Arizona Threatens Los Angeles—Sort Of

The fight over Arizona’s controversial immigration law continues to get dirtier.

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott everything Arizona in order to “impact the economy of Arizona,” as L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa explained. That didn’t sit too well with the businessmen in the Grand Canyon State. And Tuesday, Arizona’s corporation commissioner fired back with a threat of his own. Stop the boycott or lose your electricity.

Commissioner Gary Pierce called for L.A. to withdraw its boycott or suffer the consequences of a renegotiation with Arizona’s power companies. And because L.A. gets 25 percent of its electricity from power plants in the neighboring state, the commissioner’s threat could be a big deal for the City of Angels. That is, if he could actually follow through on his bluff to leave L.A. in the dark.

Turns out, California owns part of the companies in Arizona, so Pierce couldn’t turn off the lights even if he wanted to. If the companies did cut off the power to L.A., it’s likely that the money lost would be more harmful to Arizona than L.A.

Sure, boycotts can be effective. They hit people where it hurts: the wallet. But L.A.’s big slap was really more a symbolic tap. It’s not likely that the city of Los Angeles could bring down the state of Arizona in one fell swoop or cause Arizona to rethink its law. So, Pierce’s cordial-but-insulting letter was just another empty, political gesture and seems more like a who-can-jump-farther kind of competition. (Note: Pierce is up for reelection this year.)

After fielding media responses all day Wednesday, Pierce admitted Arizona didn’t have the power to pull the plug and that it was just a way to call out L.A.’s hypocrisy. This isn’t middle school, and these kinds of passive-aggressive games could really affect important issues and people’s lives.

Pierce told one news organization he was surprised by the national media attention his letter received. It’s really not that surprising considering most news organizations tend to take threats pretty seriously, whether the bully can follow through or not.

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