Tale of Two Tonys

Random Lengths News | August 2, 2006
It’s been harder than usual these days to find anything to be optimistic about, what with three wars raging, people starving in Africa and a near global heat wave scorching the Northern hemisphere. Al Gore must have been right after all. It makes one wonder about those results in the Florida 2000 election all over again doesn’t it? The bright side is that this week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair ventured outside the Beltway to cut a deal with California and specifically to visit Los Angeles to speak with, what one London paper called, “the Latino Blair” Antonio “Tony” Villaraigosa commonly known as “the Mayor” around here.

It is curious that Blair decided to be a tourist on-a-mission this week in California as I am sure that more than the weather is heating up in London over the invasion of Lebanon and the growing lack of confidence in the PM’s continuing stand to support the Bush agenda in Iraq.

Both Blair and the Gropenator have a lot to gain by signing the Green House Gas initiative to combat global warming. With 146 countries having already signed the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels, the Bush administration still doesn’t admit that global warming is anything more than a theory–– in much the same way George W. thinks about Darwin and evolution. To him the facts aren’t quite in on evolution yet–– unlike, say, WMDs in Iraq. God bless George for being the “decider”!

Even more to the point was the presence of President Clinton offering a three-prong plan using a consortium of large cities to leverage the purchasing of energy-saving technology, coordination of technical assistance, and the creation of ways to better measure progress in cleaning up the mess. The last item should have some particular meaning down at the Port of L.A., as the debate over how to measure air quality improvements has been ongoing. However the prominence of the Clinton initiative does give our Tony–the– Mayor more justification to pay attention to both the health and safety issues that have been brought forth by community activists over the past decade.

Councilwoman Hahn, recognizing a hot-flash political moment, wasted no time in announcing an Air Quality Forum of her own at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium on Saturday August 12 to immediately move this item up on the public agenda. One does have to ask, however, why it has taken her so long to get the inspiration?

The Port of L.A. too should look at this multi-national municipal initiative as the spark to really get government and industry on the same page and singing the same hymn. With the State of California signing on to this plan, the Port should have all the political support it needs from the legislature, the Air Quality Management District California Air Resources Board and the State Tidelands Commission––the last one being the agency that the Port must go to get legal approval on spending for such things.

This is a global realignment of positions on air quality that our Councilwoman and the Port cannot pass up. They need to act in unison on to quickly bring a motion before the L.A. City Council and the Mayor for swift action—not more talk.

The Port’s previously released Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) released on June 28 can be seen as one step in this direction. It is not a strict adherence to the previous No Net Increase. However State Senator Alan Lowenthal’s bill SB 760 to charge a $30 container fee on every TEU passing through the ports of LA and Long Beach also needs to be part of the overall plan to pay for infrastructure and clean air technologies, as well as port security. According to the Southern California Association of Governments' Port Modal Elasticity Study, fees of $96 per TEU/$192 per FEU would have only minimal impact on port throughput.

Naturally, the California Chamber of Commerce tags such bills as SB 760 as “job killers”—it's even given that dreaded label to a bill requiring off-shore call centers to identify what country they're in, if asked by a consumer! But the example that President Clinton speaks of in London where emissions were reduced and more jobs are created proves that a cleaner environment and good paying jobs are not mutually exclusive. This should give the local Harbor Area chambers some incentive to support not only the container fee bill by Lowenthal but also the Clinton initiative in general, especially at the San Pedro Chamber who recently published it’s eight Public Policy Priorities– support for the clean air initiative should be number -nine!

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