This is the moment when we find out who among our elected officials stands for the public interest and who should be thrown out of office.
There are no gray areas, either they are for us or for themselves and the special interests.
The drama that has unfolded in recent weeks has stripped them all bare, exposed their webs of worn-out fictions and outright lies, left naked their mismanagement as they danced around the result of years of overspending and sweetheart contracts.
Ten months into the fiscal year, they still have a $200 million deficit or is it $300 million or do they have a $100 million surplus as Council President Eric Garcetti speciously boasts.
They have failed to face the harsh realities, deflected responsibility and left most city agencies in chaos with huge gaps in staffing and services. And now they are at the precipice where denial of accountability and juggling the books to paper over their failure will only make them look more ridiculous than they already are.
The bills start come due this week for the Department of Water and Power with Jan Perry pushing relentlessly forward to rein in this rogue agency while the mayor faces the deadline for appointing a fifth member of the DWP Board and replacing David Freeman as interim general manager.
Next week, he must deliver his State of the City.and present his budget plan to deal with the $484 million deficit for 2010-11 — or is it $600 million or has the rise in pension fund investments eased some of the pressure. Their numbers are pulled out of thin air so it’s hard to know.
We will quickly see whether any of our elected officials learned anything at all from the fiasco over DWP rate hikes that ended with gridlock over $6 million and alarmist budget warnings from Controller Wendy Greuel that evaporated to her satisfaction when $30 million was found lying around in an undisclosed place.
Bernard Parks’ Budget Committee kicks off this week’s festivities by taking up the CAO’s latest financial guesstimates at 1 p.m. today and play more games with moving funds around to at least get through next month without running out of cash..
It will also consider Tom LaBonge’s proposal to sell a valuable Seagrave fire engine for $1 dollar to Los Bomberos “a non-profit organization comprised of Los Angeles City firefighters in partnership with community and business groups (that) mentors firefighter candidates; participates in efforts to recruit and train qualified candidates…and fosters upward mobility among its members.” So maybe things aren’t as bad as they look or perhaps LaBonge’s rose-tinted glasses have him living in a separate reality.
Then, on Tuesday at 2 p.m., Perry’s Energy and Environment Committee will start to take apart the DWP by first examining the two-month-old report on how the utility handled the more than 100 claims of losses from last fall’s Coldwater Canyon water main blowout — a report that relies on the usual arrogant bureaucratese to avoid engaging the widespread complaints of residents and businesses.
She also will get an “independent third party assessment of the LADWP’s water system and to determine the cause(s) of the recent water main breaks and related matters.”
Of greater concern to many is the DWP Rate Payer Advocate issue and Perry’s Committee will consider several different motions that date back to the end of last year..
“LADWP customers do not need a ratepayer advocate since…customers have reliable service..customers enjoy the lowest cost of service in Southern California…LADWP has already numerous levels of oversight, supervision and control…Executive Management Team continues to share information and create opportunities for dialogue to increase transparency and education…The Mayor, Los Angeles City Council, Controller, and the Board already perform the role of protecting the ratepayers, including the low income and lifeline customers…The costs to establish a ratepayer advocate position/division at LADWP are unknown…”
We all need a good laugh to start off the week so the DWP Dec. 29 letter should help.
Then, there’s a proposal from Greig Smith, Perry and Garcetti for an Inspector General within DWP that dates back to October.
“Over the course of the past year, the Department of Water and Power (DWP) has faced a variety of issues that have impacted the City and brought concern to its residents,” the motion says at the outset citing “the ongoing deterioration of tbe DWP’s infrastructure,” rate hikes, lack of transparency and other well-known problems like the lack of a coherent green energy program.
Both these motions would seem to be out of the question given recent events which have discredited Freeman and his No. 2 Raman Raj.
A third motion that also has languished since October is by Garcetti and Perry to actually create the Rate Payer Advocated through a Charter Amendment that would truly make it independent and permanent and largely immune from political influence.
“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is at a critical point in their
history,” the motion says.
“LADWP rates, costs of water and energy procurement and infrastructure needs
have increased. While LADWP has taken some measures to improve efficiency and spur
conservation, often in the form of rate increases, their lack of responsiveness to
customers and providing transparency has made these attempts ineffective and left
Not on the agenda is the latest move to derail accountability and transparency in the DWP, the proposal from the mayor, controller, DWP Board and its officials to let Greuel be the public’s watchdog — which is like sending a kitten on a leash to do the work of a junkyard dog roaming free.
The bottom line in all this is whether the Council’s standing up to the mayor and the DWP on massive rate hikes without a plan was just a rare show of courage or whether they actually get it.
The DWP is broken and failed in its mission. It has betrayed the public trust and lost the confidence of the people.
No capable utility executive wants the job of General Manager as long as Freeman is hanging around and there is no political will to take down union boss Brian D’Arcy.
Any attempt to raise rates without coming clean about the Integrated Resources Plan that is being suppressed and clearly showing what all costs are of fossil fuels, green energy, job creation, salary and benefits costs and all the rest that the DWP works so hard to keep secret or unintelligible.
How the full Council deals with these issues and the mayor’s budget plan will determine whether City Hall is capable of fixing what our elected officials have broken or whether they all need to be replaced and major reforms instituted through boroughs or other measures that will share power with all segments of the community and turn LA around.