Mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled his environmental plan for the city Thursday, pledging to plant 1 million trees and turn the city's Department of Water and Power into a cutting-edge environmental utility that would generate high-paying "green" jobs.
The Eastside councilman also received an endorsement from the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. That support had been sought by Mayor James K. Hahn, state Sen. Richard Alarcon and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.
Flanked by environmentalists, Villaraigosa held a news conference outside the DWP building to outline his vision to make Los Angeles "the cleanest, greenest, big city in America."
But, in a sign that with more than eight weeks until voters go to the polls the campaign is becoming ever more heated, a representative from Hahn's campaign crashed the news conference. He carried a letter and 17-page booklet that excoriated Villaraigosa for his ties to Cadiz Inc., a firm that pushed environmentally controversial plans to store water underground in the Mojave Desert and then pump it out in dry years. The project was never built.
Villaraigosa did consulting work for Santa Monica-based Cadiz after he left the state Assembly in 2000 and before he became a councilman in 2003. He also received political contributions from the company.
Villaraigosa fired back, saying that he was "proud of the work" he did for Cadiz and that he would compare his own environmental record with the mayor's "any day."
"The interesting thing about Mr. Hahn," Villaraigosa said, is "whenever someone has a good idea, he likes to throw mud."
In a statement, the mayor countered that he is "proud of my strong record on the environment and am disappointed that Mr. Villaraigosa chose to make thousands of dollars working on a project that would have harmed the delicate Mojave Desert ecosystem."
Villaraigosa also laid out specific environmental plans he promised to enact if elected.
Among them: planting and maintaining 1 million trees; building more neighborhood parks, including an "emerald necklace" of parks along the Los Angeles River; and converting the city's vehicle fleet to burn clean fuels.