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Measure B, the Aftermath: D’Arcy, the Bully on a Power Trip

Brian D’Arcy is the most powerful figure inThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for darcy.jpeg City Hall politics, or at least one of them. There is no uncertainty at all as to whether he is the most feared.

It is as if he had the letters H-E-L-P tattooed to the knuckles of his right hand and the letters H-U-R-T tattooed to the knuckles of his left hand.

Wendy Greuel knows about HELP from the hand of Brian D’Arcy and the price she will have to pay in due time for the IBEW boss’ coughing up $250,000 when the councilwoman panicked in the closing weeks of the City Controller race and thought she might be forced into a runoff.

Antonio Villaraigosa got even more money from members of D’Arcy’s union and has been paying him back ever since by signing off on a contract that gave the nation’s highest paid utility workers 6 percent pay raises during these troubled times. DWP workers, nearly all members of the IBEW, now are paid about $90,000 a year on average with lucrative lifetime benefits.

Few know exactly how D’Arcy hurts because only a fool would have the courage to cross him.

That’s what makes the aftermath of the defeat of Measure B so interesting.


D’Arcy — who turns truth on its head without cracking a smile –
claims the public vote he had wanted so badly is now meaningless.
“Fringe activists” with 5 percent of the money of the “Yes” campaign
somehow perpetrated a ruse on a gullible public through a long series
of blatant lies that were used to conceal their support for competitive
bidding, free enterprise, and open and honest government.

LA
residents “voted the wrong way…I am not discouraged because it’s the
right thing to do, and I’m going to keep pressing them to do it,”
D’Arcy declared after the election results were finalized.

By
that, D’Arcy means he is going to bully DWP management and
commissioners and the City Council into approving the elements of
Measure B just as he wrote it a year ago — $3.5 billion in large
rooftop installations all owned by the DWP and designed, installed and
maintained by IBEW members.

Monopoly — that’s the name of the
game for the DWP. And it’s a game that D’Arcy has played better than
anyone to get his workers massive pay raises over the last decade, far
more than the city or private employers pay for the same work, a disparity that becomes greater year after year.

But
more than money is involved. Most DWP workers owe their job to D’Arcy
far more than to their employer and live with the knowledge that to
cross D’Arcy is to put their job at risk now in future.

Elected officials live
with the same fear: To cross, or worse double-cross, D’Arcy could cost
them their post. He has the money and clout to enforce obedience.

Back
in the late 1990s, he collaborated with DWP GM David Freeman to fend
off deregulation and he cut a deal to eliminate thousands of
unnecessary workers by getting them to retire early with full pensions
at an extra cost to ratepayers of nearly $400 million.

They also
combined their talents to make sure the LAUSD and its other large
customers were signed to long-term contracts that gave them discounts
on rates as long as they didn’t install rooftop solar through private
contractors.

Clean energy was a threat to the DWP and D’Arcy’s
monopoly on electricity and jobs and so the union boss scuttled
Councilman Eric Garcetti’s 2003 effort to get a solar plan going for
LA. Only three years ago he warned that investment in clean energy projects
could “bankrupt” the DWP.

The real problem, as defined by D’Arcy, was the “impending crisis”
because of DWP’s failure to invest in infrastructure. “The power and
water systems are so degraded and undermanned that Los Angeles’
reliable power and clean water are at risk,” he argued.

In 2007,
the IBEW produced a video warning of the looming catastrophe and D’Arcy
took his dire prediction public arguing the answer was to hire
thousands of new DWP workers who, of course, would be IBEW members
whose contributions would help fund city campaigns.

“Even if aging equipment were replaced, electrical customers would still confront even
more widespread power failures during natural disasters.

“Why? Because the DWP is hemorrhaging the highly skilled workers needed to keep the
system functioning and respond in emergencies – and the Department refuses to recruit or train anyone to replace them.

“In 1993, the DWP boasted nearly 12,000 highly skilled employees, who made the DWP
one of the most reliable providers of energy in California. There are 8,000 of these well-trained
and experienced workers at DWP today. About 3,200 are eligible to retire within the next five
years. It takes a minimum of five years to train a new employee.”

Why
was the infrastructure so degraded? Where has all those billions from
ratepayers gone? It’s not exactly a mystery. Hundreds of millions of
dollars were transferred annually to the city general fund to pay handsome
salaries and a similar amount of the money to pay the 30 percent over what other city workers got for the same jobs.

When D’Arcy bludgeoned the council into
submission in 2005 with threats of a strike if they didn’t approve the
contract with raises of up to 30 percent, he boasted he’d been getting
his workers the same cost-of-living increases “since the mid-’90s.”

The
DWP was imposing major rate hikes at the time the contract was signed
and other city  unions were giving up any raise because of the city’s
financial problems. D’Arcy was unsympathetic: “They make choices. If I
brought my members zero, I would be hanging from that rafter over
there.”

Not to be overlooked in the library of D’Arcy’s power
plays is how he got then Mayor James Hahn and ultimately the DWP
Commission in 2003 to roll over and loan $1.87 million to a Hawaiian
company to build a personal electric transporter (PET) — long a pet
project of D’Arcy’s — despite objections over terms of the deal and
lack of competitive bidding.

The firm went bankrupt three years later and the DWP lost its money.

“It
was a bad deal then, and it continues to be a bad deal,” said Bill
Fujioka, who opposed the loan as City Administrative Officer.

Former
Councilwoman Ruth Galanter said the bankruptcy was evidence the deal
was a political strong-arming at the expense of DWP ratepayers.“You
have to pin it on City Hall.”

That is the point.

Brian
D’Arcy is a smart, tough union boss who has gotten rich getting his
members great deals, looking after their interests and the interests of
the IBEW.

He shouldn’t be running the DWP, the mayor, the City
Council or City Hall. The interests of the city are not the same as the
interests of the IBEW.

In the aftermath of the defeat of Measure
B, it is the duty of DWP management, the DWP Commission, and the
elected officials to do what’s best for the people who live, work and
do business in LA.

That means getting the most clean energy at
the lowest cost in the shortest time and doing it in an open, inclusive
and honest process.

Anything less is a betrayal of the public
trust. D’Arcy asked for this vote. The council asked for this vote. the
mayor asked for this vote.

The people have spoken. Measure B
is dead in all its elements. It’s time we come together and achieve
what we all want — or should want — clean air, clean energy and clean
government. 

This entry was posted in City Hall, Los Angeles, Solar Energy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Measure B, the Aftermath: D’Arcy, the Bully on a Power Trip

  1. KK says:

    Great piece as always, Ron. Question for you: why doesn’t every new piece of construction not required to have some sort of solar/alternative energy geneator? With all the building in LA, wouldn’t this jump start the process?

  2. Anonymous says:

    KK Congratulations on the workable and important suggestion! That way the installation would not BELONG to the DWP
    but to the owner of the building. After
    all, he/she paid for it. It would help pay for the installation if there is any excess after usage.
    The D’Arcy plan would mean the DWP would own the installation even though the rate-payers paid
    the bills. At least that is my understanding.
    That is why we voted NO.

  3. JOE HILL says:

    YES LOS ANGELAS DWP ARE A BUNCH OF UNDER WORKED AND OVER PAID CONSTRUCTION WORKERS ..
    ITS A PITY THAT ITS IMPOSSIABLE TO GET HIRED INTO THE DEPARTMENT..
    THE D W P REQUIRMENTS ARE IMPOSSIABLE TO ACHIEVE .ITS AS THOUGH YOU NEED TO HAVE WORKED FOR THEM TO BECOME ON OF THEM!!.
    **THERE IS NO OUT SIDE TRAINING ANY WHERE ..
    I AM A IBEW ELECTRICAN AND ALL MY TRAINING COUNTS FOR NOTHING TOWARDS D W P REQUIREMENTS!!.
    ITS VERY STRANGE HOW GENERATOR STATION AND POWER PLANT ELECTRICANS ARE NOT TRAINED BY ANY ONE KNOWN OUT SIDE OF POWER PLANTS THEM SELFS ..
    GO ASK THE UNION REPS IF YOUR APPRENTICE TRAINING IS GOOD FOR THE GENERATOR STATIONS OR LINE REPAIR????

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