great extent, the history and development of L.A. is tied tightly to the
Department of Water and Power.
days of William Mulholland and the takeover of the San Fernando Valley by the
Chandler family and their pals and the “Chinatown” era through the
formation of pubic employee unions to efforts at overdevelopment today, the DWP
is at the heart of much of the story of how money and power have operated.
that context that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa politicized the city’s monopoly
utility last December with the appointment of David Nahai as general manager
and Raman Raj as chief operating officer. Nahai, as DWP commission president,
had established his obedience while Raj had proved his loyalty to Villaraigosa
and his close ally, DWP union president Brian D’Arcy, so well that he was fired
from the utility back in 2001 because of it.
December, the mayor was pushing for another round of water and power rate
hikes. The DWP had become a cash cow for the city and the mayor needed cash.
sign of where his administration was going came early on when he could have rejected
a contracted with D’Arcy’s IBEW that contained an inflation escalator clause
that could give the utility’s highly-paid workers raises of up to 6 percent a
year. So more money was needed to pay that bill, to fix the power system that
was plagued by blackouts and to deal with a looming water shortage caused by
plans to densify the city. .
came in saying all the right things. He pledged “unprecedented
transparency,” according to a Daily News article at the time, in how the
rate hikes would be spent, including an oversight committee to track the money.
people of Los Angeles deserve, and are entitled to, accountability,” Nahai
the first of many incidents where Nahai showed a propensity to tell people what
they wanted to hear regardless of the truth.
was that early on he put representatives of Neighborhood Councils in their
place. The NCs had negotiated a deal with DWP officials previously that gave
them an oversight role but when they tried to exercise that authority with
Nahai, he made it clear he would deal with the letter of the deal but not its
spirit of citizen oversight and civic engagement.
nothing transparent in how DWP money was being spent in Nahai’s promise to put
$152,000 of public money into Raj’s pension fund account — a secret deal that
only just came out and led to an explosion that made them both renounce the
deal. And then there are the contracts DWP approved with Raj’s former clients
– contracts the mayor said should be rejected last night.
way, there was the embarrassment caused by the disclosure that Nahai’s boasts
of being a “green” champion were not true personally.He was exposed
as a spectacular user of water and power at his hillside mansion even as he
pushed ahead at full speed with a toilet-to-tap water recycling program for
others and demanding stricter conservation measures.
promised rate hikes would go to infrastructure improvements but budgeted to put
1,000 more employees on his payroll — and on the IBEW’s union membership
lists. And he came up with $150,000 to hire Cindy Montanez as a part-timer to
please the City Hall political machine.
been undercut by the mayor, humiliated by the city controller and besieged by
City Council member.
hubris and glib looseness with the truth, his concealment of critical
information from the DWP Commission and his contempt for oversight by
neighborhood councils show what a huge miscalculation Villaraigosa made.
be long before Nahai is gone and Raj with him The important question is how can
the public protect itself from another attempt to politicize the DWP and put in
place a management team that is competent, operates openly and honestly and
serves the interests of the people and not the politicians.