Selected Highlights of the Culver City Council meeting on July 23, 2018 by Disa Lindgren

Mayor Thomas Small, Vice Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, Councilmembers Daniel Lee and Alex Fisch; all present. Councilmember Göran Eriksson participated via phone from Sweden

Community Announcements

Mayor Thomas Small shared that he, Councilmember Daniel Lee, Police Chief Scott Bixby, Public Works Department Director Charles Herbertson, and the other city staff appreciated being able to attend a marvelous luncheon and tour of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City. He said the Mosque leaders and members that hosted them were wonderfully hospitable, and he appreciated being able to learn more about the work they are doing, some of which is internationally known. Mayor Small also praised the beauty of the Mosque itself.

Presentations

Several members of the Environmental Programs and Operations Division of the Public Works Department gave an informative presentation about the City Transfer Station Stormwater Diversion and Rain Garden project completed in January and June of this year; the focus was on the technology advancements that have been made. The transfer station collects all trash and recycling from residential and commercial sources and sends them to a landfill, for composting, or to be recycled. Drainage for the waste material that is screened and filtered is discharged to Ballona Creek. Special bio cleaning processes and biofilters are used to remove bacteria, nutrients, metal, trash, oil, and grease before it is safely released in the rain garden on site. Councilmember Alex Fisch pointed out that we are now paying for the disposal of blue bin contents, instead of getting paid for recycling, as China is no longer interested in our dirty materials. Councilmember Daniel Lee stated pointedly that what we need to do is reduce the amount of waste we produce.

After Mayor Thomas Small learned of the opportunity, Culver City applied for a CivicSpark Water Fellow, and Jonathan Dolan was chosen to conduct research regarding the Ballona Creek Revitalization Project. Jonathan Dolan explained that the goal of the project is to enhance Ballona Creek; the environment, community use, and riparian improvements. A 200-page atlas was created, feasibility for bike path upgrades, and eight projects were identified. Ballona Creek Renaissance and Jim Lamm were named as being especially helpful sources of information. Mayor Small explained that AmeriCorps provides the grant funding for CivicSpark Fellows and said that Culver City is currently interviewing prospects for next year’s Fellow in order to plan for implementation of the projects identified by the research. Jonathan Dolan was commended for his excellent work, earlier in the evening.

Action Item: Ban of New Offshore Oil and Gas Activities off Pacific Coast

Resolution Supporting a Ban New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling, Seismic Oil and Gas Exploration, Fracking, and other Well Stimulation in Federal and State Waters off the Pacific Coast and No New Federal Oil and Gas Leasing in all U.S. Waters

This item was surprisingly contentious, though it was handily adopted on a 4:1 vote, with Councilmember Göran Eriksson abstaining on the grounds that this was not a “local issue.”

There were 11 speakers during the public comment period; Culver City locals Aura Walker and Khin Khin Gyi spoke in favor of the ban, and then nine members of CREED LA spoke against the resolution, citing the value of “safe drilling” because of job and economic benefits. Almost all of these speakers talked about wanting to live the “American Dream.” CREED LA represents itself as an organization advocating for workers and working families and their website says their support comes from a number of trade unions. They also claim to be committed to environmentalism, green buildings, and preventing ocean pollution, which doesn’t square with the statements of their members at this meeting in favor of new oil drilling.

Councilmember Alex Fisch pointed out that the resolution calls for a ban on new drilling only and doesn’t threaten the jobs of any workers today. He also said the reason for this ban is that we don’t have decades to protect ourselves from climate change and that the dangers posed by rising waters are already causing harm. “We are facing an existential threat.”

Councilmember Daniel Lee said he is ally of labor, and the solution is not to expand oil drilling but to invest in green jobs. He noted that China has been moving assertively to adopt solar energy for ten years. “True justice [for workers] is transitioning from our present dependence on fossil fuels to a path that prevents us from destruction.” Daniel Lee called for us to work with the labor community to push the green economy forward.

Councilmember Göran Eriksson said he may “personally agree” on this matter, but he does not see this as our primary responsibility. He found it “inappropriate” for our City Council to spend time on this resolution and said he would abstain because it is not a “Culver City-centric” issue.

Vice Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said that several cities around us have weighed in on this resolution. She explained that because our town is near the coast, and because of the vital nature of California’s coastal identity, we have a responsibility to support the ban. Vice Mayor Sahli-Wells talked about the outstanding opportunities we have to act in the interest of working families. She noted that Culver City voted to use 100% renewable energy by joining the Clean Power Alliance and said we’ve been talking with IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). “We are committed today to the healthy jobs of the future. These are jobs that aren’t going to other countries.” Vice Mayor Sahli-Wells urged CREED LA to look into being a part of the new, green economy. “It’s not a zero-sum game; it’s not either/or. We can create new opportunities for your families and ours.”

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