This is old news, but news that deserves a bit more scrutiny now that the presidential campaign is picking up speed and Obama undoubtedly will use immigration — legal and illegal — as a means of sucking up as much of the Hispanic vote as possible.
Not long after the Arizona legislature passed SB 1070 (Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act) and Governor Jan Brewer signed it into law, there was a predictable public outcry against it. Some states, counties, municipalities and businesses, notably liberal in political philosophy, decided the best way to fight this law was to boycott the state.
Protestors in downtown Boston demand immigration reform and denounce the Arizona immigration law.
Boycotts included some city councils imposing travel bans for non-essential business purposes, a call to move the Major League Baseball championship game from Phoenix, and general condemnation of the law.
And, of course, no legislation that makes an end run on the Obama Administration’s failings would be complete without a lawsuit filed by Obama’s Justice Department, which happened on July 6, 2010.
At the same time, many states and city councils were in full support of the law. Costa Mesa and Orange, California city councils declared themselves ‘rule of law’ cities in support of Arizona’s law. Lake Elsinore, California City Council voted to support Arizona’s law and to require employers in the city to use the federal E-Verify program to ensure that job applicants are authorized to work in the United States.
Of particular interest to me was the boycott announced by Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and the highly publicized response to it.
From the Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2010:
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that he supports a boycott of Arizona by the city of Los Angeles, and he called that state’s newly passed immigration law “unpatriotic and unconstitutional.”
… The mayor said boycotts have worked in the past and cited the city’s divestiture from South Africa in the 1980s to protest apartheid.
… On Tuesday, seven members of the Los Angeles City Council signed a proposal for a boycott, calling for the city to “refrain from conducting business” or participating in conventions in Arizona. Councilman Ed Reyes, who wrote the proposal with Councilwoman Janice Hahn, said he wants city officials to spend the next 90 days assessing the financial relationships that exist between various city departments and businesses based in Arizona.
… Villaraigosa acknowledged that there would be great complexity involved in pursuing an economic boycott. But he said that such an effort would send a message, spurring cities across the state and the nation to follow suit. “The bottom line is, boycotts work,” he said.
[Click here to read article]
Then things got interesting.
Los Angeles and other portions of California get electricity from Palo Verde nuclear power plant outside Phoenix, as well as from coal-fired power plants in northern Arizona and two giant hydroelectric power generators along the Colorado River.
Those contracts for utilities, which, presumably, are among the ‘financial relationships’ the Los Angeles City Council wishes to ‘assess’ — a move endorsed by Mayor Villaraigosa — are negotiated and authorized by the Arizona Corporation Commission. One of the ACC’s commissioners is Gary Pierce.
In a letter dated May 18, 2010, Commissioner Pierce wrote:
Dear Mayor Villaraigosa:
I was dismayed to learn that the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona and Arizona-based companies — a vote you strongly supported — to show opposition to SB 1070 (Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act).
You explained your support of the boycott as follows: “While we recognize that as neighbors, we share resources and ties with the State of Arizona that may be difficult to sever, our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona. Our intent is to use our dollars — or the withholding of our dollars — to send a message.” (emphasis added)
I received your message; please receive mine. As a state-wide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the “resources and ties” we share with the City of Los Angeles. In fact, approximately twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.
If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.
People of goodwill can disagree over the merits of SB 1070. A state-wide economic boycott of Arizona is not a message sent in goodwill.
Commissioner Gary Pierce
(Click on the letter (above right) to download a PDF of the letter.)
At that point, all hell broke loose. Not surprisingly, Pierce was vilified in the liberal press. Antagonism against Arizona was notched up another level.
In a May 19, 2010 article on Salon.com, writer Alex Pareene ripped Pierce, though in a casual manner, as if to suggest the article was barely worth his time:
Arizona’s state corporation commissioner has written a bizarre and hostile letter to the mayor of Los Angeles, threatening to cut off power to the city if it goes through with a planned economic boycott of Arizona.
In the letter, commissioner Gary Pierce tells Antonio Villaraigosa that 25 percent of Los Angeles’ electricity originates in Arizona, and Pierce would have no trouble convincing Arizona utilities to … stop selling electricity to the region’s largest metro area by far.
In addition to his apparent megalomaniacal tendencies, this Pierce character also seems pretty dumb:
“I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands,” he wrote. “If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.”
OK, but … Arizona utilities have no compelling reason to stop selling those electrons to L.A., and if they were convinced to cut off the juice, L.A. could just buy power somewhere else.
[Click here to read article]
A few observations here:
First, Pierce is anything but dumb. He is in fact a gentleman in his response to Villaraigosa, making simple, sincere statements of fact without being insulting. Perhaps that’s why Pareene misjudges him; he’s not accustomed to persuasion that doesn’t employ humiliation or degradation.
Second, Arizona’s compelling reason to ‘stop selling those electrons to L.A.’ is to demonstrate to Villaraigosa that an economic boycott can have serious unintended consequences. Arizona stands to lose a serious amount of money from these boycotts if they are instigated, and does not take lightly these threats.
Third — and more importantly to Los Angeles, its mayor and city council, and its residents — if L.A. were to lose these contracts for electricity for any reason, boycott backlash or otherwise, it would be hard pressed to find cheap power to replace that which it lost. We live in an age of rolling brownouts and outages as a result of an antiquated and insufficient power grid. Los Angeles, among major metropolitan areas, sucks electricity like a top-fuel dragster sucks nitromethane. Picture a toilet flushing.
If — and this is a big if — L.A. ‘could just buy power somewhere else’, much as one would simply drive to a different gas station if their primary station were too busy, the city would pay a premium price for their new-found electrons.
Finally, if — again, a big if, but for the sake of discussion, it’s relevant — Los Angeles were to lose 25 percent of its electricity for even 24 hours, the town would tear itself apart. Anarchy would begin within 3 hours of the disruption, and the city would never be the same.
With that in mind, much of the rhetoric concerning this particular boycott should be carefully considered. It’s one thing to hold someone at arm’s length and say, “Be careful now…”, and something else entirely to cut one’s own throat.
Had I been present in those discussions between city council, mayor and whoever else was involved, at some point I would have pointed out that which is obvious to Arizonans, but to very few outsiders:
We’ll bend, we’ll change our minds when it’s in our interests, and sometimes we’ll yield altogether. But in matters of principle, if you threaten us, you’re likely to get your asses handed to you. In a state where open-carry has been legal for years, and a lot of people do just that, we don’t take threats lightly.
In the end, this law — SB 1070 — was passed by our legislature because of the danger faced everyday by Arizona residents. To the rest of you who don’t like it… it’s none of your damn business!