First some background to get you up to speed. Last month the Council rushed to place a measure on the March City Primary ballot which would effectively raise DWP rates 12% (on top of an already approved 24%) to fund an initiative for solar energy. The plan calls for the DWP to use taxpayer funds to place solar panels on the roofs of public and private buildings using only DWP employees who are members of the politically connected International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union whose various arms and committees have donated thousands of dollars to LA's elected officials in recent years, including chief plan proponents Council President Eric Garcetti, Council Member and City Controller candidate Wendy Greuel and Mayor Villaraigosa. The speed with which the Council moved to place the measure on the ballot led the LA Times to remark that it had the "scent of a swindle."
"This rush to the ballot has the scent of swindle about it."
The next turn in the story of a swindle was excellent reporting by the only reporter apparently awake at the LA Times, David Zahniser discovered a "secret" analysis by a City hired consulting firm found the plan "extremely risky' and considerably more expensive than was being portrayed by the Department of Water and Power.'" The key findings of the analysis inlclude that the DWP, in the consultants analysis, does not have the infrastructure in place to carry out the program and that it would cost at least $2 billion more than DWP General Manager H. David Nahai claims it will.
Amazingly, according to Zahniser's report, when Garcetti received the consultant's findings he allegedly not only kept them from the public but his fellow members of the Council. After the sunlight shone by the Times' story, Garcetti released the report to Council members (of course well after they voted to place the measure on the ballot).
But here's where it gets worse. Former Daily News editor turned blogger and activist Ron Kaye joined with several other community activists in composing the ballot argument against the plan. However the straightforward argument, mild in tone, was apparently too much for the Mayor and the Council. Earlier last week Villaraigosa hired an attorney and drug Kaye and his co-writers - including City Controller candidate and former DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras - into court to challenge their argument, calling it full of lies and mistruths (read the argument and do your own research - Kaye's argument is backed up by the facts). Amazingly, in addition to asking the court to throw out the opponents' ballot argument, the Mayor and his toadies are asking Kaye et al to come up with the court costs.
"They have made our Christmas week tough, trying to find a lawyer, raise money, understand the law and the risks we face."
Kaye and his associates are faced with going up against high powered and high paid attorneys including a well funded plaintiff in the case - high powered lobbyist Mitchell Schwartz - particulary during the holidays when attorneys and resources are in limited supply. Kaye reports that attorney and longtime activist Noel Weiss - himself a candidate for City Attorney - has joined The Solar Eight -- Jack Humphreville, Soledad Garcia, Humberto Camacho, Kristine Lee, Nick Patsaouras, Joe Pulido, James O'Sullivan and Kaye - as their legal advisor in the fight.
The case's next hearing is January 8 where the group will answer the Mayor's toadies' charges. That is a significant date for civil liberties, transparency and good government in Los Angeles. We will be watching.