Wednesday, March 4, 2009

LA Municipal Election Results - Villaraigosa Avoids Embarrassment

About 16% of eligable voters participated in yesterday's election, only half the turnout of the 2005 Mayoral primary race, when Villariagosa faced stiff competition against Jim Hahn. With around 9,000 late absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, the results are in

Villaraigosa avoids embarrassment:

Villaraigosa avoids the embarrassment of a runoff with 55.56% of the vote, fending off a large field of oddballs and unknowns. But our Mayor's future in LA is far from certain. Asked about a probable run for California governor in 2010, Villaraigossa was characterstically evasive:

"Whether or not I seek another office down the line - and remember, it's 2010, not tomorrow - I can tell you it'll have nothing to do with who's in the race. It'll have everything to do with where I can best serve,'' 

Don't kid yourself, Mayor. In political time, 2010 is the blink of an eye. My guess is Villaraigosa's campaign for governor will kick into gear on March 18th, the day after San Fransisco's Mayor (and fellow gubenatorial hopeful), Gavin Newsom, holds his town hall in Villaraigosa's back yard.

Wendy Greuel and City Council incumbents coast to victory, others face delayed gratification, May 19th runoff:

Wendy Greuel will be the new LA City Controller, having also avoided a runoff with nearly two-thirds the vote. Considering she had far more name recognition than any of her opponents and a war chest to match, this came as no surprise. 

The incumbents for Council Districts 1,3,7,9,11,13 and 15 all won and will not have to face a May 19th runoff. Republican attempts to win College Board seats failed, as Santiago and Lowry retained their seats. The other incumbents, Angela Reddock in seat 2 and Nancy Pearlman in seat 6, fell a few points shy of winning outright and will face a runoff. Steve Zimmer and Nury Martinez won their respective LAUSD races.

In Manhattan Beach, city council hopefuls, including the Venice For Change endorsed candidate, Kathleen Paralusz, will have to wait a week for the official results while late absentee ballots and provisional votes are counted. Currently only 88 votes separate Paralusz from the third-highest vote getter. Only the top three candidates will win a seat on the Manhattan Beach city council.

The following campaigns will continue onto the May 19th General Municipal Election: 

  • CD5: David Vahedi vs. Paul Koretz
  • City Attorney: Jack Weiss vs. Carmen Trutanich
  • Community College Seat 2: Angela Reddock vs. Tina Park 
  • Community College Seat 6: Nancy Pearlman vs. Robert Nakahiro 

As expected, Measures A, C, and D passed, Measure E did not.

In a surprise upset, Measure B "too close to call" 

The biggest upset of the evening was the weak showing for Measure B, the plan for adding 400 megawatts of municipally-owned solar power.

The City Clerk's office reported that 50.3% of voters were rejecting Measure B - a margin of only 1,300 votes. 

With 9,000 late absentee and provisional ballots yet to count, this could change, but the unofficial results quickly created a series of awkward "Truman vs. Dewey" moments throughout the night.

From the LA Times:

First up was H. David Nahai, the head of the Department of Water and Power, who sent an e-mail statement to reporters at 11:12 p.m. hailing Measure B's passage and congratulating voters for making "a bold choice for the environment." In his statement, Nahai said the DWP "has already laid the groundwork for ramping up the workforce required to begin implementing Measure B."

Half an hour later, the solar energy campaign sent its own e-mail, titled "Los Angeles Labor, Environmental, Community Leaders Celebrate Passage of Measure B." That statement said the DWP would have a Measure B implementation plan ready within 90 days.

And shortly after midnight, the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor sent her own statement touting her group's involvement in the Measure B campaign. "Tonight, voters clearly agreed that Measure B is more of what we need to get our environment and economy back on track," said Maria Elena Durazo, the federation's secretary treasurer.

If Measure B does ultimately go down to defeat, it will be because smart, grass-roots activists like you realized that the so-called "Green Energy/Good Jobs" initiative had a lot more to do with politics than it did with providing clean, efficient and affordable solar power to the citizens of Los Angeles.

To give you some perspective, IBEW, the DWP labor union which wrote the initiative (and for many years before that, actually opposed solar power for LA, because they saw it as a threat, not an opportunity), spent nearly $300,000 to promote Measure B, and another $200,000 to help elect Wendy Greuel as LA City Controller. (The Controller's office would be tasked with auditing the effectiveness of Measure B should it pass.) 

Measure B's opponents on the other hand, were largely made up of independent grassroots organizers, activists, neighborhood councils and City Hall gadflies - not exactly the most connected, powerful or well-funded group you could imagine. But aided by a few high profile editorials and the internet, the opposition managed to get the word out - and make a difference.

If Measure B fails, is that the end of solar in LA?

Not by a long shot. There is nothing to prevent the City Council from doing now what they should have done five months ago before they punted this political football over to the voters.

If voters reject Measure B on March 3, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the City Council, and the mayor would have the opportunity to do what they should have at the beginning of 2008 instead of trying to pull a fast one on L.A. residents.

What if Measure B fails? Following the recommendations of City Controller Laura Chick, the DWP should develop a full and comprehensive plan for a solar energy program that generates 400 megawatts of power locally. The plan should be presented to Los Angeles neighborhood councils, the DWP Board of Commissioners and the City Council for further debate and refinement. Finally, the City Council should discuss the plan in an open and honest fashion before passing an ordinance. We know that the DWP, the City Council and the mayor all have the political will to implement a solar program, as do many others in the city. So passing an ordinance should not be a problem.

Importantly, the ordinance should not eliminate competitive bidding so we can create a more vibrant solar industry here in Southern California.....

By creating an open system, the DWP and its many commercial and industrial customers would be able to benefit from experienced contractors and workers from the skilled building trades. A vibrant, open system that incorporates a larger share of the solar energy community would create far more jobs than the 200 to 300 new ones envisioned by Measure B. It would serve not only Los Angeles but the rest of the country and possibly even the entire world, just as L.A.'s movie industry has a global reach. 

Without a doubt, home and business owners would want to take advantage of the expertise in this open solar community and install their own green power facilities, generating more than the 400 megawatts of clean energy outlined in Measure B.

Make your voice heard. Encourage the City Council and the Mayor to do the right thing and get moving on solar, with or without Measure B:

Mayor Villaraigosa: 

Eric Garcetti - Council President:

Bill Rosendahl - CD 11:

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