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Measure B All Over Again — But This Time You Won’t Get to Vote

An aging pipe burst and water gushed down Coldwater Canyon, causing disruption for a week as city officials demanded answers from Department of Water and Power officials to assuage angry residents.

“We have an aging infrastructure–the pipes underground are not getting
any younger,” explained the DWP official in charge of the water system. ” What we are doing is crossing our fingers
and hoping that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”

Crossed fingers hasn’t worked too well since that incident 16 years ago in September 1993. Another burst water main closed Coldwater Canyon again September and couple of other broken pipes elsewhere caused more disruption.

LA’s water and power infrastructure has gotten a lot older and more vulnerable to breaking down despite a series of rate increases that were supposed to fix the problems.

Breakdowns, massive pay raises and inflated salaries, management arrogance and lack of transparency, rejection of the Measure B solar energy plan by voters, illegal transfers of millions to the city general fund, resistance to creating a Ratepayer Advocate, City Council rejection of lifting the cap on energy surcharges — they are among the many factors that have shaken public confidence in the DWP and its leadership, and brought its credibility to an all-time low.

Yet, that isn’t stopping the mayor’s Energy Czar David Freeman and DWP officials from trying to orchestrate another solar energy plan that seems a lot like the one voters rejected in March.

The campaign started in earnest last Wednesday when Freeman, City Council aides and DWP got together with some 15 or 20 environmentalists and launched their hard-sell.

The next day, most of that group got together at City Hall with representatives of business and private sector labor, and DWP Committee President Soledad Garcia, DWP critic Jack Humphreville and me — key leaders of the extraordinary grassroots campaign that against all odds defeated Measure B.

Jeff Catalano of Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office opened the meeting by making it clear that the past sins of the DWP were off the table and so was the issue of unlimited rate increases from Energy Cost Adjustment Factor (ECAF) that the Council just unanimously rejected out of fear of a voter backlash that could prove dangerous to their own cushy positions.

Nonetheless, Freeman conveyed the mayor’s commitment to an open process (unlike the back room deal that Measure B represented and is now repudiated by everyone involved from the mayor, Council President Eric Garcetti, and IBEW boss Brian D’Arcy as if they hadn’t engineered it).

Humphreville, who wrote the anti-Measure B ballot argument, presented his list of a couple of dozen concerns about this latest solar plan: Blank check for billions from ratepayers, DWP ownership and installation of most rooftop solar at its inflated cost structure to expand IBEW Local 18 jobs, emphasis on low-efficiency renewables, refusal to contract for best prices.

They all sound a lot like the same concerns over Measure B.

There is one big difference: Freeman insists City Hall won’t make the same mistake again of putting this solar plan on the ballot and letting voters have a say about how their money is spent.

Instead, the DWP will hold a two-week series of six community meetings starting Wednesday. Workshops, they are called, where the public will be told what the DWP’s intentions are and then the City Council will be asked to give the green light, no serious questions asked.

The plan itself is something of a secret, according to DWP public relations chief Joe Ramallo, who arrived late at Thursday’s meeting and told the assembled environmentalists and activists that the actual plan is still a secret, a work in progress and will be refined after all citizen input is tabulated and collated.

But things didn’t go the way they were supposed. Soledad, Jack and I offered oft-discussed concerns, questions and criticisms.

But so did the environmentalists.

They were burned by Measure B thanks to their leaders preferring to be in bed with the mayor and his pals than actually achieving clean energy.

They clearly do not intend to be burned again when everybody wants clean energy but also want it at a price that people can afford in these hard times and want policies that serve the public interest rather than enriching the special interests that have prospered so long on City Hall’s corruption.

From the remarks of the various interests at the table, it was clear everyone wants a full private sector involvement and a minimum DWP role, a clear timeline and cost and rate impact analysis, assurances that DWP management is up to the task and the use of the most efficient technologies — those that produce the most energy at the lowest price.

Freeman, that good old smooth-talking Southerner, said at the outset he wanted a 99 percent consensus on how to go forward. He got what he wanted — sort of.

There was a clear consensus but it’s not the one the DWP or City Hall sought. We’re on the road to coming together as a city where we can find agreement on how to get the most clean energy at a pace and at a cost the public can afford.

That would be the victory we’re seeking when we fought Measure B.  It would be a sign of hope, hope that City Hall has lost its clout, that we are waking up across class and political lines and taking back our city.

Personally, that would be a dream come true.

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11 Responses to Measure B All Over Again — But This Time You Won’t Get to Vote

  1. The part about them doing what the public wants and what is best for both the city and the environment sounds good – but I can’t imagine Brian D’Arcy will ever allow anything that radical to happen. And the fact it … appears… they will not reveal the secret plan to us so we can comment upon it until AFTER we have made our comments – is totally unacceptable, if that is indeed the case. And the speed with which they are trying to rush this, also makes me very suspicious.

  2. eagle rock says:

    there are out to no good , this crooks whants to eat all the cake .
    i lost all hope and trust from any one in city hall .
    they now they have to hurry before the voters in los angeles begian demanding changes and they now is coming .
    this crooks politicians have forgot who they owne there jobs to and who they work for is time to show them the door.

  3. Charlie Baker says:

    This is such a critical issue for Los Angeles. What happened for the last 16 years or longer since DWP made a commitment to fixing water trunk lines and more recently within the last few years after a series of blackouts/brownouts to replace again transformers and cables (again all aging equipment/infrastructure issues).
    The Mayor and his commissioners, and the City Council have NOT held the DWP management responsible for failing to deliver.
    Although there is a state mandate for renewable energy, DWP needs to stay focused on fixing the basics, and make COST effective decisions for renewables. Clearly they have not.
    Thanks for raising this issue.
    Citizen groups and ratepayer advocates need to demand an answer as to why weren’t the water pipelines upgraded after 16 years? Why are there even any 100-year old pipes still in place?
    We need to answer these questions and solve these problem before blowing any more money on hair-brain schemes to make politicians feel warm and fuzzy about “green power”

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor and City Council are elected to take care of the basic needs of a city: infrastructure (including sanitation), police and fire without which no city can function. Underlying this are issues of land use and enforcement that also have major impacts on quality of life. We have an administration that would like to be national or international leaders and waste city resources on issues they have little control over. They and their department heads are more interested in making soundbite proclamations than dealing with the basics. The bursting pipes, the inflated wages and incompetence all over are the result of people who are unfit for the jobs they were hired for.
    Where do we start? We re-elected an incompetent man for Mayor because of his looks. LA Times is endorsing another useless person for CD2. Most of the Councilmembers are so hopeless they would not find a day job.
    Ron, you are doing a yeoman’s job in exposing the yoyos who run our city. The only bright side is that with enough pipe bursts, this city could be a tourist attraction, the local Venice.

  5. KK says:

    I understand that DWP has entered into an agreement with a solar panel provider that will install solar on SFR roofs at no cost to the owner (I think–I may be wrong on this detail). Owner will have their energy costs fixed for 20 years and DWP will own the panels.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Charlie ,please wake up.
    The Mayor and the City Council are in the pockets of D`Arcy. The politically appointed Commissioners are irrelevant. If they raise their voice, their head is chopped off.
    The ratepayers pay for;
    Highest wages of any public agency.
    Highest raises in this economic depression.
    D`Arcy`s slush fund to contribute to the campaigns of the puppets in City Hall.( you will see it next week in the CD2 race, on behalf of Essel the empty vessel)
    Anything but taking care the infrastructure.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Did Los Angeles DWP General Manager Mr. David Nahai endorse Measure B as Board of Director at the California League of Conservation Voters?

  8. El Quixotian says:

    Sacred Fools Theater Company’s annual production of A Mulholland Christmas Carol needs an update. It seems as if the pipes bursting are Marley’s chains, as the water baron has learned his lesson and seeks to warn Ebenezar Nahai….

  9. El Quixotian says:

    As for the secret plan…the problem is the same as what was pointed out as with the approach used for the Strategic Plan. We have made it quite clear that a waterfall approach is not appropriate, where the presentation reflects no changes from Powerpoint to Powerpoint except updating the dates. The Project Manager needs to adopt an iterative approach, where ongoing feedback can be reflected upon, and the Plan adjusted as appropriate. This would provide a more dynamic process, involve the Subject Matter Experts in a meaningful way, and rather then “building consensus” to believe what the smoke filled room devised, it would acually restore confidence in the system while arriving at better conclusion.
    If the management (and the mayor) would take an engineering approach, maybe things wouldn’t break so often.

  10. Chris Rowe says:

    One new little factor that we should keep in mind. As we suffer a drought, and as we are restricted in our water use, our ground, much of which is expansive clay out here in the Valley, will dry up and subside. More and more pipes on private property could blow due to subsidence.
    This is one of the legacies of the “Emergency Water Shortage” plan. As usual, people who are not engineers, geologists, scientists, or anyone who is qualified to explain this potential hazard as the result of everyone turning off the spigot at the same time, made the decision to reduce our water for our lawns. They forget that we have houses and pipes in the middle of those lawns.
    “One hundred year old infrastructure” and no recharging of the aquifers – some because they are “Superfund sites” in the East Valley equals more fun for the LADWP.
    I think that everyone should be stocking up on emergency water – a full week’s supply.

  11. anonymous says:

    Like the water penalties, these up and coming rate increases are an illegal tax. In addition, single family homes on large lots are targets. We need to organize and file a class action suit against the City. Is this up the Howard Jarvis alley? Whom shall I contact?
    An aside: I wouldn’t hold out any hope for a Ratepayer Advocate. Like any official position in the City, it becomes political and, sooner or later, the public is the last to be truly represented.

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