By Daniel Heimpel
The battle over Measure B, City Hall's solar plan that sped through Los Angeles City Council at the speed of light, is heating up like a photo-voltaic panel under summer sun. During a special hearing at City Hall early this week, Council member Tony Cardenas pressed DWP bureaucrats to name one renewable project that's been on time and on budget. DWP has been unable to name one.
"They [the DWP] realize that they don't have any, and they are quiet. There is none. I tell you that right now," says Nick Patsouras, a longtime civic leader and engineer who recently resigned from the DWP board and is running for Los Angeles City Controller to replace Laura Chick, another prominent foe of the gargantuan Measure B solar plant.
Pine Tree's projected price soared from $162 million to $425 million. Measure B's costs are equally open-ended, and it got lambasted in a humorous Los Angeles Times piece by William Nottingham today that gave all candidates for Los Angeles mayor a whack at it.
"Pine Tree is a catastrophe," says longtime newsman Ron Kaye, now a blogger at ronkayela,com, who helped craft the ballot argument against Measure B and whose former paper, the Los Angeles Daily News, chronicled the DWP wind farm disaster. "It is the greatest joke in the whole history of the DWP."
Their latest plan, Measure B, will be the biggest solar project in U.S. history, but critics say the DWP and long-bungling Los Angeles City Hall are not up to the task.
Nevertheless, voters are
expected to approve it, thanks to the magic word, "solar." Very, very few Angelenos will really read the11 pages of ballot fine print in their Voter Guides.
Yes on Measure B spokesperson Sarah Leonard insists the ballot language "includes the
strongest accountability provisions to ensure this aggressive renewable
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energy program is done right, on budget and on time."
Not exactly. Measure B contains the same kind of classically vague ballot fine print that has already allowed L.A. officials to divert $30 million from the 2006 voter-approved Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act -- meant for the poor and battered women -- to dress up a long stretch of Figueroa Avenue near Staples Center. City fathers are also grabbing $30 million from that same "Housing Trust Fund" to create a heavily cemented, ugly "Civic Park" downtown.
How's this related to a great-sounding solar project? Well, look Measure B up yourself by getting this Official Sample Ballot pdf. You'll see many classic ballot loopholes in 11 pages of Measure B fine print at the back of the sample ballot for Tuesday, March 3, 2009.
For example, on Page 35: "The Plan's minimal elements shall include, but are not limited to." Also on that page, the classic use of "or other" in describing open-ended expenditures. And on Page 36, again the anything-goes use of, "the Program may provide for, but it is not limited to." And so on.