“DWP says it will fire workers,” shouts the Daily News across the top of the front page.
“DWP to fire two caught in sting,” whispers the Times over a two-paragraph story at the bottom of page B-5 with a somewhat longer story online.
Both newspapers sent reporters to Interim DWP General Mayor and First Chief Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner’s morning press conference Wednesday so did local TV stations, most especially CBS2 which broke the story of workers drinking and driving and going to a strip club while being salaries up to $144,000 a year.
It’s easy to see this is a story of great public interest and significance, unlike the ridiculously hyped LA boycott-Arizona power shutoff story.
The boycott is phony and has no substance. Arizona’s power official only said he might recommend looking at retaliation if it had any real effect. And the problem with Arizona’s illegal immigrant law is in its symbolism and implementation which could lead to abuses and enormous liability claims, not in its substance which is basically the same as federal law and LA’s Special Order 40, both of which are enforced.
So why would the Times lead page B-5 with a catchup story on unplugging LA while caring so little about the DWP story, the editors not only buried and briefed it but called it a “sting” when it was an undercover hidden camera investigation? No one was lured to the strip club or liquor stores.
First and foremost, the Times institutionally doesn’t give a damn about LA or its people and never has, unless they are rich or famous or Hollywood celebrities — like Times staffers like to see themselves despite their company being in bankruptcy and their numbers down by more than half.
So the fact the DWP is the focus of the public’s growing discontent and the cash cow holding together a city government teetering on the brink of bankruptcy itself is of no importance.
Then, there’s the Times’ pride: It has a long history of ignoring stories broken up other media and the arbiter of the importance of all things Los Angeles even, as in this case, when the video of DWP workers aroused the sleeping population far more than rate hikes and the 100 years of DWP scandals.
Having said all that, the Times editorial decision does have a logic whether the editors actually thought about it or not.
Beutner is carefully managing the worker drinking-strip club scandal on the advice of PR people and political strategists.
It has to go away before the DWP can go after the long series of rate hikes it wants to pay its bloated payroll, appease IBEW Local 18 boss Brian D’Arcy with a couple of thousand more jobs and buy cleaner energy no matter how many billions is squeezes out of the public’s pockets and the local economy — money that will mostly go to giant Chinese and other corporations.
So he holds a quickie news conference to announce termination proceedings have started against two of the workers and others might face the same consequences while a broader investigation is under way to get closure on suspicion such conduct is widespread at the utility with at least the passive consent of managers who also are IBEW members.
You can bet little will come of the broader investigation. Beutner already has assured us he doesn’t care about the past so the probe won’t go very deep into the DWP culture, certainly won’t look at the people who have no work to do except unlocking and locking a warehouse door or the scams involving the theft of “surplus” DWP property..
Diminishing the significance of his statements further is there is a better than even money chance nobody will ever be fired unless D’Arcy gives the green light which he might do if he fix the culprits up with cushy jobs with his brethren in the private sector, IBEW Local 11.
That still leaves the problem of appeals to the Civil Service Commission and the rules put in place by our elected leaders to make sure that there is no workplace discipline anywhere at City Hall and workers never lose their jobs no matter what they do.
You might remember the two garbage men who a few years back rang up thousands of dollars in bills for personal calls on their city cell phones. They not only weren’t fired but they were given most of the rest of their lives to repay the city, supposedly because they didn’t understand the phones weren’t for personal use.
In days gone by, Beutner’s strategy would work. The Times would eventually declare case closed and come back in a year or two with an expose of its own of past DWP abuses.
But the journalistic world has changed.
The breakdown of the rule of law and of public service at City Hall is all over talk radio and getting extensive TV coverage. The internet is filled with bloggers’ reports on the DWP and City Hall’s endless list of failures. Viral email extends their reach to thousands of others. Citizen watchdogs are penetrating the walls of secrecy.
This scandal and all the other crimes against the city being committed by our elected officials won’t go away as easily as they did in the past. That is the light at the end of the dark tunnel that our city government has become — something that the political machine has yet to come to terms with.