Concerns have been raised this week about the outcome of last Tuesday’s Redondo Beach Unified School District board meeting after a two-page document was found in the meeting venue’s restroom, presumably left behind by a person who had attended.
Last week, the board listed as an action item on its agenda discussion of, and a vote on, a resolution opposing AES Southland’s proposal to re-build its Harbor Drive plant unless the project meets certain criteria.
About 50 people attended the meeting, many of them wearing ‘Yes AES’ buttons and some wearing ‘NoPowerPlant’ pins. For 30 minutes proponents and opponents of the re-powering project shared their views with the board.
Ultimately the board voted 4-1 to oppose the construction of a new power plant should it fail to comply with all listed conditions.
After the meeting, a document was found containing suggestions on how to structure a speech opposing the board’s resolution.
“Share why you support AES Redondo Beach’s plan to replace the existing power plant with a cleaner [sic] more modern plant and oppose the Board passing any resolution that would jeopardize a new modern plant. Below are some ideas you can use…,” the document reads.
Board member Todd Loewenstein said the document “came as a shock” to him.
“What we try to do is reflect the interests of the people that vote for us, and when you have an organization perhaps drumming up support or opposition where there wasn’t necessarily support before, it’s a concern,” he said.
Fellow board member Drew Gamet said the document makes him “think twice.”
“I guess I wasn’t too terribly surprised [to see it]. For me as a board member seeing that – well, that’s politics. For me as Drew Gamet, citizen of Redondo Beach, that certainly…impacts how I’m going to vote in the election,” he said.
Councilman Bill Brand expressed disappointment after the meeting that attendees had been “coached” by AES. “Yes on Measure A people don’t need coaching,” he said this week.
Others have said informational sessions and literature are part and parcel of any campaign.
AES Southland President Eric Pendergraft said AES did host a gathering prior to the board meeting and all the residents that attended did so of their own volition.
“I find it interesting that anyone who supports our position is being accused of having been ‘bought’ by AES,” he wrote in an e-mail to Easy Reader.
“I think this is an insult to all the people that have a different opinion than the No Power Plant people. We did host a gathering shortly before the School Board meeting to educate our supporters about the implications of the resolution and to clarify what the Board would be voting on.
“We provided appetizers and non-alcoholic refreshments. Every person that spoke at the meeting did so voluntarily and without being paid a dime by AES. Those that wore buttons also did so voluntarily. People transported themselves to the meeting and no one was shuttled.
“We had two paid individuals and an AES person outside the meeting that were greeting our supporters when they arrived. John Mirassou and Marc Mitchell are assisting us with the campaign and also attended. Even without these individuals, I estimate our supporters out-numbered the other side at least 3 to 1.”
He pointed out that there are also groups of people that have not interacted with AES who oppose Measure A.
Resident Lisa Rodriguez said she turned out to last week’s meeting not because she supports AES but because she opposes Measure A and is believes “there is a better way” to approach the power plant issue.
“I am not funded or formed by AES but we share the same common goal for a variety of reasons,” she said. One of those reasons, she said, is the potential of “Measure A to enter us into a custody battle – and the only ones that win in a custody battle are the lawyers.”
She also believes AES has a right to gather its supporters together to explain the content of the school board resolution, which was “confusing,” as evidenced by the flood of e-mails the board received from residents before the meeting.
People on both sides of the issue have applauded the school board’s final decision – AES representatives because they are confident its project will meet all listed criteria, and anti-power plant activists because they believe the resolution will send a clear message to the California Energy Commission. ER