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Measure B

The No on Measure B (the Redondo Beach ballot initiative that will re-zone the AES power plant property) campaign doesn’t seem to be gaining the momentum it would need to succeed. My years of immersion in the issues and interacting with the personalities on both sides of the seaside development debate, lead me to a few theories that might help explain the apparent lack of energy behind opposition to Measure B.

My first theory has to do with Measure A, the 2013 initiative that proposed rezoning the AES property to exclude power generation, among other things. The petition that put Measure A on the ballot got thousands of signatures by asking a simple question. Would you like to get rid of the power plant?

My second theory came to life immediately after the reelection of District 2 councilman, Bill Brand in the same election. I concluded his decisive victory was attributed to a number of factors, chief among them his success in convincing property owners he was their champion in the fight to rid their neighborhood of the big, ugly, old power plant.

According my theories, thousands of residents showed their support for getting rid of the power plant by signing the petition. A majority of the people who cast votes for District 2 city council, in 2013 believed Bill Brand could help remove the power plant from our waterfront.

Those two theories lead to a third theory. The reason we aren’t seeing any ground swell of enthusiasm for opposing Measure B is because the core supporters of Measure A and councilman Brand see a clear path to the goal they all share with many of the rest of us.

Memes like reducing air pollution and removing the power plant for the good of the community have been used to shield the ambitions of a very small group of people. They successfully seduced thousands of citizens into supporting their campaigns but this one seems different.

AES drew the curtain back by offering a realistic, comprehensive plan to give them exactly what they claimed they wanted, removal of the power plant. Now, the same people who brought you Measure A want their fellow citizens to follow them in opposing Measure B.

Only this time, they can’t offer voters the chance to reduce air pollution and rid the waterfront of the power plant because that’s exactly what Measure B offers. In addition, Measure B offers a way to get it done that would benefit everyone.

So what’s left for the opponents of Measure B when AES has taken the pollution and monstrous power plant arguments away from them? Their yard signs say, Big Traffic, Big AES Profit$ and Big City $ lo$$e$.

Nobody likes traffic but if you want to avoid it, you’ll need to move somewhere lots of other people don’t want to live, like the desert. That just isn’t going to happen so traffic will be a reality with or without Harbor Village.

I haven’t seen any realistic projections of the amount of money AES stands to make from the proposed Harbor Village development. It’s probably a lot. I just don’t get the logic behind the argument that if AES, a public corporation, makes money, Redondo Beach loses something. They aren’t stealing the money they make from the city. They’re exercising their right to sell what they own and use it to do what corporations do, make money.

I won’t claim to speak with any authority about the economics but I will make a personal observation. I paid about $6,000 in property taxes per year for my modest house in North Redondo. Based on what I would expect to be much more valuable residences in Harbor Village and the number proposed, there should be a ton of money generated in property taxes. And that’s just one source of revenue. There will be others.

In my humble opinion, any voter in Redondo who doesn’t vote for Measure B is nuts. If the measure fails, you can expect to live with the power plant for a long time to come. If you like the power plant, vote NO on Measure B. If you don’t, you know what to do.

The World After Measure A

Measure A has come and gone. The real decision on zoning the AES property lies somewhere out in the future.

The property is zoned for a power plant or a park. No one who understands the reality of the situation believes it will remain that way.

The no power plant leaders will probably begin telling their followers to gear up for the big battle over approval of the AES re-powering application. There will be no big battle.

Remember, these are the same people who told you Measure A was crucial to the outcome of the war for control of the AES land. Now that they’ve lost, they’re very carefully planning how they will tell you it wasn’t as important as they told you it was.

You may hear about how important it will be for everyone to attend the California Energy Commission (CEC) hearings. Don’t forget, these are the same people who told you the world would end if Measure A wasn’t passed.

Think about it. Do you believe there’s anything new about a group of people in a community opposing a power plant? Do you think the CEC hasn’t seen placards, noisy people in the hall, unruly people in the hearing room and every other potential means of getting an opposing message in front of them? Anything NPP might attempt will be about as routine as morning coffee and it will have about the same impact.

The CEC will decide to approve or disapprove the AES application based on a set of criteria that will take little notice of public disapproval. There are really just two probable outcomes.

If the CEC Approves the AES Application, there will be little anyone can do to prevent AES from beginning to build their new power plant. Before Measure A there was a chance a legal argument could have been made that the community opposed the power plant and lawyers could have tried for an injunction to prevent construction.

Now, AES can rightfully say the community was given a chance to voice its opposition through Measure A and it did not. I can’t think of any valid or semi-valid arguments that NPP could use to prevent the bulldozers from going to work on the eastern portion of the AES property if they get their permits approved. But the Never Build Anything in Redondo people never cease to surprise me so there’s always a possibility they’ll come up with something.

If the CEC denies the AES application and AES exhausts its appeals and legal options for reversing or circumventing that decision, we end up with a humongous, obsolete power plant on a piece of property that can’t be used for anything other than a power plant or a park. So I guess the city will just build a park.

It turns out there are a few obstacles to that plan even though the current zoning is favorable. First, a public corporation owns the land. Public corporations have an obligation to deliver value to their shareholders. There would be no shareholder value to a park unless the land was purchased from AES at a price that benefitted the corporation.

I’ve heard about some conservation society or something that’s going to “help” the park people acquire the land. Remember, these are the same people who told you Measure A was essential to the future of the city and the same people who are about to tell you Measure A wasn’t as important to the war against AES as carrying placards in Sacramento.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Where’s the check to buy the AES property? Answer…there is no check. No one on this earth is going to pay AES fair market value for that property so they can build a park. No way, no how.

I’ve issued this challenge before. If the money’s there, buy it now. If not, please stop trying to get people to believe this fairy tale.

So if the permit gets approved, we’re at a stalemate. AES can sit and wait for someone to come along and give them fair market value for the property with the existing buildings and equipment. But the only thing anyone can use that property for is a park. How long do you think we’ll have to wait for someone to come along and offer to buy the land and remove the old power plant to build a park?

If the permit gets denied, we’re at a stalemate. AES doesn’t get to begin building its new plant but we still have a power plant on a piece of property that can only be used for a park.

I recently wrote that the reason why the AES property is currently zoned for a park is because of the contribution of the small group of people that became No Power Plant. They insisted on it and the city leadership acquiesced. No one else in the city wanted to restrict the potential uses of that property.

So regardless of the CEC decision, we’re headed for a stalemate that will guarantee the power plant remains where it is for the foreseeable future thanks to the people who brought you Measure A. They haven’t had a plan from day one and they don’t have a plan now.

They were right about one thing. Zoning of that land will have to change before the power plant is removed and the community gets to use the land for something else.

I’d love to see residential zoning for the property. Maybe this community could plan some affordable housing that would allow young couples to keep from having to move to Montana or to allow mom or dad to stay in the city once they’ve sold the family home. The possibilities are endlessly exciting and the defeat of Measure A gets us one step closer to having the community, not a small special interest group, decide what to do with that property.

Voters may or may not get to approve the new zoning that our city government ultimately produces for the AES property. City Charter Section 27.4, the result of Measure DD, states, “Each major change in allowable land use shall be put to a vote of the People.”

Who will decide whether changing the AES zoning qualifies as a “major change”? My guess would be high priced attorneys. Start saving your money now because we’ll all have to pay their fees.

If the zoning changes necessary to make something happen on the AES property end up on the ballot, those of us who fought and won Measure G and Measure A will find ourselves fighting for our city’s future once again. My gut tells me the momentum has shifted in our favor. We’ll see.

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 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?

Hope for District 2

There’s definitely a place in this world for people who feel so passionately about a single issue that they devote most of their time and energy to that issue. Elected office in general and elected office in Redondo Beach is not one of those places.

The reasons are simple. When you get elected to serve a group of people, they have a right to expect you to devote all the time you have available to a variety of issues that effect them. Every hour you spend fighting for some obsessive cause is an hour you don’t spend tending to the needs of your constituents.

I have long held the opinion that serving on the Redondo Beach city council has evolved past the point where we can reasonably expect volunteers to have enough time to do the job right. A full-time job and/or a young family compete for a council person’s time, which is why I don’t currently harbor any aspirations of serving on the council. If you add a time-consuming crusade like forcing a local business out of the city, you just can’t expect to have enough time left over to do a job that requires more time than you have without the crusade.

My friend and colleague, Michael Jackson, has a flexible work schedule, a grown family and no crusades. I have worked with him and I know he’s a reasonable, hard-working guy who understands how government works and has a sincere desire to do what’s best for all Redondo residents.

I’ll have plenty to say about Michael’s candidacy as we get closer to the election. Today I want to point out he has the endorsement of the city’s police and firefighters associations. Follow his campaign by clicking here, www.jackson4redondo.com. He needs to unseat an incumbent, something that’s always difficult. Join me in helping him bring leadership and fair representation to Redondo Beach’s District 2 and the whole city.