John F. Kennedy once said, "When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." We're all well aware of the dangers that many Americans are facing during the current economic crisis: unemployment, foreclosure, financial uncertainty. As the mayor of Los Angeles, I'm acutely aware of the challenges our city and the nation as a whole must confront, but I choose to view these challenges as opportunities to create a better tomorrow. Now is the time to take bold action to invest in programs that will create green, sustainable industries that will provide good jobs and provide long term economic and environmental benefits.
President Obama has made the creation of a green economy a top priority in his stimulus plan, and his commitment is reflected in the budget he submitted to Congress this week. Here in Los Angeles we have already started by creating the largest solar power program in the nation, which will not only reduce our city's carbon emissions but will create thousands of good jobs for our citizens. By voting for Measure B on the city's March 3rd ballot, the people of Los Angeles will be voting for green jobs, a stronger economy, and a stronger, cleaner and greener LA.
Measure B will require the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) to install 400 megawatts of solar power on buildings throughout the city. The measure will create thousands of new jobs and clean up our air for future generations. The DWP estimates they will hire 200-400 people immediately and up to 1000 over the next five years to implement the solar program. These are solid, well-paying jobs with health care benefits that so many workers in Los Angeles desperately need.
The measure will also require the DWP to create a job training academy that targets underserved communities in Los Angeles, those communities hardest hit by the current economy with the highest unemployment rates. The academy will give those new workers the skills they need to pursue a career in a new green industry.
But that's only the beginning. We will welcome solar manufacturers moving to LA to take advantage of a significant bid preference for local manufacturers, creating thousands of good paying jobs in manufacturing, engineering, compliance, administration and so on.
Solar Integrated, a Los Angeles based solar manufacturer, has already predicted it will hire 750 people if Measure B passes Tuesday.
We can do this. We can turn our economy around and build a cleaner, greener Los Angeles. It's time for this change.
Already we see how green job creation works in our city today. The Los Angeles Community College District, the largest community college district in the nation, recently announced hiring another 6000 workers to help them complete the next phase of their green building program - the largest sustainable building project in the nation. LAUSD is hiring to install solar panels on their rooftops. The IBEW, our city's experts in energy installation have been training their members and installing panels on homes, libraries, and other buildings across the area.
A broad coalition of environmental, labor, public health, and community organizations including the Coalition for Clean Air, American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, California League of Conservation Voters, and the Apollo Alliance have endorsed Measure B. Solar companies supporting Measure B, including First Solar, announced this week it reduced its manufacturing cost for solar modules to 98 cents per watt, breaking the $1 per watt price barrier.
Measure B comes at the right time, as the cost for solar is going down and the Obama Administration is planning to invest in green public works projects. Today, we estimate Measure B will cost ratepayers a small investment of $1 per month to implement. That figure could go down, and ratepayers will be in control with an unprecedented level of transparency to hold the LADWP accountable for spending this investment wisely.
Measure B requires the DWP take several steps -- for the first time ever -- to ensure transparency and accountability to its ratepayers. First, the policy has gone before the voters of Los Angeles rather than designed and implemented behind the scenes. Second, it must go before the City Council after Tuesday's vote for a final ratification. The City Controller will be required to complete an annual public audit to root out inefficiencies and ineffective practices. Finally, a new Citizen Advisory Committee will be created to advocate on behalf of the ratepayers to ensure Measure B is completed on time and on budget.
I believe that our efforts have resulted in the best, lowest cost program to significantly, quickly increase the amount of renewable energy we generate in LA. By passing Measure B, Los Angeles can lead the nation in the new green economy. We can serve as an example to other cities across the country. And perhaps most importantly, we can turn this economic crisis into a more secure, prosperous and green future for the people of Los Angeles.
Antonio Villaraigosa is the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.