a problem compounded by getting only 10 calendar days to respond.

Noel Weiss, a candidate for City Attorney with a long record of community service, came to our rescue on Saturday and worked continuously for most of the next four days to prepare the pleadings in defense of the ballot argument.

From my point of view, he did a great job in defending the “No on Prop. B” argument and offering alternative language based on the highly critical outside consultant’s report that was made available to City Council President  Eric Garcetti on Nov. 4 but kept secret from the public until Dec. 19.

The declarations from Humphreville and from Patsaouras who was president of the DWP Board of Commissioners until Oct. 23, eight days after Garcetti began his three-week push to get Prop. B on the March 3 ballot are the heart of the pleadings.

Taken together their declarations make a compelling case that the process used to enact this measure was so seriously flawed that it made a mockery of the role of public hearings and debate and the measure itself is so seriously flawed that it will cause great harm to the city, to ratepayers and to hopes to bring a green energy program to Los Angeles.

But that’s just my point of view. What matters is what you think. And to come to conclusions on your own, you are going to have to read the documents for yourself. I have posted other documents in early articles and will post other documents later but here are Humphreville’s and Patsaouras’ declarations, the pro and con ballot arguments and the lawsuit.

solar-humphreville.pdf
solar-patsaouras.pdf
solarpro-con.doc
solarlawsuit.pdf

Happy New Year!

From the Desert to the Sea, DWP Is the Enemy

Editor’s Note: Even as the City Hall power structure argues Proposition B will avoid the need to build costly high-voltage transmission lines to bring green power to Los Angeles, it is rushing forward to do just that: Build a costly high-voltage transmission line across the Southern California desert to bring green power to L.A. In both cases, the DWP’s goal is maintain its energy monopoly — whatever it costs the public, whatever damage it does to the environment. In both cases, the result is growing community opposition. Prop. B is under attack because it isn’t a solar energy plan at all but a payoff to the DWP’s union, the IBEW. The desert plan faces massive opposition because it will destroy beautiful and sensitive areas. The DWP has just rejected an offer to add its lines to existing SCE transmission towards along I-10. Sheila Bowers, a long-time Santa Monica resident who spends a lot time at her home near Joshua Tree National Park, sent this email that eloquently bridges the two worlds from the desert to the sea and she asks how we can all come together to bring green power to Southern California and protect the environment and our pocketbooks..IMAG012.JPGBy Sheila Bowers

Studded with the exact rock formations and unique plant and animal life, that made Joshua Tree rise from a simple desert into a National Park, and surrounded by flat-topped mesas with enormous spiritual significance for our native american predecessors there, this is an irreplaceable spot of endless beauty, tranquility, drama, danger and purity.

LADWP is planning to destroy this pristine wilderness with important cultural resources on it, and bulldoze, dynamite, scrape, poison, pave greenpath20_gfx_700.jpgand develop this gorgeous region, and force hundreds of people from their homes — people that will never see a single watt of the power, even though there are FANTASTIC solar resources right in LA that DWP resolutely refuses to tap, despite LA’s sprawl, urban heat islands and desperate need for local jobs and economic stimulus for residents. No, they want to destroy lives, property values and the fragile desert ecosystem (which happens to be a highly effective carbon sink when left intact), and jack up rates, to support their monopolistic desires.

So, who are the NIMBY’s now? Who is refusing to bear the costs of their own consumption in their own yards? Not rural desert dwellers, who are very anxious to have policies that will promote rooftop solar and microwind on our own properties – policies like feed-in tariffs which pay us for power we produce and feed into the grid, instead of forcing us from our properties to produce (and transmit) the same exact power on the same exact properties, only owned by monopolists.  Ironically, many of those in the path of this despicable death train are already living “off grid” in total harmony with their environments. How unfair is that?

We in the desert also want policies like guaranteed financing for PV (photo-voltaic), which can be repaid through AB 811 and the property tax system. Financing, incentives and compensation for power we produce are so basic, and so critical throughout the region, the state and the nation if we want to prevent the Robber Barons of Big Energy (including LADWP) from re-centralizing the grid and bottling OUR sun and OUR wind on OUR land and selling it back to us for a high profit, yet we still don’t have them.

Why not?  It’s unconscionable, and people need to know that Villaraigosa and Nahai are speaking for them when they say, in essence “Screw Joshua Tree. Screw our Ratepayers. Our ends (monopolistic chokehold over ratepayers) justify our means (destroying carbon sinks, poisoning and decimating wilderness areas and watersheds, impoverishing thousands of rural people, hijacking DWP ratepayers, denying economic stimulus and jobs to a city starving for them, etc.).”  Are they speaking for you?  If not, better have a word with their bosses, eh?

Continue reading From the Desert to the Sea, DWP Is the Enemy

Prop. B Is for Bribery and Blackmail — Political Power, Not Solar Power

This is pay-to-play pure and simple.

The DWP and the IBEW union that runs it blocked solar energy development in Los Angeles for a decade, demanding that the utility own all major solar installations and that the work of installing the units and maintaining them belong to the IBEW.

They blackmailed the city, held solar energy developmentsun.gif hostage. And now the elected officials who lacked the courage to stand up to the DWP/IBEW want us to bribe them to let us have green power.

That’s all Proposition B is about: Rewarding the very people who used their political might and the public’s money to prevent under contract the 30 largest customers from installing rooftop solar energy units or other green power by giving them discounted rates.

They stopped a solar energy industry from flourishing in Los Angeles, actually chasing away companies to greener communities, and kept such a tight lid on solar energy that the city gets less than 1 percent of its electricity from the sun.

Prop. B doesn’t do anything to increase solar energy use.

It only gives into the DWP/IBEW blackmailers’ demands: They will own solar power, not us. They will feed the City Hall political machine with huge campaign contributions and the city treasury with hundreds of millions of dollars in ratepayers’ money.

The campaign being orchestrated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigsoa is a big lie. Prop. B is nothing but a blank check to steal. It’s got nothing to do with solar energy.

And when eight ordinary citizens stood up to them and told the truth, the mayor and his team dragged them into court to intimidate them, to tie up their time and energy, to threaten them with huge legal bills, court costs and attorney fees.

I am one of those eight, the L.A. Solar Eight — Jack Humphreville, Soledad Garcia, Humberto Camacho, Kristine Lee, Nick Patsaouras, Joe Pulido, James O’Sullivan are the others. And they have made our Christmas week tough, trying to find a lawyer, raise money, understand the law and the risks we face.

We dared to sign our names to the ballot argument (solarpro-con.doc). Even that is now too much for this out-of-control political machine.

Continue reading Prop. B Is for Bribery and Blackmail — Political Power, Not Solar Power

Forget Ethics Reform:Video Cameras, Bugs and Wiretaps Are the Way to Clean Up City Hall

Sometimes a great notion comes from unexpected places like the answer to rampant pay-to-play dealing in City Hall comes from inside City Hall itself.

In an effort to prevent Metrolink train engineers from text messaging on their cell phones when they should be watching the signals and the track, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s point man to clean up the mess wants to have video cameras installed in the locomotive cabs so we can keep an eye on what’s going on.

“We’re talking about the ability to look into a [locomotive] cab in
real time and see what’s happening,” said Metrolink board member
Richard Katz, who Villaraigosa put on the
panel after the deadly Sept. 12 crash in Chatsworth.

I’m all for saving lives and for saving the city, too.

Think of how much better off we’d all be if video cameras were installed in the back rooms at City Hall where all the deals are cooked, where the City Council members get their marching orders on how to best serve the people who matter: Lobbyists, consultants, contractors, public employee unions.

Why before long, we’d be seeing the ambitious if listless Jack Weiss turning straight to the camera and saying, “No, I won’t do you favors no matter how much cash you contribute to my campaign for City Attorney.”

Or we might see the mayor himself declaring: “Sorry, it sounds like a fabulous party with fine wines, great food and beautiful women but I’m busy reading Jane Usher’s 14-point program for planning a great city for the people who live and work here. Policy is more important than politics partying.”

And just to make sure they don’t stray off camera we could try what worked in Illinois to catch the governor selling Barack Obama’s Senate seat and wiretap and bug their offices.

Saving the lives of Metrolink passengers is important but so is saving the quality of life in the city.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah


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Sunshine on Solar Fraud: The City Council Debate

I know it’s asking a lot of people to actually get informed for themselves about things and make up their own minds but if I have to go back to the fateful City Council meeting on Nov. 7 and listen to these people prattle dishonestly about a half-baked solar energy plan, you should to.

The debate started with President Eric Garcetti asking — or more precisely answering — what he claimed were the 13 questions distilled from a secret report by the DWP’s consultant that found the plan is “extremely risky,” will cost ratepayers too much and doubts DWP’s management is capable of handling the task.

Understand that the largest solar energy plan in U.S. history was introduced and approved for the ballot in three weeks while back room deals were being cut with various special interests to win their support or at the least keep them silent. The public was given none of that information, making what passed for public hearings a mockery of the whole idea of public discourse.

Stop me. I don’t want to poison the well with my anger of what is the worst example of machine politics I’ve ever seen and I cut my teeth in politics in Chicago when Richard J. Daley was the Boss.

Let’s start in the middle of the carefully scripted and staged debate where Dennis Zine makes clear the council really doesn’t have the facts about this plan and calls for a lively debate during the campaign — a debate the mayor and his team are trying to squelch by suing the ordinary citizens who point out the DWP itself barred solar developments for the last decade and believe this is the wrong first step, nothing but a sweetheart deal for the IBEW.

Then, he asks a softball question about whether the Neighborhood Councils and the public were brought into the process as required — a question that prompts DWP General Manager David Nahai to turn as usual to dissembling and doubletalk, saying “Nowhere near enough.” Listen here  zine-nahai.mp3

Continue reading Sunshine on Solar Fraud: The City Council Debate

Laura Chick: Chicago-style Politics Hits L.A.

Back room deals, critical reports kept secret, basic processes violated, insiders get the money, the public be damned — that’s what City Controller Laura Chick sees in the mayor and City Council’s mad rush to put the largest solar energy plan in U.S. history on the ballot in just three weeks.

The Department of Water and Power, its engineers, planner and even its board, were left out of the process.

The only public airings of the scheme — or what passed for them — left council members and public in the dark. Council President Eric Garcetti defends the process he controlled by saying he investigated so nobody else needed to read the devastating critique by the DWP’s consultant.

On Larry Mantle’s “Air Talk” Tuesday on KPCC, Chick did what no one else in public life in L.A. has the courage to do, saying the whole deal smacks of Chicago-style politics — something unheard of in a city that used to boast about its clean government.

Here’s what Chick had to say, listen for yourself, it’s important:   chick1.mp3 chick2.mp3

Scenario for Dictatorship: Los Angeles of, by and for the Special Interests

For months now the people behind Antonio Villaraigosa — men like Ari Swiller and Keith Brackpool who have huge investments in water and power development companies — have been raising millions in campaign funds for the mayor and the political machine he heads.

They are part of the inner circle of strategists and operatives who see themselves on the brink of controlling every city office, every city department, every aspect of the political machinery of power in Los Angeles — Mayor Villaraigosa, City Attorney Jack Weiss, Controller Wendy Greuel and an obedient City Council and bureaucracy..

And are drooling at the prospect of looting the city treasury, the sales taxes targeted for transportation projects and the Department of Water and Power with all its billions of dollars in ratepayer money

They have shed themselves of obstacles like Nick Patsaouras, the head of the DWP Commission who got so fed up with what he saw he decided to run for City Controller to be the watchdog on the public’s money. And Jane Usher, the head of the Planning Commission who tried to stop billboard blight and densification without a plan or the infrastructure to support more people without making the nation’s worst traffic congession worse and running out of water and power without massive new investments funded by even higher rates and taxes. Even MTA head Roger Snoble has seen enough of this and is moving on.

All that’s left in the way of the dictatorship of special interests is you the people. And most of you act like it’s somebody else problem so you don’t have to pay attention, as if you can.trust your elected leaders and the civic leadership to look after their interests and the well-being of the city as a whole.

But there are thousands of ordinary citizens who volunteered their time and energy for years for no other reaason than a sense of public service and they are under attack, their very right to speak out against the government at stake.

Continue reading Scenario for Dictatorship: Los Angeles of, by and for the Special Interests

L.A.’s Solar Energy Fraud: Is this what President-elect Obama stands for?

The trail of responsibility for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s fraudulent solar energy proposal leads straight to President-elect Obama, raising questions about whether all that talk of change and citizen participation and democracy was just so much lip service.

The mayor himself was named to Obama’s transition team of economic advisers.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley — architect of the Proposition B plan as his environmental expert — was just named chair of Obama’s council of environmental advisers.

Mitchell Schwartz, the political operative who was Obama’s California Campaign Director, is the point man for the City Hall political machine who is using the courts to try to intimidate ordinary citizens who have dared to challenge the lies, the secrets, the back room deals that have gone into Prop. B.

And Schwartz, who is represented by Stephen Kaufman, the legal mouthpiece for the mayor and the Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame, wants to stick these citizen opponents, myself included, with a hefty bill for court costs and attorney fees for having the temerity to stand up for what’s good for the city, good for the environment.

Prop. B is an outrageous fraud. It was created by and for the benefit of the DWP union, the IBEW which is led by City Hall’s Mr. Big, Brian D’Arcy, the long-time pal of the mayor who has gotten nearly 6 percent raises for his union in the middle of the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression.

Continue reading L.A.’s Solar Energy Fraud: Is this what President-elect Obama stands for?

The ‘Secret’ Solar Plan Document — 13 reasons Prop. B is a Fraud

Editor’s Note: Judge David Yaffe gave Jack Humphreville and other signatories on the No on Prop. B ballot argument until Dec. 30 to respond to the legal intimidation by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s lawyer who is representing Mitchell Schwartz and the League of Conservation Voters political action committee which claims there are false and misleading statements. Rebuttals are due Jan. 5 and the next hearing is Jan. 8. We are seeking a lawyer and received several offers of donations.
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At a news conference Friday, City Council President Eric Garcetti and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa defended their Proposition B solar energy plan and the mad rush to get it approved after disclosure that a consultant warned it was “extremely risky” and too costly

Garcetti claimed that the public had full knowledge of what was in the report because he used a one-page bullet-point digest of what was in the 26-page report to ask questions at a hearing. The bullet points were prepared by Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller and shown to only a few council members with at least Wendy Greuel and Jan Perry admitting they took little or no notice of it. You can listen heresolar.mp3

Garcetti admitted he did not read the sonsultant’s full report or make public the 13 bullet points. But his office made both available late Friday along with a second report and Miller’s letter attempting to explain away the problem. You can read them all here Solar_initiative_packet.pdf

The critical study was made by PA Consulting Group, which is conducting a five-year review of DWP operations.

Both Garcetti and the mayor insisted all the issues raised in the report — high costs, shortage of supply, lack of trained workers, low efficiency of roof top solar panels among others — were addressed in the final form of Proposition B that voters will decide March 3.

The plan counts on $2 billion in subsidies from the federal government — two-thirds of the total cost. Most of the money will go to China which Garcetti said is ramping up its capacity to make the panels — a fact that undermines City Hall’s claims it will significantly stimulate the local economy and give birth to a local solar technology industry.

The jobs of installing the solar panels will go to the DWP union, the IBEW, which developed the plan in the first place.

Continue reading The ‘Secret’ Solar Plan Document — 13 reasons Prop. B is a Fraud