Joel Sappell's article (March 18) on the Palisades drilling decision, titled, "The Well-Oiled Blitz of Armand Hammer," illustrates how Los Angeles City decisions may be reached other than on the merits of the issues involved.
It has been dismaying that no risk assessment or economic analysis was performed. It is even more troublesome that the views and positions of the opponents to the drilling may have been willfully subverted. Since Los Angeles City procedures call for the integration of the citizenry's views into the decision process, the subversion of that process may constitute a violation of their First Amendment rights. In contrast there was a ready availability of the mayor, his staff and City Council members to approaches by Occidental and those acting on its behalf. The decision could scarcely have gone any other way.
The battle has been fought with words, and studies, and documents, and legal briefs, and demonstrations, and misrepresentation, and money--lots and lots of money.
Much is made of the philanthropic contributions of Armand Hammer, Occidental's board chairman, but no mention is made of the charges against Hammer and Occidental for its notorious illegal or questionable political contributions. Their "contributions" are not made without reason nor expectation.
Mayor Tom Bradley rationalizes his approval of the drilling by citing Occidental's offer to pay for a dewatering system to stabilize the slopes. Nonsense! Occidental is doing no such thing. The offer to pay for a dewatering system is contingent upon receiving a permit to drill. No permit; no Occidental money for a dewatering system! It is truly a dazzling bargain for Occidental. Bradley does not point out that money for a dewatering system was deposited in a bank account by local residents without any accompanying demand that they be permitted to exhaust the city's natural resources and despoil its beauty. Nor did Bradley point out that however the dewatering system may conceivably stabilize the slopes, the drilling may destabilize them.
This has been a 15-year battle between a giant corporation and a community that stands in its way. It is continuing. And it has lessons and warnings for communities across the country seeking to preserve America's beauty, to provide a thriving and stable economy, and to improve the quality of American life.
In the Los Angeles Olympic Games, the world's athletes thrilled us all by going for the gold. How depressing that we see the Los Angeles city leaders going for the gold of the more traditional kind.
I am concerned about coastal oil development whether in Santa Barbara, Pacific Palisades or elsewhere. Your story or Armand Hammer greatly disappointed me. I really wanted to believe (using the article's suggestive words) that there had been blatant use of power by shrewd operatives (whatever that is) who cunningly lavished favors and put the touch on prominent businessmen who Hammer then summoned to a luncheon where he plied them with delicious food, then asked for their help, and received it.
I was sure I would learn about legal chicanery from the powerhouse law firm, which, according to the story, crafted legal documents, helped Occidental resolve the mayor's objections (which, by being specific, somehow had trapped him so he was forced to play by the rules), and convinced public officials of the worth of the project with people who were credible and are important members of their community.
Despite the hints that somehow dirty work had occurred, the story turned out to be about two seemingly decent and effective men, one a politician whose sense of fairness led him to make a decision that could harm him politically among some of my fellow environmentalists. The second man is a successful capitalist who has given millions to charities in his own community and who has dealt with several generations of government leaders on both sides of the Iron Curtain, somehow overcoming their suspicions and winning their respect. He even was trusted, according to the story, with matters "no less important than world peace."
Based on this article, I find it impossible not to admire these two, Mayor Bradley and Armand Hammer, and to accept the decision and the process.
Sappell attributes Oxy Petroleum's success in gaining the City Council and Mayor Bradley's approval for the Pacific Palisades oil drilling venture to Hammer's adept political tactics. What Sappell implied, though, is more important. Ten City Council members, Mayor Bradley, and the other "let's make a deal" politicians (Mickey Kantor, Sen. Alan Cranston, ex-Gov. Jerry Brown, C. Erwin Piper, and Council President Pat Russell) sacrificed environmental ethics and principles to a shrewd, old, world-class businessman who knows the price of anything, including politicians.