Irvine cain’t quit the Brown Lady’s OCPA.

Thursday morning 12/29

The Irvine City Council is meeting as I type, deciding AT THE LAST MINUTE whether to stick with purchasing overpriced energy from the OC Power Authority for another 18 months (the deadline to withdraw is this Saturday Dec 31), or to possibly impose conditions for staying (such as replacement of controversial CEO Brian Probolsky and attorney Ryan Baron), or possibly to continue with the status quo.

If Irvine chooses to leave the Authority they’d be following in the footsteps of the County Board of Supervisors, which voted 3-2 last week to cut its losses and ditch this white elephant. The decision was made by the Board’s two Democrats along with Supervisor Bartlett, and the stubborn intractable problems with the OCPA have been detailed in multiple audits, but Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan, who did take a leadership role in creating this whole fiasco, believes she has identified the real problem:

“Khan, who was the first Muslim and the first woman of color elected to the Irvine City Council, added, ‘I almost feel like if this Brown woman hadn’t started this effort, maybe they would have liked it.‘”

Wow, that is disturbing, if the two Democratic Supervisors plus Actual Brown Woman Lisa Bartlett rejected the OCPA simply because it was the handiwork of a Woman of Color!

Of course that suggestion is grotesque and comical, and reminiscent of the fallbacks of many of Melahat Rafiei’s clients and friends… I just thought of four other examples, but let’s not get sidetracked. Let’s just say that in this era, the Race Card is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

There are many other places you can read litanies of the OCPA’s problems under Probolsky and Baron and the rest of the current leadership, which their protectors Farrah, Melahat and Jim Carroll stubbornly refuse to replace, address or fix. Obviously there must be reasons that powerful people (of WHATEVER color) want to keep things the way they are, and it’s possible the FBI is investigating exactly who’s profiting how – it’s gotta be more than just Probolsky trying to help Farrah get on the Coastal Commission.

But a lot depends – probably the future of this agency depends – on the decision the new Irvine Council is making as I type.

  • I know Larry Agran has no faith in this agency whatsoever, despite having been an environmentalist his entire lengthy career.
  • I know new member Dr. Kathleen Treseder, who used to be enthusiastic about OCPA, is gonna want to leave if they don’t change their leadership.
  • And I know that swing vote Tammy Kim, who had been an ally of Farrah’s, but has been getting worse and worse treatment from the autocratic Mayor lately, is concerned with how much it’d cost Irvine to leave, what the city’s “exposure” would be.

And they should be coming out of closed session any minute now…

Afternoon Update

As I mentioned, this meeting was called as an emergency, apparently by Larry Agran (with the agreement of Treseder and Carroll), because if Irvine doesn’t leave the agency by Saturday the 31st, they are stuck with it till the summer of ’24.

Quickly it became clear that there was a viable option: to vote to leave but demand certain important changes, because until the summer of ’23 there’s always the possibility of RESCINDING that vote and staying, if the demanded changes are made. That became Larry’s position, which he put forth as a motion (below) – as he put it, “In the language of HARDBALL, this gives us LEVERAGE. Or maybe it’s nicer for me to say, INCENTIVE.” Unfortunately, Larry’s motion only got a second from the autocratic Brown Mayor “for purposes of discussion.”

This seemed hell of reasonable to me, but it was apparently way too harsh for any of the other Councilmembers (there was nobody in the Council who advocated leaving outright.) Farrah of course sees no problems with her beloved agency beyond “growing pains” and says she is “absolutely boggled” that anyone in Irvine would want to ditch it. At least she didn’t mention her race or gender this morning.

She proposed a SUBSTITUTE MOTION – the time-honored way to kill an original motion – which she hadn’t even bothered to type out: Irvine would stay in the agency, hope things get better, look at the whole thing again in June of ’23 (that was Dr. Treseder’s contribution I think), and – in an awkward concession to the strange Mike Carroll – write a letter to the County Board of Supervisors begging them to rescind their decision to leave OCPA.

Yes, that was an obsession of Mike Carroll‘s, that somehow Irvine would suffer greatly from the County’s departure from the agency. Farrah said he was mistaken about that, but he persisted in his worry. I think maybe this Probolsky crony has the city and the agency confused in his head – some kinda Stockholm OCPA Syndrome? Nobody expects the County to change their minds IN THE NEXT TWO DAYS, and both Larry and Farrah said it’d be pointless … but to placate Mike, Farrah agreed to write that letter. And Carroll STILL VOTED NO on Farrah’s motion, nobody knows why.

But it still passed 3-2. The big and inexplicable news was newly elected Councilwoman Dr. Kathleen Treseder, onetime OCPA enthusiast, fierce OCPA critic of late, proud FBI informant, elected as a heat-seeking missile against corruption … backing Farrah’s wait-and-see milquetoast motion. Does she know something we don’t? We know she hopes to be put on that Board, does she really think she can make all the necessary reforms if and when she gets on? Irvine voters deserve an explanation!

The suspense HAD seemed to be, would Vice-Mayor Tammy Kim side with Dr. T against Farrah? But there was no Dr. T to side with. As of yesterday, Tammy’s biggest concern seemed to be how Irvine and its ratepayers might be hurt financially by ditching the agency, what their “exposure” might be. She kept talking about her “fiduciary duty” today. But City Manager Oliver Chi (who had been a great CM for Huntington Beach) assured the Council that this exposure would be minimal. After hearing Larry’s plan to PROVISIONALLY leave the agency with the option to reverse course by June, Tammy was concerned about the damage such indecision would have on hiring and retention.

Another fixation of Tammy’s was that Larry Agran should “sacrifice himself” and join Dr. T. on the OCPA board. I agree those two would be my first choices, but Larry apparently doesn’t wanna. Anyway Tammy gave a third vote to Farrah’s motion, and nobody but Larry supported his.

Farrah’s milquetoast motion drove Larry into an Agran rage, which I and certainly many viewers shared. He called it WEAK, he said correctly that “We’ve done nothing! We’re going to give them another six months to get their act together? That’s what we said SIX MONTHS AGO!”

And who OUTDID Agran’s rage but Tammy Kim (I’m told she really can’t stand Larry for some reason) who, trembling with anger, scolded him that he has NO BUSINESS calling Farrah’s motion WEAK when he refused to “SACRIFICE HIMSELF” and serve on the Board! It was all in all a weird meeting, and disappointing to most of us. But before I sign off…

A WORD ABOUT TRINI.

On second thought, I think I will write another piece – “What’s Next for the OCPA?” or something.

After I talk to Jose Trinidad Castaneda, a few other people, and continue my own research.

See you back here, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Station! .

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.