A political candidate has a lot of latitude when speaking in general terms about what he’s going to do in the future or cultivating an image as a political moderate and all around nice guy who is in favor of mom, apple pie, and multiple cars and/or chickens in pots and/or garages.
But when he says something specific about his record—as Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian did when he told New Times, “I think my record has been clear that I believe our state should take responsible steps towards increasing clean energy” (“Now what?” June 12)—he throws himself on the mercy of the fact check. And a check of Katcho’s actual record reveals that what he thinks, or wants voters to think, about his record on clean energy is at odds with reality.
Katcho voted against AB 1990, a bill that would have established a program to install 375 megawatts of electrical generating capacity in small, renewable distributed generation projects—mostly rooftop solar—in low-income communities.
He voted against SB 535, specifically aimed at helping disadvantaged communities take advantage of clean energy in helping to fulfill California’s historic Global Warming Solutions Act.
He voted against AB 650, which would have improved access to public transportation, a vital component in the reduction of emissions that cause air pollution and global warming.
He voted against SB 454, which authorized the California Energy Commission to enforce compliance with the state’s appliance efficiency standards.
New Times’ suggestion that Katcho “has made some plays favored by environmentalists, including a vote last year against hydraulic fracturing” won’t wash. Katcho’s vote for SB 4 allowed fracking fluid makers to deny public access to information about chemical quantities, delays the regulation of fracking, and gives fracking sites a potential exemption from environmental review until at least 2015. Meanwhile, he voted against AB 1323, which would have prohibited hydraulic fracturing until those regulations take effect.
When he was a county supervisor, Katcho was an obedient servant of PG&E whenever his vote was required to preserve the profits of the corporate utility. When he attained the Assembly, Katcho showed his loyalty by voting for AB 976 in 2012, which would have created a huge impediment to the establishment of Community Choice Aggregation programs, the bane of giant utilities seeking to protect their energy monopoly. In California, Community Choice programs are creating local energy efficiency measures and renewable energy generating facilities, stimulating local economies and business start-ups, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing cleaner electricity at lower prices, creating local green jobs, and modernizing the electricity grid to support a decentralized energy system.
In the current legislative session, Katcho voted for AB 2145, a bill that would not just create impediments but make it impossible to form a Community Choice program. AB 2145 is a poison pill for Community Choice that would derail California’s most important greenhouse gas reduction efforts, terminate the ability of local communities to make their own decisions about energy, and shut down nearly all fair market competition with the big utilities.
In short, you can’t vote against Community Choice—twice—and also claim that your record shows you “believe our state should take responsible steps towards increasing clean energy.”
Based on this record, Katcho’s other assertion in the June 12 New Times—“I have and always will base every decision I make on what is best for the residents of the 35th Assembly District”—is another reality-challenged claim. Katcho’s record makes it clear that when it comes to the moral obligation to fight climate change, he doesn’t get it. To determine in whose best interests he cast all those votes, voters need only peruse the list of his corporate donors.
So the question is indeed “Now what?” A well-connected incumbent can vastly outspend an opponent, but if all he offers is well-worn political clichés, he is painting a self-portrait of a candidate out of touch with reality and the concerns of voters. Katcho’s opponent, Heidi Harmon, presents a picture of the opposite.
Reality and his record may yet catch up with our nice assemblyman.
Andrew Christie is the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.