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Thankful for the LA Times' David Zahniser

We'd be horrible Scrooges if we ended this year without a nod to a former Weekly reporter and columnist, our friend Dave Zahniser (or Dave Z., as he's known throughout the local political and journalism world). 

His amazing recent scoop about the secret report on Measure B on the ballot on March 3 will reverberate right up to the 2009 municipal election, when barely-listening Los Angeles voters will probably approve, without any understanding, a $3 billion bond measure to purportedly install 1,500 acres of solar glass panels on buildings throughout Los Angeles.

The back story to this great-sounding solar plan is something you'd dream up for a Hollywood script  filled with official prevaricating and a mayoral coverup attempt that ends with Chicago-style scandals, indictments and ruined reputations.

Let's begin with the claim by Councilwoman Jan Perry that she saw a summary that warned that the solar plan was extremely risky. But, Perry claims, she threw away the summary and voted for Measure B so that Perry could, as Zahniser wrote, "unearth more details about the solar

program in the months leading to the election."

Then there's the almost humorous -- almost humorous -- claim by Barack Obama's pick for a top environmental job, outgoing Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley, who told Zahniser she had heard talk around City Hall about the sharp consultant warnings being issued about Measure B, but Sutley never asked to see the troubling document because -- definitely wait for this doozy, folks -- because Sutley was not sure if the alarming report really existed.

That kind of dissembling by Nancy Sutley should work beautifully in Washington, D.C.

In short, City Hall and Villaraigosa have no idea how they are going to pull off the most

massive, experimental, costly installation of solar panels ever attempted in the United States.

It will require Angelenos to pour huge sums of their own money into Chinese solar-panel factories. It has all the markings of Villaraigosa's $24 million secrecy-shrouded anti-gang program whose plan for success, which bizarrely relies on the use of anonymous groups to select city contracts, is also unknown to the public or City Council. On next year's Measure B, they want the money from city taxpayers first with virtually no strings.

The solar plan has the makings of yet another flubbed Villaraigosa dramaturgy. It's been widely reported by us, by The New Yorker, and by others, that he hates involving himself in policy or solutions to city problems. Policy is mentally taxing stuff best handled by mayors like Michael Bloomberg, so Villaraigosa runs the city on autopilot while he burns up his "16-hour days" on self-promotion.

This

is the same City Hall that can't plant one million trees,

a far easier process than planting solar panels; that can't get its "clean trucks" program off the

ground in the Port of Los Angeles because, yes, it ignored its own consultants; and that is now planning to

sell unused city properties at the bottom of the market after refusing to sell when

values were skyrocketing.

As Zahniser reported, the Los Angeles City Council was prevented from

reading the secret, private consultants' report warning city Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller that Villaraigosa and the unions' idea could easily cost residents a huge boost in their utility bills -- increases unseen in almost

any American city in this century.

Miller gave the secret report only to powerful City Council President Eric Garcetti, who never told the public about it.

Garcetti is a

nice guy but is easily swayed by his emotional attachment to

all things futuristic, even if they don't work. (Drive through

still-filthy, gridlocked, hideously designed, unpleasant Hollywood, recipient

of milllions and millions of dollars in L.A. taxpayer

subsidies and the intense focus of Community Redevelopment Agency schemes, and you'll understand what I

mean.)

Readers, if you worked on the Measure B plan to stick this sucker on the March 3, 2009 ballot, we at the Weekly would like to talk to you.

Also, if you know of a gigantic, blank-check solar panel installation that has worked anywhere on the face of the globe -- Europe, Australia, the tropics -- we'd like to talk to you. Everyone on our staff can be reached using the first initial of their name, followed by their last name, at laweekly.com.

But unlike City Hall's bungled coverup of the secret consultant's solar report on Measure B, if you give us the details, we at the Weekly guarantee secrecy.