Measure B: L.A.'s secret solar plan
The City Council was unfazed in November when no one from the Department of Water and Power or other City Hall offices could answer some of the most basic questions about a proposed solar power measure the council was about to put on the ballot. How much will it cost ratepayers? Is it financially feasible? How much money will it take to recruit and train new workers?
DWP General Manager H. David Nahai said his agency would have the answers after Huron Consulting Group completed its independent analysis of the plan sometime in January, and council members promised one another that would leave plenty of time for open discussion about the “Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles” program that they seemed too rushed to deal with at the moment. They scheduled the measure for the March 3 election.
The Huron report is due next week, but don’t expect that to spur a month of thoughtful City Council discourse based on the findings. The report is not about Measure B (or Charter Amendment B, take your pick); it’s an analysis of the entire three-part Solar L.A. program, of which Measure B is one part. It won’t tell ratepayers how much their rates will rise. It can’t. There are too many variables -- just as there are too many variables to let voters know how much rates will rise without Measure B.
Yet there was Nahai at last week’s commission meeting urging everyone to hold their fire until the Huron report is out. “Until then, I feel that all of the conjecture really does a disservice to the debate,” he said.
The Yes-on-B campaign is in high gear, asking voters to adopt the measure. Voting begins Monday with mail balloting. Yet we’re not supposed to ask questions until the Huron report is out? Meanwhile, where is the language of the measure we’re voting on? Have voters seen it? Is it available? Is it on the city’s website? No -- the city clerk’s office is shooting for posting the language sometime toward the end of next week. (If you don’t want to wait, you can find the ballot language on our website, at latimes.com/opinion.)
This page wants smart “in-basin” solar power as an integral part of the city’s energy generation and distribution strategy, and we remain open to the idea that this ballot measure may be the best way to get it. But the process seems designed to get voters to sign off on a plan without sufficient knowledge of it, and it is undermining a broader discussion of solar power in Los Angeles. There is a point at which process gets so bad that it outweighs substance, no matter how good that substance may be. We’re rapidly approaching that point.
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