Author: Elizabeth Cutler
On March 3, Los Angeles had the opportunity to vote on Measure B, also referred to as Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Act. Supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the potential city ordinance would allow the Department of Water and Power to add 400 megawatts of solar panels in Los Angeles. Property of the Department of Water and Power (DWP), these solar panels would transform sunlight into solar power for the city.
In addition to the environmental aspects of Measure B, it would also only employ Los Angeles residents in the new jobs that the presence of the solar panels would create.
Oxy students have gotten involved in this issue of environmental politics and public policy, most notably through the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute. Junior politics major Laura Frankel is one such student.
“Los Angeles is particularly well-positioned to act as a guiding force for state and federal policy, due to our size, economy, and demographics,” she said.
Indeed, a fact sheet generated by Measure B proponents states that it would be “the most ambitious and achievable solar program of any city in the nation [and] by utilizing L.A.’s most abundant natural resource, sunshine, and thousands of acres of large-scale root tops, the citizens of Los Angeles have the opportunity to make L.A. the national leader in solar production.” The proposition’s supporters emphasize the economic stimulus aspect just as much as its actual environmental policy changes.
This comprises one aspect of arguments against Measure B. Many disagree that the jobs created by the solar panels can only be created in this way-on the contrary they argue, just as many jobs can be created elsewhere. On February 26, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times published a formal endorsement of the Vote No on Charter Amendment B campaign.
The article expresses concern that the way in which Measure B was drafted and reached the ballot on March 3 demonstrates a deeper problem of Los Angeles politics.
“It’s a grab for power-the political kind, not the solar stuff-by the City Council and the union that represents DWP workers,” the editorial board stated in the article. They also expressed concern that the proposition is a decisive policy change made by city government thinly veiled as a decision of the voters.
“It’s a City Hall measure presented as though it were a voter-sponsored initiative to demand that city leaders take some particular action. In fact, it’s the city leaders who crafted this measure, supposedly to instruct themselves to do something, but in fact to get preemptive absolution from the electorate,” the editorial board said.
Nevertheless, endorsements in support of Measure B have come from such prolific organizations as The Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, and the Coalition for Clean Air, to name a few.
Professor Martha Matsuoka of UEP explained the significance of Measure B while taking into account its potential shortcomings.
“Measure B is an important step for a city the size of Los Angeles to take to demonstrate the new model of energy and development we want in large cities. The program may not be perfect, but it goes a long way in linking the generation of new solar energy with job creation in neighborhoods such as South Los Angeles that have long been neglected in economic development and investment,” she said.
Students in Professor Matsuoka’s Environment and Society (UEP 101) and Sustainable Development (UEP 303) classes have gotten very involved in studying the proposition and campaigning on behalf of their individual perspectives.
Among other efforts, these students have developed informational sheets to hand out on campus during lunch, contacted voters via phone banks, and precinct walking.”We’ve all found opportunities to have our voices (even the dissenting ones) heard,” said Frankel.
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