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Arts’ Advocate Pushes Oil Agenda

When serving as president of the Festival of Arts, Laguna Beach’s most influential arts organization, Anita Mangels stood tall and spoke decisively on its behalf before the City Council.

In recent months, Mangels’ persuasive prowess made waves on regional television and radio broadcasts and in national newspapers as the spokeswoman for California’s Yes on 23 campaign. If approved by voters on next Tuesday’s ballot, Proposition 23 would suspend the state’s landmark climate-change law.

Now, it’s clear Mangels is taking on the Terminator himself.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called members of Congress “wimps” for failing to stand up to pressure from oil companies, in an interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC World News this past Wednesday. Schwarzenegger said he hoped the defeat of Proposition 23 in would have national political consequences for Big Oil. California voters have turned against the initiative, according to a poll released by the Public Policy Institute of California last week. The initiative is said to be bankrolled by Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp.

Whether Mangels feels intimidated isn’t clear. The longtime lobbyist with a track record in state and local ballot initiatives did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

Even so, Mangels professional role as a lobbyist for an initiative that would suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2006 came as a surprise to some environmental activists in her hometown.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Max Isles, a yoga instructor and president of Transition Laguna, whose members push for lowering the town’s carbon footprint with locally grown produce and more sidewalks. “Artists are strong environmentalists,” he said, “reflected in landscapes and photography.”

Chris Prelitz, a green-building promoter, in a recent report to the City Council, urged the pursuit of alternative fuels for city facilities to avoid future oil price-spikes. “I’m sure that Anita and I both want America (and especially Laguna Beach) to have a strong and resilient economy along with clean air and water. Where we differ is on the solutions to our economic and environmental challenges,” he said.

Prelitz took offense at Mangels’ message that “greenhouse gases emitted from oil refineries, coal plants, and motor vehicles are not ‘pollutants,’ just ‘emissions.’ This attempted spin and green-washing is just not true and a dangerous deception,” he said.

“Remember predatory Texas corporate giant Enron and how it gamed California’s energy market in 2000-2001, costing our state $40-45 billion?” asked Tom Osborne, former chair of the city’s Environmental Committee. “Proposition 23 portends more Texas interference in our ailing Golden State, simply offering a different cast of robber barons who put their profits above California’s public interest in addressing climate change and air pollution.”

Festival of Arts board member Tom Lamb pointed out yet another dichotomy in his fellow board member: Mangels has strongly supported green initiatives by the organization, such as a recent redesign of the children’s art exhibit with a clear roof to avoid lighting, he said. “I know her from working as an advocate for the arts, and she’s very good,” Lamb said.

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