Friday, March 4, 2011

Janice Hahn Opposes LA Ballot Initiative To Tax Big Oil She Once Proposed

On March 8th, Angelenos will have the opportunity to vote on a variety of ballot initiatives, everything from a proposal to tax medical marijuana dispensaries to a hike in property taxes to fund public libraries.

One of the most popular initiatives - Measure O, a proposal to impose an oil severance tax for oil extracted within the city limits of Los Angeles - was introduced by LA Councilwoman (and current candidate in the CA36 Congressional race) Janice Hahn. The measure is projected to bring in about $4 million in revenues annually. Neighboring cities of Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Long Beach, and Seal Beach already impose a similar tax.

Measure O is endorsed by the California Courage Campaign, the LA Conservation Corps, the Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations.

Yet a year after Hahn first proposed the idea, she now stands as the only LA City council member in opposition to the measure.

Hahn's turnabout shines a rare spotlight inside the world of LA City politics, where powerful interest groups often create chaos with the legislative process.

From the LA Times:

Buffeted by the competing wishes of special interests, the mayor and various civic leaders, council members repeatedly changed their minds on the ballot proposals, hastily rewriting some while killing others outright......

A separate tax on oil production was proposed by Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose harbor district has the most refineries. After representatives of those refineries complained, Hahn publicly rescinded her support on the day of the crucial vote.

Hahn's colleagues passed it anyway, delighted to find a new source of money for the city's cash-strapped budget.

KCET reports that the opposition is sponsored by the California Independent Petroleum Association, "a non-profit, non-partisan trade association representing approximately 450 independent crude oil and natural gas producers," according to its website. CIPA has lobbied extensively to expand offshore drilling off the coast of California and in ANWAR, opposes Cap and Trade, and any limits to hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking"), a controversial and dangerous means of natural gas extraction made famous by the HBO movie, "Gasland" 

According the KCET, CIPA has given more than $400,000 to California candidates from 2001 to 2010. Sixty-two percent of those candidates were Republicans.

Some of Measure O's opponents have gone on to endorse Janice Hahn in her bid to win the Congressional seat vacated by Jane Harman.


  1. From todays LA Times.."Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes the Wilmington refinery zone, initially proposed the oil-extraction tax idea but then urged her colleagues to drop it because of a likely "massive campaign" by oil companies against it"
    This clearly shows that Janice is not only in favor of Measure O butis actually a leader in the City Council who understands ways to bring in revenue to a financially strapped city AND also understands that sometimes it is better to back off a good idea and not pick a fight that will cost the same city money it does not have. That's why I am supporting Janice to be the next Congresswoman for CD 36. Because changing your mind doesn't always mean that you are slippery, sometimes it means that you have more information and are making a better decision. Trying to defame someone because they changed their mind on an issue or changed course in their actions is the lowest form of political attacks and I'm surprised that Marta Every is practicing it. It is something I usually associate with Republicans. I am supporting Janice Hahn for to be our next Congresswoman for CD 36.

  2. Clearly the previous comment is someone from the Hahn campaign doing damage control. She was on the side if the people and now that she is running for CD36 she is already on the side of the oil companies. We need a progressive, like Marcy Winograd, who is a steadfast, reliable progressive.

  3. Anonymous #1 -

    While I'm sure it's comforting to characterize this whole incident as an intricate game of strategic gamesmanship on Hahn's part, I think it's more likely what happened with Measure O was less a case of leadership, and more a case of cold feet. While I have no doubt Hahn supports the idea of an oil extraction tax in theory, I do question wether she has it in her to withstand the intense pressure of special interest groups and vote the courage of her convictions. Flexibility is one thing, pandering is quite another.

    It is not defamation to point this out, and to claim raising these questions somehow makes me a Republican is not an argument worth engaging in.

  4. This is not about "rewriting" history-- it is about making sure that people/ blogs, etc. do not try and make their own reality of the situation.

    At a time when we have $4.00 a gallon gas, where do you think the bottom line is going to come from for Measure O???? That's right. the oil companies are going to pass that little tax along to you and me.

    By the way, what's up with 11th hour attempt at a "jab" at Janice Hahn over Measure O?

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm pretty sure you are not supporting her run for Congress, but I personally can't wait until she is my Congresswoman :)

  5. This is Noel Weiss:

    Your Headline is incredibly misleading. . . Janice Hahn remains the true progressive in this race.

    On Measure O - I know it well. I have been advocating for an oil severance tax for two years before the LA City Council. No one (and I mean no one) other than Janice Hahn was receptive to the idea. Janice did come through and sponsor the idea for this year's elections. It is also true that when the time came for the vote to put it on the ballot, Janice believed the measure would not pass and therefore backed away because she felt that putting it on the ballot was a losing proposition (literally and figuratively).

    While your blog can fairly criticize Janice for her judgment that putting this on the ballot at this point in time was a misjudgment, it is incredibly false and misleading to imply that Janice is not a true progressive or lacks progressive values because of what may turn out to have been an error in her judgment of when the timing might be right. We'll see what happens on Tuesday.

    As for having 'cold feet', that comment is also very unfair and belies Janice's progressive record of fighting the tough fights on behalf of 'the little guy and gal'.

    When the middle class and elderly tenants at Lincoln Place were taking a huge 'hit' and being evicted en masse who was there to meaningfully stand up for the Lincoln Place tenants?

    Janice Hahn. . . Why? Because she believed what was happening was wrong. . . Even though it was not her district. . . This in the face of threatened lawsuits against her personally.

    When the hotel workers at the airport hotels needed a champion to get a living wage ordinance enacted (something no other progressive in this nation has done when it comes to hotels - the hotel owners are very, very powerful). . . It was Janice Hahn who not only stood up for the workers and got the job done (including getting them severance if the hotels are sold and people laid off. . . and a right to keep their tips). You can't appreciate how incredibly difficult this was. . . and what an amazing accomplishment it represents. No other City in this Country has this kind of law (except Emeryville). It was one person. . . and one person only. . . . Janice Hahn. . .who got the job done for the people. As a result, in the years since the recession hit, those hotel workers collectively got (easily) $20 Million in their pockets to smooth the rough edges. . Money they would not have had except for Janice Hahn.

    When it came to empowering the people of her Council District down in Wilmington and San Pedro in the control over the disposition of $50 Million in environmental mitigation funds. . . . who came through and negotiated this citizen empowerment agreement?. . .. Janice Hahn. . . . This agreement is one of the most citizen-empowering, progressive agreements ever negotiated in the history of Los Angeles. . . Again, one person led the charge and got the results. . . . Janice Hahn. . .

    And if you think it was easy. . . think again. . . Very powerful interests were massed on the other side. . . . .yet Janice knew what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

    I could go on. . . When I wanted the tenant relocation fees raised back in 2007, one person and one person alone was with me in that successful fight. . . Janice Hahn. When it comes to embracing new ideas and approaches. . . Janice Hahn continues to be there for the people. . .

    We need a debate of ideas. . . Not some kind of mutually assured destruction via misleading blog postings. . . Because if we are not careful, division will create a loophole through which a Republican can thereby 'sneak into office much to the dismay of all of us who want a progressive voice in Congress representing our District.

    I'm sure Debra Bowen is a terrific lady. . . She has been an excellent Secretary of State.. . . a position she should continue to hold. . . particularly after having gone to the voters just five months ago asking to be re-elected.

    Noel Weiss

  6. Noel,

    I'm flattered you've chosen to comment here. Your passionate defense of Janice Hahn during the Hahn/Newsom Lt. Gov race was the stuff of blog legend. Thanks for making your presence known here.

    A couple of things.

    First, if I had a dime for every supporter who claimed the mantle of "true progressive" for their candidate, I'd be a rich woman. Fact is, the only non-progressive candidates in this race are the Republicans. The argument that any Dem candidate is more "progressive" than the other is a straw man argument and one I won't be making.

    Secondly, I'm not going to argue your version of Hahn's record, because I still need to research it. Which brings me to this point - ALL the candidates are going to have to run on their records, so the fact that the piece I wrote is making voters think about that, ask questions, and do the research is a positive development. Let's keep that going.

    Lastly, your claim that Bowen should remain in office because she just went to the voters five months ago should apply equally to Hahn, who still has two years left to go as a City Councilmember. If you want to apply that standard to one sitting politician, you should apply them to all.

  7. This is Noel Weiss responding to your comments.

    Thanks Marta for the comments. . . . I appreciate your graciousness.

    My definition of a 'true progressive' is one who first and foremost identifies with the interests of the 'little guy and gal'. . the poor and middle class of this City and this Country. . . and then who backs that commitment with practical, positive, principled action. . . oftentimes when either the odds are against it, the outcome uncertain (as it usually is. . it is amazing how 'obvious' things look in retrospect), or the effort excruciating and challenging.

    It requires a decent (and renewed search for) balance between 'ego' and 'imagination'. . . the search for personal growth. . . including a recognition of mistakes from which one can hopefully learn.

    This is the spirit and the soul of Janice Hahn. . . I have seen it demonstrated consistently over the years. . on issue after issue. . . and I'm confident that you're search and evaluation of Janice's record (which includes knowing which battles to pick and when) will support and reinforce the conclusion that Janice is a 'true progressive'. . . . that she wishes to challenge herself and the rest of us to grow, that her doubts are nonetheless imbued with faith, and support a degree of commitment and courage which is unmatched by anyone on that City Council. . . and which when brought to Congress will be a positive reflection on the core social progressive values of this Congressional district.

    Once elected, there is no doubt in my mind that Janice will be there ready to advance those values and objectives. With the Republicans currently in charge of the House, there's a limit. . . but Janice can and will set the stage so that when the Democrats retake the majority, we can move a progressive agenda forward.

    On the issue of 'change of jobs', you were very kind Marta in your comments and I appreciate it. You could have easily pointed to the fact that Janice ran for LG right after she was elected. . and then posed the question as to what the difference was (is) between Janice's LG effort and Debra Bowen's running now on the heels of her re-election as Secretary of State.

    As we both know, as it turned out, the voters said to Janice that her rightful place was in the City Council. . . Perhaps (at least in part) for that reason. Now she's two years in. . . . so it is a slightly different circumstance now versus just having been elected. . . although I will grant you that the difference of two years does involve a subjective judgment on which reasonable minds will differ.

    Janice's LG campaign did end up making her a better councilperson. . . and perhaps the same will occur with Debra Bowen's candidacy for CD 36. . . she'll end up a better Secretary of State (and unquestionably, she has been excellent already).

    In the end Marta, it does come down to doing what we can do to ensure that the progressive cause is well served by the result of this election. . . Goodness knows that the last thing we need is a phony populist or a Republican being elected to this seat.

    So hopefully everything can stay focused on that objective and we can get a good solid positive, idea invigorating effort out of our two progressive challengers.

    Thanks again for this dialogue.

    Noel Weiss