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Freeman Report: Cooking (the books) with Hot Air

Back on Aug. 11, David Zahniser in the LATimes reported that the DWP was trying to hire former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez as a lobbyist in Sacramento because officials were worried AB 32 — the 2006 bill he wrote — would result in a “cap and trade” program forcing utilities to buy expensive pollution credits to offset their coal-burning plants.

Spokesman Joe Ramallo said “cap and trade” could result in a “massive transfer of ratepayer money” away from the DWP, which has the most coal-burning plants in the state, generating more than 45 percent of the city’s power from those pollution-causing facilities.

What was proposed was for the DWP to spend $2.4 million over four years to hire lobbyists with the Conservation Strategy Group– including $120,000 a year for Nunez through his firm Mercury Public Affairs — to gut enforcement of Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 law that requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

It’s no coincidence the hit on the DWP would come the same year the mayor promised in his inaugural address in July to “eliminate the use of coal by 2020.”

DWP Commission President Lee Alpert balked at the proposal, partly because of Nunez’s role and partly because the DWP already has former Assemblyman Cindy Montanez as a $180,000 per year lobbyist, plus the largest legislative delegation in the state who presumably would do all the can to help the local utility.

That’s what makes what happened at the DWP Commission meeting last week so interesting.

The Commission unanimously approved a six-month contract with Conservation Strategy Group for $267,500 with several conditions No subcontracting, meaning nothing for Nunez, and it will only be used to influence the water bond and infrastructure proposals that won legislative approval on the day the lobbying contract was approved.

In other words, Conservation Strategy Group was in line to get $300,000 every six months, less the $60,000 for Nunez. Now they’re getting $27,500 more than they would have under the  original proposal.

If you think the six-months term of the contract means anything, listen to General Manager David Freeman in this video dodge straight answers to questions while stating the the lobbying firm’s previous contract “expired” but it was still working for DWP without a contract at its own “risk.”

Freeman glibly offers no reason for the contract other than the water legislation and the $11 billion water bond issue — LA County gets $1 billion of it under a last-minute deal. Since those measures already were on their way to the governor, what was exactly is Conservation Strategy Group doing isn’t clear — and the commissioners didn’t ask.

Maybe they all know but it’s a secret they didn’t want to share.

The fact is Freeman admits to serial contracts with this lobbying firm and indicates they will be extended further in six months unless the newly-hired $200,000-a-year director of external affairs, Wally Knox — the former Assemblyman, DWP commissioner and recent Harbor Department consultant — is able to handle the job himself, with Montanez’s help, of course.

Who are they kidding? This is nothing but the same old DWP story: Ratepayers’ money means nothing as long as they can keep getting more of it to hand out to Brian D’Arcy’s union and contractors and consultants of one sort or another without regard to the value of services provided.

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10 Responses to Freeman Report: Cooking (the books) with Hot Air

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor gets accolades for being “Green”, the DWP, meanwhile has to pay lobbysits, friends of the Mayor, to get them out of being “Green”. The ratepayers get socked. Just what is going on? When do we get off this charade, and the Mayor starts being honest, and tell the public that being green is not a virtue reserved for him for furthering his private interests, and that it comes at a cost; higher bills. And those bills could be a lot less, if we stopped financing his out-of-work buddies under the guise of consultants. And it is these dishonest people we keep electing whose equally dishonest lackeys run major city departments. ERIP is a result of such dishonest politicians and their lackeys that have run this city into near bankruptcy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Give Freeman credit. He wants the DWP to comply with AB 32 and wants to rid the DWP of coal plant contracts and ownership in coal plants.
    He hasnt advocated hiring lobbyists. He says if the dwp didnt have power generated by dirty coal, they wouldnt be subject to heavy penalties by the state.
    Its scandalous that City officials are claiming to be ‘green’ and then try to hire lobbyists to figure out ways to evade laws that they all supported in the first place. Nunez and Villaraigosa were big proponents of AB 32 to the point that Nunez stole Fran Pavleys thunder and claimed credit for the bill.

  3. James McCuen says:

    We need to call DWP Management and the Consultant’s bluff about “working at their own risk” and not award the contract. Any contract over $150,000 has a Council Review Option – that is the City Council has the right to have jurisdiction on any DWP contract over $150,000. You need to pressure Zine or Smith to assert Jurisdiction.
    If the City Council overrules the DWP Commission and doesn’t allow award of this contract, I wouldn’t be surprised if this consultant/lobbyist sues the City and DWP for the time it worked “at its own risk.”
    Its all smoke and mirrors. There is no transparency and Commission President Lee Alpert showed his true colors when asked directly about who approved the Nahai contract. He said that everything was open and transparent without naming names (it was actually Ramon Raj as an acting GM before Freeman).

  4. Janice Worthy says:

    Don’t forget, Cindy Montanez is double dipping with two jobs as a member of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, which pays $130,000 annually and with DWP:

  5. Chris Rowe says:

    I would also like to agree that it is my understanding that State Senator Fran Pavley authored AB 32. It states that on her wiki page.
    We have Senator Pavley, Assembleymember Bob Blumenfield, Assemblymember Julia Brownley, Assemblymember Mike Feuer all in Sacramento making sure that we have AB 32 and the best “green technology” that we can get.
    In fact I want to congratulate Assemblymember Blumenfield on his award for:
    “TechAmerica Recognizes Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield as California High Tech Legislator of the Year”
    This is from his newsletter:
    Blumenfield Legislation Approved by Governor
    New laws will save $$ billions, conserve water, promote solar, and move education into the 21st century
    Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D – San Fernando Valley) today announced Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law five bills he authored yesterday evening. “By signing my bills the governor will save the state billions of dollars, millions of acre feet of water and many megawatts of energy. His signature on these bills will also help push education into the 21st century by making digital textbooks a viable option for school districts,” Blumenfield said.
    Cracking down on taxpayer rip-offs by government contractors (AB 1196) – California is expected to receive more than $50 billion in federal stimulus funds in the next 2 years, 7% of which is predicted to be lost to fraud by government contractors. This legislation will strengthen and expand the ‘false claims’ law, which enables private citizens to report intentional fraud by a contractor, and if the claim is true, reap a significant portion of the damages awarded by a court. Without this bill, billions of state dollars would not be protected by against fraud, including CalPERS, CalSTRS, UC funds and government subcontractors.
    AB 1196 Fact Sheet (PDF)
    Water conservation financing (AB 474) – California is in its third straight year of drought. This creative bill will harness market forces by increasing water conservation by residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial property owners by authorizing cities, counties, water districts and municipal utilities to offer up-front financing to property owners who wish to install water conservation systems. It is a rare bill supported by the Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as more than 50 local government, business and environmental organizations. The bill was sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District and the California Municipal Utilities Association.
    AB 474 Fact Sheet (PDF)
    Solar colleges (AB 1031) – California colleges have suffered severe budget cuts and must reduce their costs. Yet they cannot get credit on their utility bills for renewable energy they generate, unless the electricity is used in the same structure where it is generated. This bill requires utility companies to give credit to state colleges and universities for all power they generate on campus.
    AB 1031 Fact Sheet (PDF)
    Digital textbooks (AB 1398) – California is the birthplace of the high tech industry, yet current law still contains a prohibition on school districts’ spending funds to purchase digital textbooks. This bill will remove this prohibition. This prohibition has meant that students have unnecessary back strain and health issues, that many students have access to only old and out of date textbooks and almost all students are missing out on the learning potential of interactive learning made possible in today’s information age.
    AB 1398 Fact Sheet (PDF)
    Safe schools (AB 1390) – Keeping children safe at school must be a top priority. Nationwide, 357,000 students are expelled or suspended for gun and other incidents annually. Many of these events are not reported to local law enforcement, depriving police of information that helps them track gang violence and take preventive action. This bill will close this loophole by requiring school personnel to report serious campus crimes to local police.
    AB 1390 Fact Sheet (PDF)
    Three other bills authored by Blumenfield were vetoed by the Governor, including a bill to require apartment building owners to offer recycling services to tenants (AB 473), a bill calling for a link on state of California websites informing people about earthquake preparedness (AB 472), and legislation making it easier for employers to offer cash in lieu of a parking subsidy to their employees (AB 1186).
    Blumenfield expressed disappointment at the Governor’s rejection of the bills saying, “Each of these measures is a common-sense policy that would help people in the San Fernando Valley and throughout the state. During the legislative process, I made adjustments that eliminated all formal opposition to these bills, so the governor stands alone in opposing such universally accepted ideas as expanding recycling, disaster preparedness and incentivizing commuters to get out of their cars.”
    Then I also got this in a newsletter from Assemblymember Cameron Smyth:
    “November, 2009 | Issue 11 Smyth
    Legislature Passes Comprehensive Water Plan
    Last Wednesday morning, the Legislature passed a comprehensive bill package to address California’s water crisis – including measures on Delta governance and restoration, water conservation, groundwater monitoring, and a finance measure to build reliable water storage.
    The water package passed by the Assembly is a bipartisan approach to ending California’s water crisis. It solves a problem that has been forty years in the making by ensuring new water supply, protecting water rights and promoting conservation. These actions will help bring much needed water and jobs to Californians throughout our state.
    The plan approved by the Assembly included both water policy that will help to improve water conveyance and storage, as well as an $11.14 billion bond investment in infrastructure and restoration. Specifically, the provisions of the comprehensive water plan approved by the Legislature will:
    **Dedicate funds for new storage and conveyance**
    The plan includes $3 billion for new water storage projects across California, including both above and below ground storage, and $400 million for additional conveyance. California hasn’t built any new water storage in more than a generation, and we are paying the price for our failure to plan responsibly for our water future with mandatory rationing, farmers unable to plant their crops and thousands of farm workers out of work.
    **Improve water quality**
    The plan includes $1 billion to improve the quality of groundwater supply across the state, and prevent contamination of a critical water supply in many parts of the state, particularly in Southern California.
    **Safeguard San Joaquin Delta**
    Takes essential steps to safeguard the San Joaquin Delta’s fragile ecosystem, and protect this vital water source for millions of Californians and the farms that help feed the world.
    **Strengthen watershed protection**
    Includes $1.5 billion to protect California’s fragile ecosystems and watersheds, and an additional $215 million to protect and restore rivers and streams statewide. This is an important opportunity for us to take responsible steps to protect our coastline and safeguard our fragile water ecosystems.
    **Increase water conservation efforts**
    Requires water agencies and customers to reduce their water usage by a mandated amount by the year 2020. Urban water agencies would be required to reduce usage by 20 percent, while farmers would have to cut back in a way that doesn’t cause economic hardship. While conservation alone will not solve our water crisis, families and bsuinesses must do their part to use water as efficiently as possible to get through this crisis.
    The $11.14 billion bond is expected to go before California voters for their approval on November 2, 2010.
    This was a historic agreement that provides real solutions to the water crisis facing California. There are short and long-term measures that will help to provide clean water, and improve delivery and storage for years to come.”
    I am glad to see our elected officials agree on something – and water and solar for schools and colleges are a very good start.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Freeman is admitting on the record that the Contract Administrator violated DWP policies of continuing to use the services of a Contractor after expiration of the Contract. This is “officially” not allowed and is a bad Contract Administration practice.
    Just look at DWP internal audits of contracts. Where is the admonishment from the Commissioners after Freeman confessed this violation to them?

  7. crooks and liars says:

    all politicians are for there owne self interest and there lobbys are just there over pay biches and the question is why are ladwp using lobbys?,california , los angeles are broke no dinero yet this crooks are spending like there is losts of money to be spend ,just like washington d.c.
    the so call c.e.o for the ladwp freeman is just a over pay lobbys for the mayor
    los angeles taxpayer need to get use to be toll whats good for them by this crooks and liars in city hall and ladwp the way they look at us is pay youre bill to ladwp and fees and shut up we have no saying on what goin on in city hall and in ladwp

  8. Anonymous says:

    The bigger picture here is one related to Environmental Regulations at the State and Federal level. DWP has Natural Gas Power Plants that are clean running especially the newer ones which were built in this century. They are much cleaner than coal.
    But the State regulators are very hard on all Utilities trying to add generation in California and they limit this even though the State went through a terrible power crisis in 2000 and 2001. DWP, Edison, PG&E, SDG&E should be allowed to add generation (clean burning) such as natural gas fired and alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro) whatever is the most cost effective for the ratepayers.
    Finally the Federal EPA and the State are severely restricting the use of once-through ocean cooling with concern about very small (micron) ocean life. They don’t see the reality that ocean cooled power plants add to life in the ocean, not destroy it.
    What we need in some common sense especially in an unprecedented economic environment.

  9. LA Moderator says:

    Thanks Chris, for piping up for Fran, a long time family friend, four time Mayor, and Assembly Member for my old district. . I’ll have to try to catch her while she’s here “In District” this week. I left a note for her while I was at Capital Tuesday, but like others, she was out of town, as appropriate I believe in honor of Veterans’ Day and for other purposes. Can I bill for lobbying services if I grabbed business cards?
    Julia’s staff said she had been out completing the water plan. After reading Matt Feuer’s release, the one thing that popped up was the 20% by 2020 water usage reduction. And as our NC Planning/Zoning committee eyed the latest Hollywood Community Plan ‘shelf’ draft, we wondered how the growth assumptions used in the long awaited updates, and the obsolescent General Plan, should perhaps be forwarded to the Mayor and Council with this news for a realty check.
    But I also had a wonderful visit in the office of my current Senator, Curren Price. I spent a good time talking with Mr. Earnest, Chief of Staff, and Mr. Fair, Legislative Director. I love those names! High on my list were DWP issues, and how the State perspective could view our efforts to keep clean energy clean of corruption as well. I’ll report in more detail at dwpCommittee, but I just wanted to chime in while you talk about our stalwarts in Sacramento. By the way, like their SoCal staff I’ve gotten to know this year, they’re very interested in the Neighborhood Council system, and particularly venues where coalitions are effected and stakeholder concerns addressed with the synergy fostered. I believe one or both of them may have worked with Mark Ridley-Thomas, so they’re very familiar with the genesis of DONE’s mission.
    Dave Uebersax

  10. Well, I don’t agree on a thing or two although the remaining appears fine.

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