The Mystery Cities in Prop 10

Every ballot measure has its fine print and every piece of legislation its earmarks and “ornaments.” Prop 10, officially the California Renewable Energy and Clean Alternative Fuel Act is typical of this time-honored tradition, except in one respect. Usually these quirks can be explained by the people promoting them.

On page 16 of the measure, Prop 10 specifically allocates multi-million-dollar grants to each of eight cities in California. Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Irvine, San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento (listed in that order) would each get $25 million:

“…for the purpose of capital projects and operating expenses promoting and demonstrating the actual use of alternative and renewable energy in park, recreation and cultural venues, including the education of students, residents and the visiting public about these technologies and practices.”

Seems straightforward enough–except nobody seems to know how these eight cities were chosen. It’s not merely a list of the state’s eight largest cities. It’s close, except that San Jose (#3) is conspicuously missing but Irvine (#17) makes the cut.

John Dunlap, former head of the state Air Resources Board and a paid consultant to the Prop 8 campaign, appeared to be stumped when I asked him for the rationale. His best  guess was that they might be locations with significant transportation infrastructure, such as major port facilities. Again, the mystery of Irvine…and Fresno isn’t quite the Rotterdam of the West Coast.

I called the official office of “Yes on 10” and a media representative told me that she thought the cities were chosen for “geographic distribution” but admitted that she hadn’t been asked before. She promised to get back to me with a definitive answer. That was last week. Election Day is tomorrow. If Prop 10 goes down to defeat, it won’t matter. If it passes, it’ll be even more important to have an answer.