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Timidity, Audacity, Vision and the Neighborhood Councils

PERSPECTIVE - In his article in the June 3rd edition of CityWatch, Stephen Box described the Neighborhood Council Valley Village decision not to introduce a motion in support of a 2020 deadline for getting the city off of coal as an energy source as ” That moment of caution and the commitment to deliberation is what has brought out the worst in Los Angeles.”

He suggested that the NC’s decision not to entertain the motion ran contrary to JFK’s bold, audacious vision in 1961 to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

Aside from that comparison being a stretch – say about 238,857 miles, give or take a little – he equates audacity with strength and sound decision-making.

Audacity has a range of outcomes from success to utter failure, although the results tend to land at the extreme ends of the scale. For example, George Armstrong Custer was audacious. He did not heed the counsel of his Native American scouts and insisted on sweeping into the large Sioux and Cheyenne encampment before reinforcements arrived.  He ended up having a very bad day.

Julius Caesar was audacious (euphemistically referred to as ambitious by his former ally Brutus), and started Rome down the path to ruin.

Using Box’s example of JFK’s objective, while I was as proud as anyone of this nation’s achievement of landing a man on the moon in 1969, I have to wonder if our lives would have been better had we delayed the goal by another decade and focused on other segments of science instead. There is no clear answer, but the question is legitimate.

I don’t think Stephen Box intends to trade examples of where the “audacious power of strong vision coupled with an absolute deadline ” has either improved or detracted from our lives; so, let’s get back to the present.

It is baffling that Box, who opposed the City Council’s audacity of trying to push Measure B down our throats, would somehow have a problem with a neighborhood council wanting to adequately vet a complex and potentially costly objective before introducing and passing a motion in support.

This is not a debate over the desirability to break from coal power. It is whether we want to bear the possible adverse cost of doing it by a time certain. The ratepayers and stakeholders do not have bottomless pockets.  The sobering fact of life is the need to allocate scarce financial resources to achieve the optimal good. The more complex the decision, the more deliberation and debate is advisable.

By comparison, NC ValleyVillage refers property development proposals to its Planning and Land Use Committee.  A recent decision to approve shade devices for a sun-scorched section of Valley Village Park was debated and vetted through the City Services Committee.

The board members of NC Valley Village take our obligation to our stakeholders seriously. That can’t be said for some officials in City Hall.

There are always multiple sides to any issue.  For a lobbyist or other representative to make a presentation to a board and expect a motion of support based solely on their organization’s point of view is an affront to the community as a whole. Other opinions count.

In the case of eliminating coal by 2020, the DWP Oversight Committee has raised concerns over the cost of transitioning by the target date.  This committee is composed of a cross-section of neighborhood council members, many of whom have devoted significant personal time to understanding the energy issues facing the city. At a minimum, their voices need to be heard.

Whether we eliminate coal by 2020, or years later, will play a miniscule role in cleaning up the environment as a whole as long as emerging economic powers keep stoking the coal furnaces for generations to come.  There will be adverse health consequences regardless of when we pull the trigger on the Arizona and Utah coal-fired plants.

It is highly desirable to transition to green energy – no one is disputing that, but we can’t risk breaking the bank in order to stubbornly cling to a mandated deadline.

To ignore reality and not allow alternative opinions to enter the debate – any debate -  is not in the best interests of our stakeholders.

While Box may refer to NCVV’s stand as timid, I think of it as responsible.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as Treasurer for the Neighborhood Council Valley Village.  He blogs at Village to Village and can be reached at:  [email protected] )

Tags: neighborhood councils, Stephen Box, Paul Hatfield, Neighborhood Council Valley Village

Vol 9 Issue 45
Pub: June 7, 2011