By Daniel Heimpel
What do you get when the top chieftains at City Hall, plus Barack Obama's wildly successful California campaign director, plus one of L.A.'s most politically-connected government unions all pit themselves against a few gadflies whose power is their ability to blog and dissent?
Those are the two sides in a war over a solar power measure on the March 3 ballot. Heavy political hitters who back the solar measure have begun, without irony, attacking the gadflies who wrote a "con" ballot argument against it as "professional antagonists."
Wow, if guys like retired Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye and neighborhood activist Jack Humphreville are "professional antagonists," what does that make players like former Obama campaign aide Mitchell Schwartz, or the cash-rich campaign givers/labor honchos who lead the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers?
In March, L.A. residents will be asked to vote "yes" on paying billions to install solar panels around L.A. Measure B has drawn extremely negative reaction on watchdog sites like Mayor Sam and City Watch and has been vilified by the pro-solar Los Angeles Times editorial board because of the virtual absence of serious planning that led to its hurried placement on the ballot. But now the war is getting really juicy.
The project's possibly unprecedented scope -- city workers would try to drape 1,500 acres
of glass panels atop buildings -- is untried in the U.S., and the actual
costs are utterly unknown. Former newsman Kaye has railed against it on his blog. His
ally, DWP critic and uber-gadfly Humphreville, wrote the "con" argument against it
for the ballot. They argue that it will be paid for by open-ended DWP
rate hikes on Angelenos, to the benefit of the IBEW which will get most of the jobs,
and that the measure was embraced by the City Council and mayor to
scratch the IBEW's back -- because the union is a big campaign
Says activist and City Hall pain-in-the-neck Brady Westwater, "We are moving towards Kremlin-style
Pro-Measure B spokeswoman Sarah Leonard (yes, the wealthy promoters of
this measure already have spokeswomen), says, "Our coalition is simply
trying to correct the misinformation that is being spread about measure
by these professional antagonists" -- that would be the folks with
those outrageously*** lucrative*** personal blogs. Leonard goes on: "These
folks, these professional antagonists, have been shining these
conspiracy theories and mythical David and Goliath scenarios for
The monied coalition Leonard represents is led by Working Californians, which is being
backed by the campaign chests of Service Employees International
Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers; Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and a handful of other powerful groups.
The coalition filed a court
petition to get the "con" argument watered down. That's not unusual,
but the petitioner is none other than Mitchell Schwartz, Obama's
California campaign director, and a velvety-smooth political strategist who has worked for Bill Clinton, is president of the Los Angeles League of
Conservation Voters and co-founded a firm advocating the
linkage of labor unions and environmental groups.
Schwartz denies planning the details of Measure B but backs it now
because "good labor jobs are created. Union jobs are great. I don't
know why anyone would have a problem with that, frankly."
Well, Los Angeles households might have a problem if utility bills
skyrocket -- again. City officials claim rates will go up four percent fairly quickly. A consulting firm estimates three times that. Nobody actually
City Controller candidate Nick Patsarouras, running on the March 3 ballot, who is no enemy of
union jobs, also has a problem. "In the Palace, they talk among
themselves," says Patsaouras, who thinks L.A. is heading the wrong
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direction on several fronts. If utility bills shoot up another 12
percent or more, Patsaouras says simply, "The expenses go to lobbyists
and ass-kissers. But out there, is pain."
*** For anyone who didn't pick up on this, we're kidding. Personal blogs cost the bloggers money to operate, and very few turn a profit. Blogads and Google Adsense typically generate $50 to $200 in revenue per month on a personal blogsite. It doesn't pay for gas. In Los Angeles, most people blog to get out the word.