Los Angeles, CA — Measure B is the kind of ballot initiative that has something to address some of the major concerns of most people.

There is the environmental aspect for the folks whose primary focus is ensuring that the next generation of Angelenos gets the opportunity to enjoy living in an atmosphere that is at least equal, and in the best case scenario, better than what is enjoyed today. And then there is the potential of a substantial number of jobs being created in a future growth industry that captivates the attention of those who continue to grapple with basic existence issues.

But as can be expected, Measure B is a solution that has both detractors and keen supporters.

Officially called the Solar Energy and Job Creation Program, Measure B is an ordinance that will change the city charter. If passed, the legislation could require the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) to create and implement a solar energy program that would generate 400 megawatts of electricity by the 2014.

This is equivalent to slightly more than 5% of all the energy the city uses, said Michael Trujillo, Measure B campaign manager.

The electricity would be generated by solar panels placed on city properties including airports as well as a number of privately owned commercial buildings.

Trujillo said the estimated cost to create such a program is $1.2 to $1.5 billion dollars and will come from DWP through a 90 cents to $1.05 boost increase in the monthly bills of its consumers.
Additionally, Trujillo said the measure is expected to create from 200-400 jobs for every 10 megawatts of electricity produced.

“Most of these would be solar panel installer jobs that would probably start a bit higher than $50,000 a year with benefits,” said the campaign manager about the caliber of the jobs.

What convinced Rev. Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to support the measure was the jobs program. Under the measure, training academies will be set up in communities with high levels of unemployment.

“What is suppose to happen is, once and if the measure is passed, the DWP will sit down with a task force of community leaders to determine where these job training academies are suppose to be located. One of the reasons I am at the table is to make sure they are located in our area, which suffers more from unemployment,” said Lee, who pointed out that African American males ages 19-30 face an unemployment rate as high as 40%.

Under Measure B, preferences will be given to companies that manufacture within the city of Los Angeles. The SCLC head sees this as another potential source of good paying jobs for the community.

But opponents of the measure question both the number and quality of the jobs backers claim will be created.

“The DWP says it is going to hire (only 400) people, and no manufacturer is going to commit a lot of money to put in an expensive facility on the prospect of a bid alone; they are going to want to have a contract,” contends Jack Humphreville, the ratepayer advocate of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.

Humphreville, who is also publisher of the Recycler Newspapers, said that by allowing the DWP to operate such a solar program without competitive bidding, a closed system is created that is controlled by the utility, city hall and by one union (The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).

The Measure B opponent also believes that allowing DWP to be the sole company operating the program will not encourage the development of a robust solar power industry in Los Angeles.

Beyond the question of just how many jobs will be created, opponents call the process of how the legislation was conceived “a back door” deal that did not include input from the utility agency or the public, and that ignored a consultant report that the plan could actually cost nearly double what has been initially projected.

Supporters counter that the plan has been in the public eye since measure for the ballot, the financial details were not available to allow an impartial evaluation.

That consultant report, which was first submitted and then withdrawn, also questioned the DWP’s ability to actually manage such an extensive program.

Opponents are also concerned that Measure B changes the city charter as well as the relationship between DWP, the City Council and City Hall, and would allow the charter-required process of having the DWP Board of Commissioners vet and vote on such programs to be by-passed.