“If Los Angeles wants to boycott Arizona, it had better get used to reading by candle light.”
That statement from Gary Pierce, a commissioner with the Arizona Corporation Commission, came in an official letter written to Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, which he also released to media outlets.
It is the message from the five-member commission of Arizona’s top government utilities agency, and is in retaliation to the Los Angeles City Council’s recent decision to boycott the Southwest desert state–to protest its immigration law–by suspending official travel there and ending future contracts with state businesses.
Noting that a quarter of Los Angeles’ electricity comes from Arizona power plants, Pierce threatened to pull the plug, if the City Council does not reconsider.
“Doggone it–if you’re gonna boycott the candy store … then don’t come in for any of it,” Pierce told the media.
In his letter, he ridiculed Mayor Villaraigosa for saying that the point of the boycott was to “send a message” by cutting the “resources and ties” they share.
“I received your message; please receive mine,” Pierce wrote. “As a statewide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the ‘resources and ties’ we share with the city of Los Angeles,” the commissioner wrote.
“If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation.”
Appearing to tap into local frustration in Arizona over the throng of boycotts and threatened boycotts from cities across the United States, including Los Angeles, Pierce warned that Arizona companies are more than willing to fight boycotts with boycotts.
“I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands” Pierce wrote. “If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.”
Within the official statement, Pierce said that he was speaking for himself, although many in the state support him. He pointed out that Arizona has leverage over Los Angeles and the rest of California. The city and state receive electricity from a nuclear power plant outside Phoenix, as well as from coal-fired power plants in northern Arizona and two giant hydroelectric power generators along the Colorado River.
If Arizona pulls the plug on the power it sends to L.A., every part of the city could be impacted.
Despite that, the Los Angeles City Council voted overwhelmingly to ban future business with Arizona–a decision that could cost the state millions of dollars in lost business and contracts. The mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo, in response to Commissioner Pierce, issued the following statement: “The mayor stands strongly behind the city council and he will not respond to threats fron the state that has isolated itself from an America that values freedom, liberty and basic human rights.”
The decision to boycott the state of Arizona over one of its controversial laws surrounding a sociopolitical issue is not unprecedented. When President Ronald Reagan signed into law the observance of a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1984, Arizona was one of the few states in the country that would not recognize the it.
This led to the state being boycotted by a whole host of organizations including the National Football League and the National Basketball Association which removed Arizona from consideration to host the Super Bowl and the All-Star game, respectively.
Arizona has a notorious history in race relations and policies towards non-Whites due to its stand against the King holiday (Arizona voters consistently voted down the proposal to make it a federal state holiday until 1992), its affiliation with former governor Barry Goldwater, its conservative Republican politics, and a recently approved immigration law that appears to foster the practice of racial profiling against Latinos.
Many Los Angeles officials were furious, when the Arizona immigration law passed last month and joined local leaders from cities across the country to encourage protests against Arizona to express their outrage. Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling and civil rights abuses.
Arizona officials have defended the law, saying the state needed to take its illegal immigration problem into its own hands. Pierce said he is “supportive” of the state’s efforts to control the border.
The legislation requires local law enforcement to try to verify the immigration status of anyone they have contact with whom they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. It empowers them to turn over verified illegal immigrants to federal custody. It explicitly prohibits screening people based solely on race or national origin.