Monthly Archives: July 2012

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Misplaced Initiative

The July 10th City Council meeting was a real eye-opener. One of the things we learned forces me to retract statements I’ve made earlier and admit I was completely wrong.

I had assumed there were two sides to the AES Redondo Beach debate. The no power plant side that wants to force AES to stop generating power, had dominated the discussion. There also seem to be a few voices like mine saying we should work with AES to get the best deal for Redondo Beach, side #2.

We discovered Tuesday night there’s another side. There are people in the community who want a power plant in Redondo Beach. According to Councilman Aust’s count, only 40% of the people who spoke at the meeting supported no power plant. It’s never fun admitting you’re wrong but that’s what I’m doing. I’ve written repeatedly, no one wants the power plant and I was proven wrong.

We also discovered that the 4 of 5 coucilmen won’t let the high-volume rhetoric and threats of being characterized as taking no action on the power plant issue force them into voting for some meaningless resolution that sends a message that simply isn’t true. Councilman Brand says a resolution will send a message to the California Energy Commission (CEC). But considering there are at least two points of view that conflict with the no power plant opinion, can we really say that the community has a single message to send? Answer : no, and 4 of our 5 councilmen understood that fact and resisted pressure to follow the crowd. Bravo!

Councilman Brand and his long-time, no growth crusading partner Jim Light, have filed a document with the city of Redondo Beach stating they intend to circulate a petition to have an initiative placed on the March, 2013 ballot. The Light/Brand team may have lost the Measure G bout by a decisive knockout but they’re back in the zoning ring and ready to slug it out with anyone who dares to challenge them.

The initiative would call on voters to agree to phase out industrial uses of the AES land. A statement by Councilman Brand said, “The new zoning allows for 30-40% commercial development such as hotels, and 60-70% for museums, sports fields, wetlands, educational facilities and open space, among other uses.”

We sure are lucky to have people like Messrs. Light and Brand to figure all this stuff out for the rest of us and put it all into a neat package. We’re fortunate these two individuals routinely take the burden of figuring out things like community planning off the shoulders of our elected officials and do all the heavy lifting for the City Council and the rest of us.

In fairness to Mr. Brand, he is a member of the City Council. He was elected with 827 votes, which were all cast in district 2. With approximately 40,000 registered voters in the city, that comes to about 2% of the total voting population who have affirmed Mr. Brand’s authority to represent them. As far as I know, Mr. Light doesn’t currently hold any elected, appointed or hired position with the city of Redondo Beach.

The 2% of the people who chose Mr. Brand may be happy that he does much of their thinking for them but I’m pretty sure the 98% of the rest of us feel we might stand a fair chance of understanding and making decision all by ourselves. For the moment I’m going to stay away from examining the unfettered arrogance of these two men thinking they and they alone have the answers to how, when and why the AES site should be transformed and the only thing the rest of us need to do is sign off on their plan by giving them our votes in March.

Instead, I’m going to speak to the people who, like me, agree that we would be better off without a power plant in the South Bay. Mr. Brand and Mr. Light are hoping your agreement on that issue will allow them to leverage the rest of their no-growth agenda. Here’s where I’d like to ask my friends and neighbors to be very, very careful.

I see the situation this way. When politicians ask me if I want lower taxes, I say yes. So they can now legitimately say Harry Munns is on their side.

When they take steps to lower taxes that include laying off my nephew the firefighter, moving my sister the teacher into a lower-paying job and chiseling away at my mother, the retired teacher’s pension and benefits, I’m not necessarily still on their side. Yet, they still count me as a supporter even though I had no say in the tactics they used to achieve our common goal.

That’s exactly what’s happening here. The latest number of no power plant petition signatures I heard was 4,000+. Were all 4,000 of those people involved in deciding on 30-40% commercial development and 60-70% open space? Do they all know the full impact an initiative to change zoning will have on future and current development plans? Do they all know how much it will cost? I could come up with a whole list of other questions, all of which have the same answer, no.

There are 2 people driving this movement and almost none of the rest of us voted for the one that’s on the council and no one voted for the other one. The vast majority of voters weren’t even eligible to vote for the one who was elected. We have had no say in the decisions they made on details of an initiative that could have a huge impact on all our futures.

It’s OK to want cleaner air, a more attractive waterfront and new uses for the AES land that better serve the needs of the community. Almost everyone agrees with that.

The two main tactics Messrs. Brand and Light have proposed, a resolution from the City Council stating the community doesn’t want the power plant and an initiative to re-zone the AES land to exclude industrial uses are short-sighted, ill-conceived and potentially dangerous and costly mistakes.

Four of 5 city councilmen agreed with me on the first issue. They refused to second a motion by Councilman Brand to bring a resolution to a vote that would have said the city doesn’t want a power plant. Time will tell if the Light/Brand propaganda will continue to claim the City Council failed to act. Rest assured, they acted. They just didn’t act the way Mr. Light and Mr. Brand wanted them to act.

The City Council took action on an item that had already been approved. They voted again to have the city become an intervener in the AES application process. It means our City Council and the staff they rely upon to run the city on our behalf will have a seat at the table throughout the application process.

That settles the resolution. Now the citizens have to take control of the initiative issue the same way we took control of Measure G. Mr. Brand and Mr. Light have already begun asking for your money and your signature to get their initiative on the ballot. Don’t give them either.

Mr. Brand’s best argument for the resolution and the initiative are the need to “send a message” to the CEC. He’s willing to spend our money to send his message. It isn’t the first time.

If this initiative looks like it’s going to appear on the ballot, there’s only one way I see to combat it, one or more competing initiatives on the same ballot. The initiative that’s being proposed gives voters one choice, approve the terms and conditions Mr. Brand and Mr. Light have chosen for the AES property or don’t approve them.

There are other choices but if this initiative appears on the ballot by itself, we’ll never get to consider them. I’ve already heard talk of one or more competing initiatives.  Maybe there will be 3 or 4 competing initiatives and we’ll really have a choice. I won’t make any predictions about whose initiative will win other than to ask whether anyone remembers Measure UU?

Do the citizens of Redondo Beach really believe this is the way to govern our city? Sure it’s legal to follow the proper procedures and get an initiative on the ballot. What happens if every crybaby who doesn’t get his way at city hall re-tries his issue with an initiative? I’ve got a half dozen issues of my own that I believe deserve a vote by the people. I think I could convince enough people to sign a petition to get them on a ballot.

The initiative process is intended to allow citizens to have a method of getting popular, proposed legislation passed if a legislative body fails to comply with the wishes of the electorate. Listen closely to Mr. Brand’s reason for the initiative. He wants to send a message. It won’t change the outcome of AES’s re-powering application, although he claims it will based on his opinion alone. It won’t get the power plant torn down. It won’t get a park built. It will simply send a message. Is there a public outcry for a message? I haven’t heard one.

That message has been crafted by two individuals, one was put on the city council by 2% of the voters and the other holds no office. I hope I’m not the only one who noticed how wrong this is.

As Mr. Brand was repeating some part of his manifesto for the umpteenth time last night, he said, not passing the initiative was a green light for the CEC to grant AES’s license renewal. Dude, seriously? You expect anyone to buy that nonsense?

I agree that it’s time to send a message. My message goes Messrs. Brand and Light. Your agenda is not our agenda even though we may agree on some issues. Don’t continue to insult us by assuming we won’t notice you’re making huge, inaccurate presumptions about what the people of this city want and don’t want.

I made some inaccurate statements about what the people of this city want and don’t want. I got some new information and I admitted I was wrong at the beginning of this post. Well Mr. Brand and Mr. Light, it’s your turn.