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DWP’s Week That Was — Burst Water Mains, Blank Checks and Measure B Revisited

Sometimes, the threads of the news come together so elegantly you’d think there was an invisible hand at work making sense of it all. At least that’s my experience from time to time over the years.
Take the fact that last Wednesday, the City Council rejected the DWP’s demand for a blank check to buy renewable energy on the open market no matter what it costs ratepayers struggling to keep their jobs if they have one, to pay their rent or mortgages and make ends meet in the midst of the worst recession in their lifetimes..

Then, on Friday, I accepted an invitation to go to City Hall this week to hear the DWP present its revised plan for solar energy that seems to be a lot like the Measure B plan the public voted down in March.

On Saturday, I dropped by the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition meeting when Councilman Bernard Parks decided to step out in public and tell us the end of the world was coming — or at least the end of LA as we know it — unless we take drastic steps like massive layoffs of city workers to avoid bankruptcy.

The unions, particularly the IBEW which virtually runs the DWP, have taken the city hostage and have a stranglehold on our elected officials who owe their jobs to them, he said. The result is pensions costs and spending are out of control because the unions get whatever they want from the politicians whenever they want it.

Then, Saturday night a 95-year-old water main burst on Coldwater Canyon in Studio City, flooding dozens of homes and businesses with up to three feet of water and causing massive traffic snarls that will last all week.

The mayor got there at 4 p.m. Sunday to take charge and Twitter us with the news our DWP workers were there on overtime to restore order:

“At sportsmens lodge meeting with victims of the flood. We’re gonna get them back in their homes as soon as possible…At the burst pipe meeting with dwp workers who have been working since midnight to control the flooding…”

WaterMainBreak.jpgThen, a second water main burst nearby in Valley Village Monday morning, created another sinkhole, one that gulped down a fire truck, more flooding, more traffic problems.

I can hardly wait to hear why my electric bill will be doubling so the DWP can provide more jobs to the IBEW by spending billions of dollars to build and own rooftop solar installations and why I should be paying more and more for using less and less water.

It’s all crazy.

Ten years ago, the DWP under the leadership of the mayor’s current environment czar David Freeman launched the nation’s largest solar energy initiative and spent tens of millions of dollars promoting it but never got around to actually building any solar.

Now, we’re the least green big city in California with the most dirty coal energy.

Our electrical grid and water system are rotting from years of neglect and lack of investment.

But at a time when the economy is in the tank and unlikely to turn around in any significant way for a long time, we’ve embarked on a green energy race that will send our rates soaring along with our water rates as drought dries up supply.

Where has all our money gone? Why are we still building more housing, more luxury hotels, more massive projects when our infrastructure won’t support it?

You know the answers as well as I do.

City Hall sucked billions out of our water and power rates, including $150 million illegally, and DWP workers took the rest with huge pay raises of up to 5.9 percent, raises the put their salaries as much as 40 percent higher than those paid to other city workers for jobs like secretaries, clerks and dispatchers that are not technical or dangerous like high-voltage electricians.

And we have to keep on approving developments of every sort because we need the tax revenue to feed City Hall and its insatiable needs no matter how much damage they do to the quality of our lives.

It is all crazy but it’s all coming together to set the stage for the Battle of Los Angeles — a fight to turn the city around, to save LA.

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26 Responses to DWP’s Week That Was — Burst Water Mains, Blank Checks and Measure B Revisited

  1. Anonymous says:

    Any Councilmember who votes for a DWP rate hike should be recalled. Ron,are you ready and willing to lead this fight? Enough is enough!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Has the Mayor asked, as yet, for “shared sacrifice” from the DWP employees? I do not believe so.They got 5.9% raise in Oct 09 and they will get another 3.25% this Oct. But,why would he? The suckers are paying with higher rates imposed by the stooges Commissioners and the Council in turn siphones millions to feed their pet projects.Hey,is there justice in this world?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I`d like to know where all these billions of dollars that DWP got a couple of years ago went , promising that the rate hikes were earmarked for upgrade of the infrastructure ONLY. Bet you, a lot of that went to D`Arcy`s slush fund that he uses among other things…. to elect puppets in City Hall.

  4. Chris Rowe says:

    The DWP was transferring funds for the Water infrastructure to the City General Fund until they found out that it was illegal. So now we have pipes bursting, not enough purple pipe to use treated water to green our parks, etc. Not enough money is alloted to upgrade our water treatment systems.
    Then we have the transfer of money that should go for the solar and other alternative projects going to the general fund.
    How can we possibly think that we will get alternative energy by 2010 when we are not upgrading our sytems?
    I will never deny someone a “fair wage” but just what is a “fair wage”?

  5. Anonymous says:

    DWP is a cash cow for the IBEW employees, the General Fund, and all the cronies like Fabian Nunez, Montanez, etc. The homeowners and businesses can spend the next few weeks trying to get their life together, and the rest can spend hours in traffic. Business as usual in City Hall goes on undisturbed by these pesky nuisances.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ron …
    It’s time.
    If the rest of the City gets pissed enough for having to give water conservation breaks to those of us in the hottest parts of LA, they’ll probably vote to get rid of us.

  7. Anonymous says:

    September 8, 2009 3:30PM
    Sounds like the best thing that we can do. Almost 4 million people (maybe more) is out of
    countrol. Even breaking up the neighborhoods will probably find some areas too large. Almost 500 square miles of one city is really impossible.

  8. El Quixotian says:

    Chris, don’t forget that even though they’ve gotten notice they can’t touch the earmarked water transfer that’s sat, pending the final lawsuit result, the money is still sitting somehere…earning interest for somebody. But last I heard, they haven’t actually decided how (and whether?) to return it to the ratepayers.
    Gee, I wonder if holding onto the surplus Power revenue (instead of wiring it over to the General Fund) would help with their dreaded Bond Rating concerns.

  9. Last year when Councilman Tom LaBonge (District 4) hosted an event at the Metro Red Line station to show organized neighborhood council opposition the Universal Metro Project, I was there. In fact—I was the only attendee who brought a sign supporting my position on that project. What did the sign read? “INFRASTRUCTURE FIRST.”
    The water main break late Saturday in Studio City is a perfect example of how over-development places an undo stress on an antiquated infrastructure that is in desperate need of repair and upgrade. I say, “Do not let anyone tell you that our infrastructure is capable of handling the over-development that is planned for our neighborhoods.” This water main break is proof that my statements about our infrastructure are correct and that my demand for charter-required infrastructure review is reasonable and reflects the key values of accountability and future-focused.

  10. anonymous says:

    If the electric rates soar to support their green scene scheme, isn’t that charging more than the service rendered? Even if some commission voted cap raise allows the city to do this, doesn’t the state say it’s illegal? Isn’t that what the 150 million owed back to the rate payers is all about?
    Could someone please confirm that they cannot charge us more than the service rendered-charges equal “penalties” and rate increases. Isn’t this, in a way, an illegal tax with a different name attached?
    Is this actionable? If so, I’m game. Anyone else?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Another sink hole in the valley has been developing for almost a year -
    go look at Valley Vista and Saugus, just east of Sepulveda (in Sherman Oaks). you will see a street that has been sinking and filled biweekly with asphalt to bring level. It has about 10 DWP/Street services folding signs over the sinking section and now DWP is starting to place asphalt over cement street where the street surrounding saugus is sinking.
    No money is saved or allocated for capital improvements or repairs to the infrastructure. The city is falling apart.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Where is Los Angeles DWP Department Manager David Nahai, not a CEO, or Mayor Villaraigosa with his 2 minutes hall of shame press conference?
    A CEO of a private company would have taken IMMEDIATE steps in handling old infrastructure, proactive vs. reactive, which would avoid paying out millions of stakeholders dollars to affected families, employees overtime costs, and damage to engine truck.

  13. Anonymous says:

    “But at a time when the economy is in the tank and unlikely to turn around in any significant way for a long time, we’ve embarked on a green energy race that will send our rates soaring along with our water rates as drought dries up supply.”
    Hey, didn’t the mayor get that junket to Las Vegas recently? Some “Clean Energy Summit” or whatever.
    1) if any of you who are fans of the mayor still believe in him, you’re seriously delusional as these events show. By the way, WHERE ARE the GREEN JOBS in LA? Dude, where is my green job? In your wild imagination.
    2) Keep electing the same “progressives” you do every election in LA & CA. Just be honest — do you really care about Prop 8 if you lost your job and there are very few good paying jobs in LA? Maybe all that progressive agenda looks kinda different now?
    Good luck in 2010!

  14. KK says:

    I notice in the Times article this morning that much of the water infrastructure dates from the 20′s and the years just after World War II, “two periods when housing construction boomed.”
    In relation to the housing boom we have experienced over the last five years or so, how does it compare to the two earlier periods and what specific new water infrastructure has been built?
    And kudos to the people from DWP for their great response. So, we can see that the DWP has some excellent employees. Can we see some of that greatness and fast response devoted to the 4 billion project already funded to upgrade the system?
    And note to DWP, declaring that LA has fewer leaks per mile of pipe than many other great cities doesn’t give residents a great deal of comfort…and makes you look really tone deaf.
    Or is this complaining and nitpicking by people” who are unappreciative or have ulterior motives” according to Water & Power President Kanon Alpert?

  15. Spiffy says:

    “Where has all our money gone? Why are we still building more housing, more luxury hotels, more massive projects when our infrastructure won’t support it?”
    Oh Ron, that is the charm of the developers! They wine and dine all with visions of shiny things growing from the ground like tinsel forests—-ooooo, shiny. Pretty. Metropolis. Ooooo.
    But they never wine and dine with stories of 60″ sewer pipe. Really? What is romantic about MUD and SEWER PIPE?
    I swear to heaven, developers are like professional daters and many of us, most of us, are like foolish young girls who see the pretty, shiny things and fall for the lines.
    After all, will foolish young girls jump into a deal with a guy if he shows them a sink full of dirty dishes, which is the reality of the deal, or a shiny jewel? They go for the shiny things every time.
    I cannot fault the politicians for being gullible human beings. We all are or have been. But you would think that in this time of hardship for so many of us, these YEARS of hardship, even the politicians would stop wasting their time and tax money looking at shiny things!
    The honeymoon with developers is over. He has left us with nothing but bills and dirty dishes.
    Tell it to Oprah and get to work girlfriend, lol.

  16. KK says:

    If you can tell the difference between the public being held hostage by developers or being held hostage by public employee unions, the result is the same: a few prosper on the backs on the many.
    Short time opportunity: Write the mayor and the council; show up for the 1 pm budget meeting on Monday to protest the ERIP. Layoffs will have to occur. A step in taking back the city.

  17. eagle rock says:

    on october 9,2009 10:00am council chamer
    room340,city hall,200 n spring st la ca 90012
    the dep of water and power
    will ask city coucil to increse water rate again for the year biginning january 1, 2010 and ending december 31,2010
    inrease 0.128 one hcf eguals and change water rate ties.
    there is lost of folks that can not pay there water electricity bill right now , they pay ladwp or there rent or food .
    this crooks ask los angeles rate payers to cut back we did
    i hope lost of folks show up and give this crooks hell is time to take back los angeles
    this unions and politicians are not for the best interest of us

  18. Anonymous says:

    Sure enough, this is just another excuse for the council to rate our rates again, because they’re crying poverty as the reason they haven’t replaced aging and structurally questionable pipes, sewers, etc. Led by Cardenas and Rosendahl (who just raised wages to “living wage” for LAX-area workers, the “brain-child” to use an oxymoron of Janice Hahn), with Nahai, they’re talking about how to go around to “Explain” to ratepayers why rates will have to soar to do this work. “To have this conversation” as Nahai always says. One-way conversation.
    But we still don’t have any checks and balances on where the money goes/will go, any more than with other rate hikes, like for the trash fees which also appear on our DWP bills. Chick had done an audit showing most of that money went toward public safety somehow, not necessarily for the 1000 cops promised — and given the backlog of DNA rape kit testing, which was finally committed to after years of pushing for it without funding, and other needs, that’s fine — but that was in the first year with several CM’s and the mayor pushing. After that Greig Smith, Parks and Rosendahl told us we were all deluded, that this money had never been promised for public safety but was intended just to offset trash pickup. This is what could happen again here if no high-profile leaders are on top of it, and judging by today, there’s no one other than Nahai. Who’s much-maligned but does seem more concerned with keeping DWP’s promises than anyone else, since it’s him on the line. However, he can’t make too many waves in his own dept. over D’Arcy and other special interests. We either need the ratepayer advocate too, or at least some firm commitment from Greuel as Controller, whose job this should be.

  19. anonymous says:

    Does anyone know what golf courses pay on their water bill? Do they have the same tier one allotment that we homeowners have? What about apartment buildings?
    Also, I would rather all city parks, buildings and those million new trees abide by the same rules and tier one allotment that single family homeowners must abide by. It infuriates me that my water usage has significantly decreased and my lawn, young trees, flowers and bushes are literally dying; yet “they” get to have more water than all of us combined. What happened to shared sacrifice?
    Does equal protection under the law equate to equal penalizing?
    The way the billing and penalties are, it is clear the city profits off of this drought and it reeks of an illegal tax.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Is that a picture of the Mayor’s political career?

  21. El Quixotian says:

    Well, I’m please to announce that the sinkhole prompting a street closure Franklin in Hollywood last week, patched yet again by the DWP, is supposedly due to the fault line which runs beneath Immaculate Heart High School…the same cause of slippage which has diverted creeks to Ferndell, we’re told.
    And speaking of parks, while I’ve noticed some lovely purple piping on some golf courses, including in Griffith Park, Recreation and Parks had a little extra share of sacrifice this year, as they were billed for water, apparently for the first time.
    All of this to the chagrin of having healthy “lungs” for our city.
    There were motions passed addressing this, and I believe that the interim solution was to defer either the rationing or the charges, at least until after the oh so successful summer lights program wrapped up.
    As for that small proportion of a million trees that were actually planted, adopting homeowners are responsible for plantings at their curb. As for street trees, since the city has apparently has cut back on watering them by truck, those which have yet to root deeply may have to rely on the kindness of neighborhood greengoodniks…though some have discussed acquiring tap handles for their neighborhood DWP substation…I’m sure, only with express permission, of course.

  22. Charlie Baker says:

    This should be a huge wake-up call to all of us.
    First the Mayor and City Council are putting the cart before the horse with the over-development madness which ignores two important points – the limited water supply to Los Angeles and the aging infrastructure that has yet to be addressed because of the redirection of funds from DWP.
    Second, the Mayor (and his commission) and the City Council are responsible for not seeing to it that the upgrades to the water and power system are being made while allowing new massive development projects.
    Here are just two articles showing the problem in the past 1992 and 1997 (not shown was 2004) (and stating that it was going to be addressed):
    1993 article:

  23. Addedgick says:

    Todd Cowle Municipal Bond Credit Report synthesizes, analyzes and presents aggregate credit information and trends in the municipal bond market. The report includes municipal bond rating information from the three major rating agencies – Moody’s Investor Services, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

  24. Ovevioutton says:

    Todd Cowle Municipal Bond Credit Report synthesizes, analyzes and presents aggregate credit information and trends in the municipal bond market. The report includes municipal bond rating information from the three major rating agencies – Moody’s Investor Services, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

  25. Thanks for a wonderful post.

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