by Eric Michael Stitt
City Councilwoman Carolyn Petty has decided to join her four colleagues and vote against the proposed oil-drilling project in Hermosa Beach.
And whether or not neighboring Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach City Councils will influence voters, both have made their stances clear with M.B. passing a unanimous resolution opposing Measure O and R.B. staying out of the debate.
Petty said throughout the past year, as a councilwoman, she has worked hard to ensure the city obtained objective information from experts regarding E&B Natural Resources’ proposed oil project, negotiated the best possible development agreement and encouraged respectful debates within the community. After dissecting the city’s financial state, as an individual, she feels it’s best vote no on March 3.
She said in the short-term, the city can afford the $17.5 million it will have to pay E&B as part of the settlement agreement with Macpherson Oil if voters uphold the ban. But she said it’s also unfair to present the city as being completely healthy financially. Petty said the city must address its unfunded liabilities, degraded sewer system, costly storm-water projects and staffing reductions. But despite those budget concerns, Petty said voting to have 34 oil wells at Sixth Street and Valley Drive for 34 years to fund everyday civic projects is not the answer to improving Hermosa Beach’s financial outlook.
“We can address our financial challenges in a less impactful and more predictable manner through economic development,” said Petty. “There are hotel development opportunities along The Strand and other development opportunities on PCH that can provide revenues to the city. Each will require community support and acceptance. So my hope is that everyone who has been actively opposing the oil project will come forward with the same passion after March 3 to help nurture economic development.”
Petty said it’s up to Hermosans to determine the future of their town.
“The voters of this community will decide what path we take, but the vote on Measure O is only the first step,” Petty said. “Now is the time for us to shape our future with a full understanding of the realities we face as a city, and for the community to decide when ‘yes’ will be needed to maximize our opportunities to secure an oil-free future.”
Petty said she waited until this week to announce her position on Measure O because she respects citizen’s rights to make their own decisions and did not want to sway any voters.
“My intention is to not change anyone’s vote but to encourage the people who vote no to be thinking in terms of next steps for our community,” Petty said. “I will be disappointed if the large crowds of people who have attended our meetings disappear after March 3.”
Across the sand, Manhattan Beach’s City Council unanimously agreed to oppose Measure O at its last meeting. Petty said their resolution, disapproving of any “impacts” from the oil project to Manhattan Beach residents, could be viewed by some as not completely against the project. However, M.B. Mayor Wayne Powell said their resolution is a statement that the entire M.B. Council is against Measure O.
“I think they’re one in the same. It’s the oil-drilling project itself. It can directly impact Manhattan Beach,” Powell said. “Yes, we’re opposed to the negative impacts (and) we’re looking out for the health, safety and well-being of our residents.”
Powell said there are too many uncertainties and effects such as pollution or the risk of an oil spill that don’t outweigh any benefit to his city.
“Some people think we shouldn’t get involved (but) it directly impacts our city,” Powell said. “There are just so many risks … we’re opposed to oil drilling for that reason … we don’t want the adverse impact of oil drilling on our city.”
Powell said he’d “hope if the shoe was reversed, that Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach would do the same.” But that’s not the case.
Neighboring Redondo Beach City Council recently had the opportunity to take a stance on Measure O, but declined. According to Mayor Steve Aspel, City Councilman Bill Brand made a motion at a recent meeting to oppose Measure O, but no one seconded it.
“The collective opinion of our Council is it’s Hermosa Beach, it’s their business. I don’t think that we should tell their voters what to do. It’s not going to make a difference,” Aspel said.
Aspel said he was surprised Manhattan Beach’s Council took a position.
“They have their own mindset,” Aspel said. “I was surprised they passed that resolution, but not shocked … that’s their business.”
And Powell was perplexed too about his fellow beach city, for different reasons.
“I was actually surprised Redondo Beach did not pass their resolution,” Powell said. “I agree (to stay out of other city’s business) when it has no impact on our residents, but that’s not the case here.”
As part of the settlement agreement, Hermosa Beach’s City Councilmembers can state their position on Measure O as individuals, but they cannot take a position as a City Council without the risk of being sued by E&B.
Regardless of how elected officials vote, Petty said the choice ultimately comes down to all the voters. And as a councilwoman, she is prepared to help lead the community in whatever direction Hermosans decide to go.
“The path of ‘no’ always seems the easier way to go because it maintains the status quo,” Petty said. “Change is coming no matter what we do. I want to help shape that change in a way that maximizes the benefit to the community and look back and be proud that I was part of a team that created a financially sustainable future for our community.”
WHAT CAN WE DO IN HERMOSA BEACH?