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Changing L.A. Part One: Opportunity and Challenge — The Campaign Against Measure B

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.

This entry was posted in City Hall, Community Activists, Hot Topics, Los Angeles, Solar Energy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Changing L.A. Part One: Opportunity and Challenge — The Campaign Against Measure B

  1. Anonymous says:

    For sure the IBEW won’t roll over easy. After all, D’Arcy and collaborators have exercised ever increasing control over the DWP, and it is an amazement that David Freeman has never been held accountable for the damage he has done by dancing to D’Arcy’s fiddle. With the new DWP Board stacked with Commissioners who know nothing about utility operations, the sucking sound of money down the drain and into pet programs unrelated to the true mission of DWP will continue. The fact that DWP is now going silent on the plans after the extraordinary dog and pony shows of the past months lets you know Mayor Villaraigosa’s long-touted “openness and transparency” is yet to arrive. Ron, don’t close the book on Measure B soon–it’s political life is really just starting.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the encouraging words and reminding us
    that these guys play for keeps. Just what we need to keep up the pressure on the City Hall Gang.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “The remaining 46,000 absentee, provisional and damaged votes to be tallied later this week.” The DAMAGED votes sound suspect to say the least. The elected officials should take all necessary steps to make sure that ballots are NEVER damaged. If there are damaged ballots, those ballots need to be made available to the public for review.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Re the comment on “damaged ballots”, I agree.
    When I voted, there was no way a ballot could have been damaged. The receiving box worked perfectly. If by damaged, they mean ballots turned in because the voter made a mistake and
    asked for a new one, those ballots should “x’d”
    out immediately. If by damaged, the registrar’s office took a bundle of ballots and deemed them damaged and then replaced them with
    ballots marked the way V and company wanted them marked, that is a criminal offense and these perps belong in jail or out on some distant island to fend for themselves.

  5. Chris Rowe says:

    I was at the election office in the Piper Technical Center on Friday. Damage could occur from ballots being mailed to an Absentee Voter (caught in a machine), from tearing off a stub, from the return mail, from a smudge,by folding, or someone could have marked a ballot in the wrong manner.
    For example, the process is to fill in a circle or bubble with black or blue ink for the machine to read it. Some people may circle or x the box. Some may mark with a check mark. Others may use other colors that cannot be read by a computer. These ballots will all be copied by someone in the City Clerk’s office onto a similar ballot. Then it is inspected.
    This process is extremely transparent and easily observed. I was able to watch that process. The greater concern will be if there are smears that move from one bubble to another where the vote is not clear. That is the only time that I would be concerned – when the voter intent is not clear.
    There will be a 1% manual hand count. That random count should be monitored as well.

  6. Karen says:

    First it is important to note that throughout the process in bringing Measure B to the ballot, there was a deliberate effort to cover up and bypass the normal process. The efforts of all those seeking corrective action on the issue of Measure B, starting with the MOU Oversight committee cannot be overstated. The only way that this David v. Goliath battle could have been won was by having this coalition focus like a beam on this specific issue. Hopefully the final tally will be “No” and we can move forward with a full transparent plan where all stakeholders have input from the very beginning. As we move forward, it is foolish to bash the Union, its leadership, or members. The real focus needs to be on DWP Management, the DWP Commission, the City Council, and the Mayor–for they are the guardians. Anyone can ask for the moon whether it be someone suing the City or labor unions. But it is the responsibility of the managers and elected officials to make decisions that are in the best interests of all stakeholders including the ratepayers.

  7. Karen says:

    Regarding the District 5 runoff race, only two of the original field of candidates were opposed to Measure B. David Vahedi was one of those opposed to Measure B. I like Vahedi’s opponent Paul Koretz as a person and as an old school Democrat. However I would tend to favor Vahedi because he rightfully opposed Measure B and I didn’t appreciate Koretz response at the candidate’s forum. Koretz said that he didn’t like the process, but he supported Measure B and would allow the City Council to take corrective action after it has passed. He totaly missed the issue. The cover-up and ethical issues are exactly the point and the those behind it shouldn’t be rewarded. Also, Koretz shows his ignorance on the fundamental issue by stating that he would like to see 100% Solar power production.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how people would have reacted if Measure B had been placed on the ballot via signatures….
    Would it have done better? The process issue would have been cut away…

  9. Please go ahead and add more content to the site, I love it!

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