The extraordinary success of the No on Measure B — from its origins among community activists to a coalition that included business, labor and political parties of every type — has laid the groundwork for a mass movement that can take back LA from the special interests.
Contrary to what many expected, the total vote last Tuesday was nearly 18 percent of registered voters when as few as 10 percent was expected and the mayor’s minions boasted they would win if the total reached 15 percent. The “No” side leads by 1,322 votes with the remaining 46,000 absentee, provisional and damaged votes to be tallied later this week.
For the Saving LA Project, Neighborhood Councils and homeowner/resident groups, fighting the City Hall political machine to a stalemate on an issue like solar energy was a tremendous victory.
Whatever the final tally, there is no mandate for a DWP/IBEW monopoly on solar energy or for the mayor and City Council’s seizing direct control of the contracting process in order to shake down everyone who wants a piece of the billions of dollars involved in the massive program.
So how did community activists — dismissed as “fringe activists” by the “Yes” campaign — stop the machine?
It starts with a decade of failure of the DWP to deliver on its many promises to bring solar energy to the city and the IBEW’s total resistance during that time to renewable energy because you don’t need the state’s (if not the nation’s) highest paid utility workers to run windmills or rooftop solar installations.
Faced with the inevitable need for clean energy, the IBEW, in league with environmental political action committees willing to pay any price to move forward, came up with Measure B.
The mayor, who never has been able to say no to the IBEW or its generous campaign money, got aboard in hopes of enhancing his political ambitions.
Business, labor and the solar energy industry then were confronted with a campaign of intimidation that kept them quiet. Similar tactics brought the timid City Council into unanimous obedience without its members even having a clue about what they were voting on after a three-week legislative process that made a mockery of the democratic process and the
notion that our Council members actually represent the citizens of Los Angeles.
Outcries from community activists almost certainly would have gone nowhere if the City Hall political machine weren’t so arrogant and contemptuous of the public that it kept critical information secret and then went to court to crush all opposition.
Not satisfied with having all the advantages, the machine ordered top environment greenwasher Mitchell Schwartz, a lobbyist and head of a PAC that calls itself the LA League of Conservation Voters, to sue the authors of the ballot argument against Measure B, accusing them of false and misleading statements.
Judge David Yaffe took the side of the Solar 8 and laughed the real liars out of court, dismissing the arguments put forward by the machine’s mouthpiece, attorney Stephen Kaufman.
From that moment on, the community was energized and came together as never before, came together in a way that someday will be seen as the historic turning point when the machine started to fall apart and the people started to take back City Hall.
Literally hundreds of people got involved, a word-of-mouth campaign began to form using the revolutionary tools of the Internet: Email, Facebook, Twitter.
After hearing arguments from both sides and DWP’s thinly-veiled presentations of a massive solar energy program that was slapped together without any planning or analysis, dozens of Neighborhood Councils and homeowner/resident groups joined the campaign against Measure B.
Business groups like the apartment owners association, VICA, United Chambers followed suit. And with help from Paul Hefner of Polka Consulting in Sacramento, the campaign became more focused and effective until it became obvious that Measure B could be defeated.
The media pounded away at the flaws in Measure B, exposing one lie and deceit after another and questioning it in editorials. Three council members defected from the Yes campaign.
With the groundswell building, Bill Luddy brought the Carpenters Union into the battle with mass mailings and professional phone banks. Members of the Laborers Union got involved and the LA Chamber joined in. The Times and Daily News came out in full opposition.
In the end, the “Yes” campaign, with the full advantage of the political machine’s power, outspent the “No” campaign 25 to 1. The mayor was damaged by managing to win re-election with only 55 percent of the vote. Jack Weiss was humiliated when 64 percent of the voters turned against him.A long-time Neighbhorhood Council and homeowner activist, David Vahedi, made the runoff to succeed Weiss in CD5.
The political dynamic of LA was changed by results of Tuesday’s elections. The question now is what must be done to build on this success.
Monday: Changing LA Part Two: Opportunity and Challenge — Billboards, Budget and B.S.