To the Editor,
“As the nation’s largest public utility, we are held to a high level of review and scrutiny. We must be a transparent organization that is accountable to its customers and the communities it serves,” stated DWP General Manager Ron Nichols. “We must also be thoughtful and methodical as we balance our environmental responsibilities and the needs of our electric and water customers for reliable and affordable service. If given the opportunity to lead the organization, this balance, and this transparency will be my top priorities.”
In this statement quoted from LADWP’s Dec 20, 2010 news release announcing his appointment as General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Ron Nichols should be reminded of his words and how they are void of any real expectation of a friendly expression, of any conciliatory empathetic recognition of the history of the DWP that would impact the job that he was taking on. This statement interestingly did not speak about the recognition of the coming Centennial of the Aqueduct , of the future challenges of 2 years of drought that have occurred. We have seen his management style, the way that he has dealt with Owens Lake Dust mitigation, Blackrock, as an example and now the current dysfunctional Solar Ranch Project. These problems and DWP’s management style of delay, lawyers , ignoring agreements and not working with the environment nor the community are his solution to the DWP being “thoughtful and methodical as we balance our environmental responsibilities and the needs of our electric and water customers.”
Yesterday in Los Angeles there was another meeting for the Solar Ranch DEIR comment period thanks to Les Inafuku’s suggestion of a meeting in Los Angeles. Mr. Inafuku, the Mazanar Superintendent, made the request to allow the Japanese-American community the opportunity to be heard. Ron Nichols made an opening statement about DWP, it’s efforts and needs to transition energy generation to renewable energy and he was in attendance, to his credit, during the entire public comment portion of the meeting.
The meeting was attended by about 75 people from both Los Angeles and the Owens Valley. Chuck Holloway of the DWP gave an overview presentation of the project identical to his Sept 25th presentation in Bishop to begin the meeting. He also announced that the public comment period for the Project has been extended till November 26, 2013.
The tone in the room became heartfelt and emotional with the very first pubic speaker , a young Japanese American woman who spoke of her Grandparents and her family being interned. Another Grand Daughter also spoke about her stories, that she had never heard or understood about her family, until she had come and spent time at Manzanar. The public statements, 29 in all, were all heartfelt and emotionally based, not a lot of anger, but stories of the pain. Speakers from Owens Valley with also their heartfelt expressions of opposition were witness and contributors to the message and the feeling that accompanies such shared stories. There were some amazing succinct statements by wonderful speakers who were to use words that clearly expressed what the Manzanar experience and what the Owens Valley was all about . One person spoke of Manzanar as being a premiere American Civil Rights Historic Site, not just to honor those interned, but to remind us of who and what America is and really all about . This powerful characterization of the meaning of this Historic Site, it’s ongoing and evolving importance in our cultural bread basket nation of freedom lovers and defenders, really left an impression. At the end of the meeting their were two more requests to speak. Both of these older Japanese American Men had been Internees at Manzanar. Their presence and words could not have been scripted better.
The meeting closed and Ron Nichols had disappeared. He did not stay and speak to anyone. In afterthought, why I wondered would he not speak with a 90 year old former Internee, shake his hand, thank him for his words and sharing his story. Mr. Nichols in his responsibility for an infrastructure of the nation’s largest public owned utility left the room and left an opportunity to humanize his bureaucracy. He left the meeting and left standing cold the hard fact, that he has a DWP so large, so out of control that he had to get back to it or that he’s just plain insensitive to the community. His job is water and power for millions and that dictates his sense of balance. Environmental responsibilities do not have a lot to do with the critters, the plants, the landscape ,the view shed, cultural Issues , social impacts and so on. Environmental responsibilities seem to be merely the impediments and the laws that he is required to navigate his Organization through to merely keep the lights on and the water tap flowing . He’s tapped right in to being the man at the wheel of the perfect machine of peoples’ indifference to the environment, an ill informed and unconscienable consumer mentality of our resources on our Earth and in Our Valley.