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Daily News Editorial on Measure B: In the dark

Voters lack crucial cost information on solar initiative

IT’S about time that Los Angeles get some sunshine.
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Not necessarily on the streets (we need the rain). Voters need a strong light shone directly onto Measure B, the proposition that would require the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to install enough solar panels throughout the city to generate 400 megawatts of power by 2014.

Sounds like a fine idea, right? Solar is clean, green energy and Los Angeles is the ideal place to generate electricity from the sun. And the investment in local solar could generate a wave of so-called green-collar jobs in photovoltaic panel manufacturing and installation.

Clearly the City Council and the mayor are betting that the warm, fuzzy feeling Angelenos have for alternative energy is incentive enough to vote yes on Measure B without having many details about it. Details such as, why put a policy decision before voters and how much might all of this cost ratepayers down the road?

Here we are at the end of January – three months after the initiative was proposed and five weeks from the election – and we still do not have answers to these crucial questions.

When the City Council rushed this initiative through to the ballot without a thorough vetting, DWP and other city officials dismissed concerns, saying they would produce a cost analysis long before voters had to go to the polls.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

That’s the problem with the so-called Green Energy and Good Jobs program on the March 3 city ballot. It’s a good idea executed in such a rushed and hushed manner that it feels as if we’re being scammed.


And maybe we are. City leaders have not provided reassurance to the
contrary. Last fall, the city’s chief legislative analyst – who
scrutinizes proposals and advises the council – hired PA Consulting to
give an independent assessment of the solar initiative.

The
report back was very skeptical. PA called the initiative “extremely
risky” and figured that the DWP would need to triple a renewable energy
surcharge on customers’ electricity bills to cover the cost of the
program.

But Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller and City
Council President Eric Garcetti kept the report secret until after the
council voted to put the measure on the ballot, and then the two
discredited PA Consulting’s findings as too “quick and dirty” to be
reliable.

Instead, the DWP hired Huron Consulting to analyze the
proposal and produce its own cost analysis. But that report won’t be
available until the first week in February (assuming that it’s not
delayed or hidden from the public), which is the same week absentee
ballots are mailed out and four weeks before the election. That’s not a
lot of time to vet a multibillion-dollar proposal, and it certainly
doesn’t give experts or critics much time to poke holes in the proposal.

Maybe that’s the point.

It’s
appalling that city leaders pushed to get a measure on the ballot
without saying or knowing how much it’s going to cost Angelenos. Worse,
that detailed financial information or vetting will not be contained in
the ballot information and arguments, which already had gone to print.

So
Angelenos who rely on the official voter guides will have no idea what
this solar plan will cost. What happens if Huron reaches the same
conclusion as PA Consulting? The measure is still on the ballot and
voters will not know that the initiative is a risky, costly scheme.

Where’s
the transparency? Where is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who told the
Daily News in 2006, “Accountability and transparency are fundamental to
good government”?

Ah, yes, that was before his buddies in the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers proposed this ballot
measure, which will fund a solar academy to train new IBEW members on
the taxpayers’ dime. (Not coincidentally, the IBEW has dumped thousands
of dollars into this measure to get it passed). And IBEW members at the
DWP happen to be among the best-paid city workers, and nabbed a 5.9
percent raise last year during a recession.

It seems like civic
leaders are hoping voters won’t ask too many questions and simply punch
yes on a feel-good environmental measure.

But it sure won’t feel
good in a couple of years if ratepayers are hit with higher bills to
pay for a solar program that may or may not deliver the energy Los
Angeles needs.

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5 Responses to Daily News Editorial on Measure B: In the dark

  1. Sherry says:

    This past year the high cost of fuel did serious damage to our economy and society. The trickle effects will be felt for years to come.The price of fuel affects every aspect of our economy from higher production and shipping costs to higher electric bills. Record numbers of jobs and homes were lost as a direct result. We are still reeling at the checkout lanes. We have spent billions in stimulus and bail outs. We need to bail America out of it’s dependence on foreign oil. Create cheap clean energy, millions of badly needed green collar jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I just read the best book ever called The Manhattan Project of 2009 by Jeff Wilson. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to charge and drive an electric car. The electricity to charge the car could come from solar or wind generated electricity. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV’s instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Oil is finite. We are using it globally at the rate of 2 X faster than new oil is being discovered. India and China are expected to put 3 million more vehicles on their highways within the next 20 years. We need to get on with becoming an energy independent nation. http://www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sherry, this is a self-contained planet. Everything on it gets re-cycled eventually.
    You and I probably will go to oil whereas dry materials such as newspapers will recycle into
    humus for the soil I don’t know about the newsprint. Incidentally, when I was in elementary school a while back, we were taught
    that there were only 60 years of oil available.
    See what I mean? They did have all the facts.
    And neither do many of the rest of us.
    I have nothing against unions, per se. If the members feel they need representation, OK.
    The objection to the IBEW is that they hope to control these kinds of projects. eliminating
    the benefits of bidding on jobs to get the best
    rate that is fair to both jobber and customer.
    As a citizen of LACITY, I don’t like having bureaucrats having all the power. And everyone who works for our city is a bureaucrat from tree-trimmer to the Mayor. Especially when I have to help fund the projects. Maybe the voters ought to become unionized. Hmmm…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sherry, this is a self-contained planet. Everything on it gets re-cycled eventually.
    You and I probably will go to oil whereas dry materials such as newspapers will recycle into
    humus for the soil I don’t know about the newsprint. Incidentally, when I was in elementary school a while back, we were taught
    that there were only 60 years of oil available.
    See what I mean? They did not have all the facts.
    And neither do many of the rest of us.
    I have nothing against unions, per se. If the members feel they need representation, OK.
    The objection to the IBEW is that they hope to control these kinds of projects. eliminating
    the benefits of bidding on jobs to get the best
    rate that is fair to both jobber and customer.
    As a citizen of LACITY, I don’t like having bureaucrats having all the power. And everyone who works for our city is a bureaucrat from tree-trimmer to the Mayor. Especially when I have to help fund the projects. Maybe the voters ought to become unionized. Hmmm…

  4. meterman says:

    Would you hire a contractor to build a new house or remodel your current house without asking how much is it going to cost ? I dont think so.
    If Solar Scam Measure B is implemented then thats exactly what the non educated ill advised voters in Los Angeles will let happen.
    Referring to the reasonable rant by Dave Freeman.
    Sun can offer L.A. a world of benefits Daily News Opinionated article.
    This cowboy’s story has more holes in it than his six-shooter can produce.
    Dave Freeman is also Mayor Villaraigosa’s appointed Los Angeles Harbor Commission President. Joined at the hip with the Mayor and a member of IBEW Local 11 union Mr. Freeman is ranting on about how this solar plan will help our health and economy when in fact it will help to ruin our economy. He left out the facts regarding the huge costs to the ratepayers. When he was General Manager of DWP he had an opportunity to fix our electrical and water system infrastructure but only failed. He continued to allow useless programs and mismanaged DWP ratepayers money. Solar power is needed but not the way this measure is set up
    VOTE NO ON SOLAR SCAM MEASURE B.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Meterman, you make sense to me.

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