Category Archives: AES Redondo Beach

A discussion of the future of the AES Power Plant in Redondo Beach

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Why It’s Important for the Rest of Us to Vote in the March 5th Election

The material below summarizes my views on some of the items that will appear on the March 5th ballot. It gets a little long-winded so if you decide to jump into it, make yourself comfortable before you start.

Measure A

I believe Redondo Beach will get a new power plant with or without passage of Measure A. Passage of Measure A will only complicate the matter. I have said repeatedly that Redondo Beach has much to gain from working with AES and much to lose from working against AES. I can think of no more severe way to prevent a working relationship between the city and AES than passage of Measure A, with the possible exception of suing them, which the Measure A people have suggested they’ll do if other methods fail.

The city of Redondo Beach has perhaps the most well vetted, professionally crafted set of waterfront zoning regulations of any city in the region. There is absolutely no reason to change it.

The debate about harbor zoning goes back decades but the heavy lifting occurred over a 10 year period. Passage of Measure G brought years of work by consultants, city staff, elected officials and the public to a close. The land use document that voters approved cleared the way for long overdue improvement to the pier/harbor complex.

If you weren’t paying attention, rest assured the Jim Light/Bill Brand/Measure A people had plenty to say about harbor zoning. They were allowed to contribute to the conversation and I feel the final land use document reflects their opinions…way more than it should but that’s just me.

That’s how democracy works. No one gets everything they want, unless of course they’re willing to engage in alternative methods of legislating like the initiative process.

Current zoning of the AES property allows for a power plant or a park. No one else in the city wanted that much restriction but in the end, we all bent to the will of the Light/Brand/A Ticket. That wasn’t good enough for the Light/Brand/A Ticket. Barely two years later they were back, trying to force a new version of their no growth agenda on Redondo citizens with Measure A.

We voted for Measure G and that vote reflected the will of the people. The people’s will hasn’t changed in less than two years. The population of Redondo Beach wasn’t screaming for new zoning but two of our residents seem to have been upset by the fact they didn’t get everything wanted with Measure G. Vote for some or all of the Light/Brand/A Ticket and you can expect these kinds of tantrums to become business as usual.

The zoning development process enabled everyone in the city to contribute to the final zoning. Take a look at the evolution of Measure A. The Light/Brand/Measure A camp made no attempt to include anyone who might have offered any opposing opinions.

In fact, they bragged about doing it all themselves. Bill Brand wrote, “In a bizarre twist of timely fate, Jim Light and I exercised our First Amendment rights yesterday and petitioned our government to phase-out that big eyesore on our waterfront for good! “ Later in the message he says, “We could not have done this without the financial support of all our contributors. “

if I were scoring an inclusiveness and fairness competition between the Light/Brand/A Ticket and the city government they criticize so vociferously, I’d have to award all the points to our city government.

In fairness, while the Light/Brand/A Ticket showed no interest in including any outside voices in their master plan for the waterfront, they were willing to let everyone else pay for it. Thanks Jim and Bill.


I know and have worked with three of the four candidates for mayor. I know almost nothing about Mr. Coleman so I have no opinion about his qualifications.

I can say from first-hand experience, Mrs. Aust, Aspel and Kilroy have served the city honorably as council members. They are all good men.

I believe they all have their own strengths and would probably execute the duties of Mayor somewhat differently. I don’t think the city can go wrong with any of them.

District 1

I’m sorry to admit I haven’t taken the time to learn about the three non-Jim Light candidates in this race. I don’t like having only a negative opinion to share but Jim Light gives me little choice.

A number of Mr. Light’s supporters have written posts extolling his knowledge of issues and equating what they’ve observed with intelligence. I disagree.

I’ve seen a person who has strong opinions and spends a lot of time looking for information that supports his opinions. Intelligent people see all sides of an issue. They have enough confidence in their positions to allow for opposition. Truly intelligent people can argue the other side as effectively as they can argue their own side, and they often do argue the other side to show their true mastery of the facts and issues.

Has anyone ever heard jim Light even acknowledge the possibility that an opposing opinion has the smallest shred of validity? I haven’t.

I’ve seen him memorize obscure bits of data and repeat them. I’ll admit that’s a valuable skill in school but it’s hardly an indicator of true intelligence. Remember Rain Man?

Two things distinguish Jim Light in an argument, his willingness to read and interpret lots of material that’s beneficial to his position and his reasonable expectation no one else in the argument will have read the same material. He knows his supporters will just chalk up his ramblings to superior knowledge and his opponents will not have the benefit of having read what he read.

Then he’s free to twist the information in any way he chooses. And unless you’re prepared to do the same amount of research, you don’t have as much to say about it.

Here’s an example. Jim recently wrote a reply to one of my blog posts in which he said, “The passage of Measure A does have a binding affect on the CEC process. Without Measure A, the CEC does not have to do a power needs assessment and it does not have to verify that the power is essential and that it cannot come for anywhere else. With Measure A they do.”

I knew he had information to support that claim that I did not have. So just this once, I contacted the California Energy Commission to see what they had to say.

I got a reply from a staff person who asked me not to use his name. He said, “…the Commission needs to determine whether “the facility is required for public…necessity” in order to override LORS (laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards), which may be necessary if Measure A is adopted. Public necessity could, but does not necessarily, mean the facility is needed for energy production.”

Regardless of how you interpret the CEC response, it’s a whole lot different from Jim’s absolute factual assertion which turns out to be neither absolute nor factual. In a world where someone like me isn’t always prepared to uncover the truth, Jim Light might appear to have lots of answers. What I see are lots of excuses.

Another one of Jim’s recent blog posts took to task the no on Measure A people for not allowing his comments to appear on their Facebook. I wouldn’t attempt to interpret what goes on in Jim’s mind but my impression was that he assumed someone was preventing information from getting to the public.

Shortly thereafter, I went looking for a reply Jim had posted to one of my old posts. I was surprised to find it was no longer posted. I can’t say for sure why the post wasn’t there any longer. But it sure looked like Jim decided sometime after he wrote the post that there was something in it he no longer wanted attributed to him. Isn’t it ironic that censoring the conversation is wrong when the other guys do it but it’s OK for Jim.

The only explanation I can find for the volume of comments Jim Light makes on other people’s opinions is that he sincerely believes that no one other than Jim Light could possibly figure out what people like me have written. The regular people couldn’t understand all this stuff without Jim Light to explain it to us. And to get you go believe it too, he’s going to spout off all kinds of obscure information he has found that he’s almost 100% sure you haven’t found.

Jim Light cites working on a traffic committee set up by the mayor and council as proof he can work well and cooperate with others. I can’t comment on that. But I can tell you that committee wasn’t an arm of the government, authorized by the municipal code.

The Public Works Commission, on the other hand, is an arm of city government. Jim light was appointed to serve on that commission. He quit after only a few weeks.

I could go on and on about Jim Light’s tactics and behaviors and how much damage electing him to the City Council would cause the city.

Unfortunately, with 4 candidates in the District 1 race, it’s unlikely anyone will get the requisite 50%+ votes necessary to win. If District 1 goes to a runoff, I promise I’ll leave all my blog posts up so voters can review them. That is, unless Jim sues me and a judge forces me to delete them.

The last time I suggested he might sue me, Jim posted a reply in which he laughed it off assuring me it wasn’t worth his time and effort. Guess I better go make sure that post hasn’t been deleted.

District 2

I’m happy my opinions on this race aren’t as heavily negative as they are for District 1. Michael Jackson is such a breath of fresh air.

Early in his campaign, Michael told me he had conducted research that ranked the issues local voters cared about most. Guess where the AES power plant ranked? Tenth, far below things like police, fire and paramedic services, the local economy and the integrity of city leadership.

Ask yourself the same question Michael Jackson asked. Forget about all the passion around Measure A for a minute. In your everyday life, how important is the AES power plant? Most honest people will agree with Michael Jackson’s research. It ranks far below a long list of more important issues.

Councilman Bill Brand has a different list than the rest of us. I know this because I get his emails. Prior to the election season, I can only remember one set of emails that had any subject other than the AES power plant.

That flurry of non-AES messages culminated in Bill calling one of the master leaseholders on the pier a liar. I took him to task for that. Not because he disagreed with the leaseholder but because he sent the messages to every city official and some local residents who were likely to see his actions as beneficial. Election season was coming up and he was looking for votes.

I called it what it was, a sucker punch.

Here’s another example. Do you know where District 2 ends and District 1 begins when you drive south on Prospect Avenue? I can always tell because my car stops bouncing and crashing on the pitted road surface when I hit District 1.

During his last term, District 1 Councilman Steve Aspel managed to help get the part of Prospect Avenue within his district repaved. Why wasn’t the councilman in District 2, Bill Brand, able to do the same for the people in District 2 and the rest of the city? I can’t answer that question but I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to figure out what was keeping Mr. Brand from tending to the business of his district.

Take a walk down the Pier and you’ll see signs for Michael Jackson everywhere. Those small business owners have already endured four years of Bill Brand and they want it to end.

The same goes for the Police Officers Association, the Fire Fighters Association, the Daily Breeze, members of the city council who served with Bill Brand and a long list of other Michael Jackson supporters. They believe as I do, Bill Brand was an experiment that failed. I’d say District 2 needs new leadership but it’s more accurate to say District 2 needs leadership. Elect Michael Jackson.

District 4

Again, I don’t have enough information about these candidates to offer an informed opinion. I believe the voters will elect the best candidate.

As I look over my comments I realize much of what’s here is negative. I think that’s unfortunate because it really isn’t in my nature.

I just can’t see all the things I see and remain silent. I don’t want to live in a city whose duly elected government is constantly second-guessed by a shadow government most of the city did not choose. In the last few years, the Light/Brand/A Ticket has been directly or indirectly involved in 5 ballot initiatives. That’s no way to run a city.

I have a lot of negative things to say about Jim Light and Bill Brand because they show me a lot of negative things. I’ve been criticized for personal attacks. I would tell anyone who makes such accusations against me the character and other personal qualities of the people who run this city are very much an issue in this or any election. It’s extremely personal.

According to one city official who has much more experience working with these people than I do, “Light/Brand’s leadership/management style is coercive (May I say corrosive?). That is, victory through conflict. Light exposes his low level of leadership ability. The Council is collaborative. Collaboration requires dialogue, cooperation, common ground, trust, mutual benefit and so on.”

I couldn’t agree more.

A Message to Redondo Beach Voters in Districts 1 and 2

When you do some things that no one ever did before, you may be considered innovative. Other times, you realize when it’s too late there was a good reason no one ever did what you’ve just done.

No other city anywhere in the state, the country or the world ever passed a ballot initiative that re-zoned the land under a utility while it was still operating and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. If you’re thinking about voting for Measure A and it passes, I believe you will soon realize there’s a good reason why no other city passed a similar initiative. Passing Measure A would certainly make Redondo Beach unique, but hardly innovative.

There are other things that happen in Redondo Beach that don’t seem to happen elsewhere. In my experience, when you’re elected to serve as part of a legislative body, you make a pledge to work within the structure of that body. You forgo your right to work against that body. You accept the fact you have only one vote. You recognize that sometimes your opinion will be in the minority. You accept the times you get outvoted.

The process of majority rule actually makes the body stronger than the sum of its parts. The legislative body makes a statement, we’re a team and the goals of the team and the work we were sent here to do is more important than the opinions of any individual team member.

It’s a little different in Redondo Beach. In late 2011 councilman Bill Brand gave the rest of the city council an ultimatum. Either you pass a resolution stating the city is against re-powering the AES plant or I’ll go outside the structure of the council to make that statement. He made good on that threat. He co-authored the document and promoted the petition that led to Measure A.

In my experience, when a legislator feels so strongly that the legislative body has taken a course that violates his or her fundamental beliefs, the legislator resigns. He or she may choose to work outside the legislative body or even against it to satisfy some deeply held conviction the legislative body did not share. They talk the talk and walk the walk.

Not in Redondo Beach. Councilman Brand continues to sit on the council. He even pulled papers for a re-election campaign shortly after the process that led to Measure A was begun.

The city doesn’t have any guidelines to prevent this kind of disruptive action because it’s never happened before. When people believe so strongly that some government action is wrong, they take a stand against the government. Has anyone ever heard about someone standing with the government and against the government at the same time?

Would you call Brand’s stand a semi-conviction? If he and his fellow insurgents picket outside city hall, will he have to cross his own picket line to conduct his city hall duties? If it turns violent, will he pelt himself with rocks and bottles?

The city conducts a portion of the business between itself and AES in closed sessions. Bill Brand has excluded himself from some of those sessions on the advice of the city attorney. So as business between the city and AES increases, we could expect a re-elected councilman Brand to be barred from fully participating in more city council proceedings because of his extracurricular legislative activities.

Along comes Bill Brand’s sidekick, Jim Light, who’s running for city council in District 1. He’s the co-author of Measure A so if he were elected, the same rules would apply to him in matters concerning AES.

So if Jim Light and Bill Brand get elected, the citizens of Districts 1 and 2 will send representatives to the city council who cannot fully participate in council proceedings. Anyone in Districts 1 or 2 who casts a vote for Light or Brand needs to truly believe that their representative can function effectively inside city government at the same time he’s fighting against city government. This doesn’t make any sense to me but like I said before, some things happen in Redondo Beach that don’t happen elsewhere.

This is their second initiative together, third if you count Measure G. Brand was on the council when he engaged in the actions that led to Measure A. Does anyone believe this is their last initiative? Does anyone in Districts 1 or 2 believe he or she will be fully represented by council members who invest so much energy in extracurricular legislative activities? If these guys got elected and don’t get their way, history shows us there will be more initiatives, more disruption, more wasted energy.

Read some of Jim Light’s blog post comments and you will see a person who’s so convinced he’s always right, he will spend endless amounts of time looking for little fragments of information that prove his arguments. Imagine that kind of a personality disorder in our city government. If you believe as I do the City Council accomplishes much less than it should accomplish, adding Jim Light will effectively paralyze the process.

I can’t think of an election for anything, anywhere in which two candidates could brag to voters about their work against the institution they want to get voted onto and stand any chance of winning the election. Add to that the guarantee they won’t be able to fully participate in council proceedings and the very real possibility they will create other disruptive initiatives during their council terms and you may feel what I feel when I think about the possibilities, fear.

I believe that in the end, the city of Redondo Beach will have to negotiate with AES. In the end, the city will need to compromise. If Measure A passes, it will do nothing but delay the inevitable and cause us to miss the opportunity to work with AES now, to get the best deal for the city of Redondo Beach.

Jim Light and Bill Brand have stated emphatically they will not compromise and they will not negotiate unless they get to define the basis for that negotiation. They’re willing to waste the taxpayers’ time and money pursuing a strategy that has very little chance of success. I’ve heard the Measure A camp state that under some circumstances, they will to sue the city . Are these the attitudes of people we want on the team that runs Redondo Beach? Can you really have a team with members who harbor deep resentment toward the institution they want you to vote them onto?

The city of Redondo Beach has big challenges ahead. We need leadership that understands and values cooperation over personal agenda and ego. I’m hoping the voters of Districts 1 and 2 will help Jim Light and Bill Brand continue to do what they do best, oppose, obstruct and disrupt. I’m just hoping the voters ensure they do it from outside Redondo Beach government rather than from inside and outside at the same time.

Does Particulate Matter, Matter?

The Jim Light/Bill Brand/Measure A Ticket in next month’s election uses a number of methods to convince voters to change zoning of the AES plant. One of their methods is the use of particulate estimates from the AES repowering application.

If the Light/Brand/A Ticket prevails, the city’s zoning will allow a park and limited commercial development on the AES property. Bill Brand has suggested 800 hotel rooms on the property could help fund his park.

Measure A is not a plan to build 800 hotel rooms. Neither were the zoning changes the Redondo Beach city council voted on in 2002 a plan to build 3000 condos. But the people behind the Light/Brand/A Ticket want you to believe the city was on the brink of building 3000 condos and they saved us from it. Back then, they objected to the remote possibility zoning changes would translate into a project to build condos, nothing more.

Let’s say someone, like me, felt the same way about Measure A for the same reasons, it will allow for the remote possibility of 800 new hotel rooms in the city. And let’s say while I’m trying to convince you this is a bad idea, I use air pollution as one of the reasons I think you should support an initiative I’ll call Measure Munns.

I would tell you something like this. Bill Brand’s estimate of 80% occupancy would translate to 640 rooms rented every day. Each one of those rooms would require one car or van trip to check in and one to check out. That’s 1280 car trips per day.

Then let’s assume the park attracts 200 visits per day. That’s one car trip in and one car trip out, 400 car trips for the park per day.

I’d also estimate the other allowed commercial uses such as a Birkenstock store, would need to get 500 visits per day or 1000 car trips. That turns out to be 2680 car trips per day, 365 days per year or 978,200 new car trips into and out of the city generated by Measure A.

We all know automobiles account for a vast majority of the air pollution we breathe. So on the basis of the facts above, I want you to vote for Measure Munns, which will change zoning to include absolutely no human use of the 50 acre AES property, because that’s really the only way to make it pollution free.

I know I’m right and everyone who opposes Measure Munns is wrong. But everyone other than a few of my closest friends might have a few questions.

You may want to know how much of that pollution is going to get into your lungs and the lungs of your family. You might want to see a model of how that pollution is actually distributed by things like prevailing winds and thermal air currents. You might also want to know how that increased pollution compares to pollution produced by alternative uses of that property.

The two biggest dots you might want me to connect for you are between the existence of an irrefutable increase in pollution and the effect on your health and the health of your family. I want you to agree with me and vote for Measure Munns but if I suggest everyone in the city will have emphysema in 5 years or your children will need to wear gas masks when they go to the beach, I’ll end up with no credibility and I’ll deserve no support.

So you, as a citizen, have a right to expect me to answer all those questions before you believe in Measure Munns enough to vote for it. Don’t you have the same right to get the same data from the Light/Brand/A Ticket before voting for Measure A?

The Light/Brand/A Ticket has invested considerable time and money to get your vote. What they haven’t invested in, is any kind of study that would answer all those questions about Measure A. If the Light/Brand/A Ticket is going to ask for your vote, don’t they owe you the most basic data on the effects of the pollution they’ve attempted to use to frighten you?

All I’ve seen so far is the particulate numbers provided by the AES application and statements by a couple doctors saying particulate matter is bad for our health. I think I can get the same doctors to say the same things about Measure Munns. If not, I’ll get some others.

Make no mistake, everything I mention above that you wouldn’t know about Measure Munns and that you don’t know about Measure A can be measured or fairly accurately estimated. Why hasn’t the Light/Brand/A Ticket spent some of its money providing you with those measurements and estimates?

Because while the Light/Brand/A Ticket hopes Measure A will be about pollution for you, it isn’t about pollution for them. If AES announced tomorrow that the new power plant would produce nothing but pure oxygen and Perrier, the Light/Brand/A Ticket wouldn’t skip a beat. They’d find a whole new set of reasons why you should let them plan our city’s future. A NO vote on Measure A is a YES vote for Redondo Beach.

Does the Truth Matter?

If you want me to vote for a person or an idea, you better tell me the truth. Because as soon as I find out you aren’t telling me the truth, not only do you lose any chance of my support, you guarantee my opposition.

I’ve expressed my opposition to Measure A in the past for a number of reasons, it’s a stupid idea, it’s unprecedented, it isn’t supported by any public officials other than a few locals who may well see their property values increase substantially by removing the power plant.

So for me, misrepresenting facts is just one more reason to oppose Measure A but it’s also an important reason. Taking liberties with the truth says a lot about the nature of the argument and the integrity of the people making the argument.

Here’s an example. I got an email plea to support Measure A that included this statement. “Around 2000, AES worked with the City to squeeze zoning for 1,500 condos on their property. The City released this as the Heart of the City plan in 2002. Shockingly, our Planning Commission and City Council approved this plan unanimously despite strong resident opposition. “

The truth is that Heart of the City was never approved by the city council. In fact, it was never voted on by the city council. The truth matters.

Here’s another example. City council re-election candidate Bill Brand sent a message to potential voters that included this statement to support his claim that Measure A will produce $8.4 million in revenue for the city. “Do the math, it’s easy! 800 hotel rooms x $300/room x 365days x .8 (80%occupancy) x 0.12 = $8,409,600/year just from bed tax on the hotel rooms… “

Well, here’s the real math. Redondo Beach currently has about 1000 hotel rooms. They get about 75% occupancy. That means on an average night 750 hotel rooms are paid for and occupied.

Most informed observers agree Redondo Beach doesn’t need 800 new hotel rooms. Do you know why? We can only rent 750 of the 1000 we have now. Do the math, it’s easy!

If we were renting somewhere near the 1000 room capacity on a consistent basis, an argument could be made to add some more but probably not 80% more. Unless something changes like they move the airport or Disneyland closer to Redondo Beach, we will host approximately 750 hotel room renters per night for the foreseeable future.

Bill Brand and Jim Light don’t understand these basic facts yet they want you to allow them to guide our city’s policies for the next 4 years as council members and for much more than 4 years by passing Measure A. Suggesting Redondo Beach needs 800 new hotel rooms can only be one of two things, ignorance or an attempt to mislead.

A small army of volunteers got some smart and responsible people to sign the petition to place Measure A on the ballot by asking them if they wanted to sign a petition that would get rid of the power plant.

The truth is, Measure A will change the zoning of the AES land. It has absolutely no power to shut down the power plant nor does it have any effect on the process AES has embarked on to get a new permit from the California Energy Commission. The truth matters.

In other words, Measure A does not get rid of the power plant. After 7,000 Redondo residents were tricked into signing the petition, Bill Brand stated these facts in public testimony in front of the RB School Board.

If you were one of the citizens who was duped into signing the petition or if you’ve been following the war of words over Measure A, that has to be extremely confusing. Did you believe Measure A would shut down the power plant? If so, why was Councilman Brand telling the school board Measure A will not shut down the power plant?

Here’s a question for my fellow Redondo Beach voters. If the truth matters to you as much as it does to me, don’t you have to wonder why it doesn’t matter as much to Bill Brand and Jim Light?

Praise for the Redondo Beach Board of Education

My first contact with the Redondo Beach Board of Education  (school board) occurred a few years ago when my son and a few of his 4th grade classmates were invited to present a dramatization of some California historical events. I was a Harbor Commissioner at the time. I found the environment very familiar, citizens like us giving up their evenings to sit in a meeting room and try to do things to help the community.

My next visit to the school board came a year later when some Jefferson parents sent an email requesting volunteers to speak at a meeting. Jefferson was the last RB grammar school to have 6th grade. The others had all begun sending their 6th graders to middle school. The parents I joined wanted one more year of 6th grade at Jefferson.

I spoke briefly in front of the packed room. Jefferson is a great school run by people who care about education. Like me, the other parents wanted as much of that as they could get for their kids.

The school board ignored me and the other parents and voted to discontinue 6th grade at Jefferson. I couldn’t understand how our eloquent arguments could have received such a cold reception. I was sure this would prove to be a bad decision by the school board.

I was wrong. My son went to middle school and he absolutely loves everything about it. He has me wake him up early because he can’t wait to get to school.

When I look back and remove my ego, (you know, the voice inside that tells me I’m right no matter how much evidence I see to the contrary), I recognize what happened. The board members knew things I didn’t know. They knew the trend in education was for 6th graders to migrate to middle school in preparation for high school and beyond. They spent time like I did as a Harbor commissioner, gathering information and examining the issues.

They did what we elected them to do, make rational, informed decisions to help guide the city’s education system and produce the best results. Even though I disagreed at the time, I know now they got it right.

They got it right again in December when they refused to bend to pressure to endorse Measure A, the misguided ballot imitative that asks Redondo voters to change the zoning of the AES power plant and make it illegal to generate electricity on their property. I admire the courage and wisdom they exhibited in the face of pressure from the loud and ever-present zealots who have attached themselves to this issue.

We elect and appoint people with the expectation they will look rationally at the issues that come before them and make the right decisions. That’s what the school board did with the Jefferson 6th grade decision and that’s what it did when it chose not to support Measure A.

The whole idea behind a ballot measure is to circumvent the city council. So the RB council won’t vote as a group one way or the other on Measure A. But they did vote against passing a resolution denouncing the power plant.

I’ve looked at the no power plant information online, I can’t find an elected official other than councilman Bill Brand who co-authored Measure A, who supports it. Look closely at any responses to this statement. You may see something like, Ted Lieu said the citizens should be able to vote on a power plant but that’s not the same thing.

I’m talking about an elected official making a public statement that he or she supports Measure A. I’m pretty sure you won’t find one.

In fact U. S. Congressman Henry Waxman wrote, “I’m submitting my statement, I explicitly told Councilmember Brand that I was not endorsing the ballot proposal. I think it is unwise and will lead to a great deal of litigation, even though I am sympathetic to their goals.”

So if you hear someone who supports Measure A say they don’t have politicians endorsing the iniatiave because they haven’t asked them for their support, it’s pretty clear from Congressman Waxman’s statement they have all been asked for an endorsement and they have all declined.

As a voter, you should ask yourself why? It sounds like such a good idea to vote against the power plant. Why would the Redondo Beach School Board, the City Council and every other elected official refuse to support Measure A?

I can’t speak for them even though I’m pretty sure the answer can be found in Congressman Waxman’s statement above. I will say our other elected officials, like our School Board and City Council, have taken the time to look closely at Measure A and the potential damage it will cause the City. Their refusal to support the short-sighted ballot measure is the equivalent of a unanimous vote. No on Measure A.

Finally, a plan for the AES property

Full Disclosure: As of this date, I have never met nor have I had a conversation with any employee of AES.  In spite of accusations posted here and elsewhere, I have never been paid one cent by AES or anyone representing the company. I met one time with someone I’ve known for a few years who recently started working as a contractor (I assume) for AES but that’s as far as my contact with the company goes and has ever gone. Oh yeah, I did call the plant for a comment on a story I wrote about noise a couple years ago.

I guess I also have to disclose I attended an event on Saturday, November 3rd during which plans for the new power plant were unveiled. AES bought me lunch but for anyone who may want to spin that into something more sinister I offer this assurance. If I ever decide to sell my opinions, it will cost a lot more than lunch to buy them.

My biggest criticism of the highly vocal and visible little group of people who want to force the power plant out of Redondo Beach has been that they don’t have a viable plan. All they would have to do to prove me wrong is to act like every other group of people who have a plan to develop a plot of land in the United States. Acquire the land, go through the regulatory and permit process and start building. cannot and will not follow this simple process that everyone else in the country who has a plan for land development has to follow. Why? Because they have no plan, at least no real plan.

AES has a plan and about 150 invited guests got to see it Saturday. Noticeably absent were all our elected officials and the true leaders of Redondo Beach, the city staff. I guess plans for radical changes to the largest single piece of property along our waterfront,  with the potential for development, aren’t very interesting to these people. I would have thought the opposite.

The AES plan will build a new power plant and vacate 75% of the land that currently houses power generating equipment and supports various functions related to power generation. AES spokesperson Jennifer Didlow summarized the company’s plans to remove the existing structures and clean 38 acres of land, much of which borders Harbor Drive. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how that development could change the entire character of Redondo Beach.

Didlow vowed to do it all without any taxpayer money. I guarantee nopowerplant will not and cannot make the same claim. In fact, their initiative has already cost Redondo tax payers money. Wait until the lawsuits start.

Didlow didn’t seem to acknowledge much of a threat from nopowerplant. Honestly, I’d have to agree. The enthusiastic crowd at the plant Saturday proved that there are quite a few people in the city who won’t be led by lies and distortions like, “Do you want to sign a petition to get rid of the power plant?”

Lying to all those people in front of Albertson’s and Whole Foods may have gotten nopowerplant a small victory before the war even began but the claim that 7500 signatures on petitions that were acquired by false pretense somehow represents the will of the community is a much bigger and more self-defeating lie. I saw the proof on Saturday.

Waxman and Hahn agree working with AES is the solution

It’s nice to know that the reasonable, rational people  who have expressed an opinion about how to solve the AES problem, all seem to agree that it can only be accomplished by working with AES.

In a letter to the California Energy Commission posted on the no powerplant web site, Representative, Janice Hahn, wrote, “I urge your organization to work with CPUC, CAISO and AES to retire this facility.” Notice she said “work with” and nothing about working against.

A press release quotes Representative Henry Waxman as saying, “I encourage AES and  California’s regulatory agencies to take this opportunity to permanently retire this facility and  to allow redevelopment of the site.”

Did either of  those representatives say anything about forcing AES out of business? Did they mention circumventing the city’s political process, the one that determines zoning and re-zoning? Did they even mention using an initiative to make it illegal for AES to conduct business in Redondo Beach?

No, no and no. And they never will because these seasoned politicians would never endorse tactics that are clearly counterproductive. They know there’s a right way and a wrong way to achieve our shared objective of discontinuing electricity production in Redondo Beach.

Unfortunately, the people who so desperately want you to support their ballot initiative hope you won’t notice that opposition to the power plant does not equate to an endorsement of their initiative. Nor is it an endorsement of the other tactics the no powerplant people use to get their park.

This is true for the politicians who have come out in favor or retiring the power plant and it can also be true about you. You can hate the powerplant and feel no need to sign a petition to change the zoning. I do.

What’s this? Haven’t I been keeping up with the news? It was recently announced that the proposed zoning will include museums, and some limited commercial development, not just a park.

I did get that news. I haven’t read the document describing the proposed zoning but I will guarantee the following. There is some backdoor way into 100% park/open space. How do I know this without even reading the document? Because the park people haven’t changed their objectives one bit. They’ve simply found a new tactic they hope to use to their benefit and they will continue to spin it the way they spin so many other parts of their message.

Before you read this post, didn’t you think Janice Hahn and Henry Waxman supported the initiative? It should be clear now they don’t and they won’t. Do you like being duped? I don’t.

So don’t let them dupe you into believing I’m a supporter of the powerplant. I’m not. Don’t let them make it about me. It isn’t. I’m just the messenger. Don’t shoot!

Just say NO!

If you’re a registered voter in Redondo Beach you will probably be asked to sign a petition to get an initiative that will re-zone the AES property on the March 2013 ballot. Someone will come up to you and ask you a question you can’t avoid answering yes. Do you want cleaner air? Would you like to have a park and museums instead of a power plant?

The person or people who ask you to sign the petition expect you to say yes. I’m asking you to say no. Saying no will be the more difficult thing to do but in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do. I hope you will agree.

The person who asks for your signature and your money may tell you that the California electrical grid doesn’t need a power plant in Redondo Beach. That is an opinion, not a fact even though it will be presented to you as a fact. The endless assertion that AES Redondo Beach is not necessary is nothing more than a diversion used by the opponents of the power plant to fan the flames of their debate.

They’re hoping you don’t realize that their opinion, my opinion or your opinion will have zero impact on the final decision whether power should continue to be generated in Redondo Beach. It’s like arguing about who will win next year’s Super Bowl. We may believe we know who should win and we can explain our reasons in detail but it won’t matter how many people we tell or how loudly we scream our opinions. The game will be won by the team that scores more points.

The issue of whether a power plant in Redondo Beach will be needed for the region’s future electrical needs will be determined by the California Energy Commission. They will rely on data supplied by engineers and scientists not the citizens of Redondo Beach.

The AES opponents’ arguments about air quality and public health will be disposed of very easily by asking and answering some simple questions. Is there a verifiable, negative public health impact from the last 100 years of power generation in Redondo Beach? Answer, no. Is the air quality in Redondo Beach measurably and verifiably worse than the air quality in the rest of the Los Angeles basin? Answer, no it’s actually better than the vast majority of other communities within a 50 mile radius.

So what’s the real reason why some members of the community oppose the power plant? A couple of guys have decided they want a park in its place and they’re fundamentally opposed to anyone making money from that land or anyone getting to live there if they can’t afford the kind of housing that would be built on that property. Oh yeah. One of them commutes to work and he’d rather not sit in traffic during his morning and afternoon drive times. A small, handful of people are desperately trying to convince the rest of us it’s in our best interest to force AES out of Redondo Beach. It isn’t.

The only way to get the best deal for Redondo Beach and the entire South Bay is to engage in constructive dialogue with AES and find a solution that’s fair to all. The signature you place on the petition for an initiative to change the zoning will lead us further from that solution. So when someone asks you to support their ballot initiative, do the more difficult thing and the right thing. Just say no.

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.

A reasonable plan for the future of the AES site

The approach to removing the AES power plant from Redondo Beach has a number of flaws I’ve noted in previous blog posts. Let’s suppose they succeed. Suppose the public outcry against the power plant and the related yet misguided efforts to force AES out by doing things like changing zoning, do exactly what they’re intended to do.

It’s hard to handicap the conflict between well intentioned citizens and the huge corporation. Power plant opponents cite instances of public sentiment against local power generation forcing power plants out. Have they also let their supporters know about how often applications are approved in spite of vigorous public opposition? That number would probably help with the handicapping process but let’s be generous and say there’s a 50/50 likelihood the no power plant people will prevail in getting a new permit denied.

The big flaw, the one that shouldn’t be underestimated, is that there’s no clear and persuasive plan for what happens next. That’s the question the would-be leaders of the no power plant movement should answer. What’s the step by step plan for what happens the day after AES stops generating power in Redondo Beach?

Does anyone really believe AES will just fold up shop and leave 51 acres of prime, oceanfront land behind? Does anyone believe the $5 donation they make to build a park will add up to a sum that will cover the purchase price of the land and what it costs to clear and restore it? I certainly don’t.

More likely, AES drags Redondo Beach into court or they wait until the political climate changes enough to enable them to make a move that’s beneficial to the company. Both of those possibilities could spell years, possibly decades of waiting for a resolution and boat loads of money the city either won’t get or has to pay to see this thing to its logical conclusion.

There’s only one way to avoid those enormous unknown and unintended results of actions that are being taken today. The end of the power plant and all the steps that lead to the next chapter of the story of that waterfront property, need to be structured in cooperation with AES.

Here’s how I’d do it. AES is fully aware of the public outcry against a new license. They know it won’t be easy to get renewed. In fact, AES Southland President, Eric Pendergraft, has already suggested to the city council that the company would be willing to offer something like 38 acres for alternate uses and to clean the whole parcel. In return, AES would expect cooperation from the city on its license renewal application.

The city got all that without a minute of negotiation. We have leverage and lots of it. The next thing we should do is use it effectively.

The next thing Redondo Beach would need to do is to ask AES a relatively simple question. How long would the company need to generate power after 2018 to enable the company to remove the new power plant, clean the entire location and make the remaining property available for alternate uses? There is a number and it may be smaller than we might imagine.

I know the idea of allowing AES to build a new power plant is unthinkable to the no power plant people. But how do we know whether we can or cannot live with it until we know how long the new plant would be there?

There’s also a strong possibility AES will get its new license in spite of local opposition. If that happens, the company will have no reason to agree to leave Redondo Beach at any pre-determined, future date. In all likelihood they will continue doing business as usual, no 38 acres, no date or plan for removing the power plant. They do what corporations do. They protect their investment.

No one has any idea what kind of quagmire the city might find itself in, how long it would last or how much it would cost to continue to push AES into a corner from which it has no alternative but to fight its way out. The city and the entire community would be better served to have a date-certain and a concrete plan for termination of power generation and removal of the plant. I believe we have the leverage we need to get AES to agree to such a plan.

The primary responses this idea is likely to evoke would have to do with what everyone knows. Everyone knows AES wouldn’t agree to leave Redondo Beach. Everyone knows the new plant would continue ruining our health. No, everyone doesn’t know those things.

The same people who cite “what everyone knows” about AES would have said the company would never suggest that it clean and make available 38 acres of the property it owns. It’s never a good idea to presume you know the outcome of something with the potential impact of negotiating a deal between AES and the city of Redondo Beach.

There are people leading the opposition movement who would tell you exactly that, they know what AES would and would not do. Not only don’t they know, they don’t have a clue. Why? Because they haven’t engaged in any meaningful dialogue with the company. They say they have but as I said in another post, reading your list of demands is not dialogue.

Do I want to continue breathing the exhaust from combustion at the AES plant? Of course not but the real public health damage the plant causes hasn’t been determined. The evidence that I’ve seen is largely of the “what everyone knows” variety.  Everyone knows breathing that stuff is bad but how bad is it? How much of it do we actually breath?

There are 2 grammar schools about a half mile, directly downwind from the plant. About 1200 children spend 6 hours a day, 180 days a year in those schools. My kid is one of them.

If those kids are suffering from some respiratory or other power plant-related epidemic, show me the evidence and I’ll carry a sign at the next public protest against the power plant. If those kids can’t play sports or they’re prevented from participating in activities kids in other communities enjoy because of the power plant, show me the evidence and I’ll retract every statement I’ve made against the tactics of the no power plant people.

AES Redondo Beach isn’t Chernobyl or Fukushima yet the people leading the charge against the company are trying to incite the kind of passion people feel toward those kinds of environmental catastrophes.

I expect ridicule over these statements but I also expect it will be based on “what everyone knows” rather than solid facts so it’s OK.

Until the no power plant people can tell us how they will remove the structures on that property and make it suitable for alternate uses, when they will do it, who will pay for it and how much it will cost the city, they simply don’t have a plan. They have great intentions and high hopes. They may have a fair chance of getting the new permit denied but having a partial plan or asking people to believe it will all work itself out isn’t the way responsible leaders carry out community planning.

There’s been a power plant on that property for about 100 years. I’m sure it made sense when it was built but it doesn’t make sense anymore. This community may have an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and comprehensive course of action that will lead to an end of power generation in the South Bay and the removal or the power plant.

Do we want to be able to tell our kids that we engaged in actions that led to the ultimate removal of the power plant and we put the land to some use that better serves the needs of the community? Or do we want to tell them that we got swept up in the phony passions of a few people and took actions that got part of the job done but we really don’t know how to bring it to its most favorable conclusion?  For me, that answer is as clear as I hope the view of the Pacific from 190th and Prospect will be one day.