(June 9, 2005) -- By our tally, the LB City Council's June 7 LNG vote wasn't really 5-4, it was 8-1.
Despite more than two years of well-crafted ads, slick videos and costly mailings, by our count the LNG proposal resulted in only one audibly supportive Councilmember.
As we reckon it, eight Councilmembers either didn't want LNG in LB (Colonna, Lowenthal, Gabelich, Baker) or tapdanced for time (O'Donnell, Kell, Richardson and Lerch).
Reyes Uranga, the project's Council cheerleader, is left to dance with outside union bosses while spurning a prestigious neighborhood group in her own district, the Wrigley Association, which opposes the project.
LBReport.com is transcribing salient parts of the Council proceedings. Watch for it. Seen in writing, the wisdom, vision and guts evident in the presentations of Councilmembers Colonna, Gabelich and Lowenthal are simply undeniable. As the LNG project advances, their prescience will be increasingly evident to residents and taxpayers.
City Attorney Bob Shannon, whose unambiguous advice we've already transcribed and posted, is likewise earning plaudits. The public recognizes good advice when they hear it...even when it's lost on some Council incumbents.
The tapdancing Council majority, which pretends to be awaiting "facts" in an upcoming Environmental Impact Report (EIR), is trying to hide from what is undeniable. If a developer and City Hall want to put a manure pile in your neighborhood, you can expect a project EIR to claim it won't smell, or if it does the developer will spray perfume twice a day for "mitigation." [In this, we expect Reyes Uranga will find jobs for the manure pilers persuasive.] EIRs are notorious for trying to understate facts, the most recent being the Port of LB's Pier J EIR, withdrawn after an environmental group expended major resources to expose its flaws.
We confidently predict that the upcoming LNG EIR, a joint PoLB-FERC production, will likewise understate and/or censor impacts and risks. We already know, thanks to an admission by PoLB Executive Director Dick Steinke at the June 7 Council meeting, that parts of the Port's heavily hyped LNG "risk assessment" will now also likely be censored from the public whose lives and property are at risk.
As the LNG project advances, opposition will mount...and the public will grasp an inescapable fact: even if the Council vote were 9-0 against it, the ultimate decision on the project is currently out of the Council's control. Under a 1980's-vintage City Charter, if someone proposes putting a nuclear power plant (also licensed by FERC) in the Port of LB, nothing stops the Port's non-elected potentates from entering into a "Memorandum of Understanding" and leaving the elected City Council without the ultimate decisionmaking power to stop it.
This is nuts...and it doesn't take Congress to fix it. With five Council votes, LB voters can have a ballot opportunity to give elected Councilmembers veto power over major Port decisions...or the opportunity to elect an accountable, recallable Harbor Commission. We doubt there are five Council votes for this now...but the level of opposition being voiced publicly today to Port of LB policies on air pollution, infrastructure impacts and taxpayer costs was once considered inconceivable.
The Port may think it won a victory on June 7th, but we believe that as the LNG project advances, it will increase calls to change a system in which non-elected Port potentates currently wield virtually uncontrolled power to put LB residents and taxpayers at risk.