EDITOR’S NOTE: The City Council voted 9-5 Tuesday — one vote short of the two-thirds needed to take jurisdiction of the nearly 5 percent DWP power rate after learning it is permanent, not temporary as many of them, the press and the public believed. Parks, who had opposed the increase and could have supplied the 10th vote, was absent. Alarcon, Cardenas, Hahn, Wesson and Garcetti supported the permanent rate hike. (I erred earlier in saying Zine, missing that Garcetti’s name is now at the bottom of the alphabetical list.)
Austin Beutner has made transparency of the DWP a top priority so taking his word at face value I’ve sent him several requests for information about DWP rates, plans and policies.
Of course, words can mean different things to different people but I’ll go with Wikipedia which says transparency “implies openness, communication, and accountability” which in a government sense includes “open meetings, financial disclosure statements, freedom of information legislation, budgetary review, audits, etc.”
Based on the DWP’s long history of obfuscation, half-truths and outright lies, it could take the middle-aged Beutner the rest of his life to shed light into all the darkness of DWP machinations.
We know with certainty that Beutner’s real job is to be just transparent enough to get massive rate hikes through the City Council which means giving then enough cover so that they can overcome their phobic fear of the wrath of voters.
There must be thousands of questions to ask about what has happened to ratepayers’ billions in recent years, why water mains are bursting and the electrical system aging, why there’s so little green energy, why no comprehensive planning, why salaries are so high, how hundreds of millions can be turned over as “surplus” to general fund every year…
Today, Jan Perry’s Energy and Environment Committee is asking questions about why the DWP needs to spend $6 million a year more for “dumping privileges for dumping dirt, asphalt, and concrete” at landfills on top of the $4 million already allocated.
Questions also could be asked about why the DWP is spending $11.125 million to buy warehouse and industrial property for the mayor’s “clean tech corridor” near downtown and is intending — with help from the other bottomless pit of public wealth, the Community Redevelopment Agency — to buy jobs with massive subsidies.
“The Clean Technology Business Incubator will help CRA/LA fulfill its
role of economic development and job creation by encouraging research
and development in green technologies such as renewable energy,
recycling and next-generation transportation,” said Calvin Hollis,
CRA/LA Interim Chief Executive Officer, according to CurbedLA.
Apart from dressing up the DWP to look respectable, Beutner’s real task as “Jobs Czar” is to turn our bankrupt city government into an economic engine the way the Soviet Union and China in their Communist heydays tried to do without success before turning to that old-fashioned notion of free enterprise capitalism.
Perhaps, he knows something Stalin and Mao did not.
Certainly, a key area of flagrant DWP spending is its crash program to meet the mayor’s artificial political goal of achieving 20 percent renewables by 2010 no matter how much it costs, no matter that there is no plan to get rid of coal plants or to methodically go green at a cost the public can afford.
Other People’s Money has always been something the mayor has generously spent and this report Monday from the Tehachapi News shows just how desperate the DWP officials are to please the mayor without regard to cost or common sense:
“At the April 13 Airport Commission board meeting, Tehachapi Municipal
Airport Manager Tom Glasgow offered a clue as to why the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power needs its huge rate increase.
“In January, the DWP was fueling its Bell Ranger jet turbine helicopter
at the Tehachapi airport as it ferried crews to a new wind farm
construction site 10 miles to the northeast of Tehachapi.
“The roads had not yet been carved out of the mountains, and the DWP was
utilizing sky cranes to carry out work. The department would drive
crews to the airport and airlift them by helicopter to the job site.
“Jet fuel sales jumped from 186 gallons in January 2009 to 1,821 gallons
in January 2010.”
Money is no object when it’s other people’s and that’s what DWP’s green energy plan is all about: Buying wind and solar power and renewable energy credits on the open market at a premium because they failed to carry out their stated goal more than a decade ago to reduce reliance on coal for nearly half the city’s power, why they even dragged their feet on rooftop solar to the point LA couldn’t even power a square block with solar.
This frantic politically-driven policy of buying renewables was so successful the DWP actually achieved the goal of 20 percent in March but the mayor’s failure to get his 20 to 30 percent rate hike could diminish that to 12 percent by the year’s end.
At that level, LA not only would have the state’s dirtiest energy portfolio but also the one with the lowest level of clean energy.
Transparency is the issue and Beutner has to come clean about all the questions about DWP before he has any chance of getting his hands on more of the public’s money.
To do that, he’s going to have to take the politics out of water and power policy, rein in payroll costs that make up nearly 60 percent of DWP spending after buying water and fuel — not the 25 percent of total costs he claims — and put forward clear long-term plans for rebuilding the infrastructure, generating renewable energy, closing coal plants and do all that at rates that don’t kill more jobs than they create and bankrupt more people than they enrich.
In other words, the mission of DWP must be what it’s supposed to be: Providing water and power for the City of Los Angeles, not serving the political games of the mayor. It’s a utility that provides public services, not a jobs or wealth redistribution program.