Nothing can fix what’s wrong with the city’s most important and valuable asset — the Department of Water and Power — until we elect a mayor and other city officials who will stand up to blackmail by union bully Brian D’Arcy
None of the dozen or so mayors-in-waiting deserve any consideration unless they demonstrate they have the courage to confront D’Arcy and his strike threats and his ruthless use of political money.
Nothing put forward by the gutless City Council to reform the DWP is worth a damn thing because they cowered before the mighty D’Arcy and let him dictate the terms of a meaningless political deal that will have zero impact on controlling rates or rebuilding the rotting and obsolete water and power systems.
We have the dirtiest municipal power system in America and 100-year-old water mains because D’Arcy has extorted our money out of the mayor and Council and put it into the pockets of his beer-swilling and strip club enjoying workers and the IBEW treasury.
The DWP is in chaos, going through general managers and policy swings on annual basis, operating in concealment and double talk.
They haven’t been able to hire a competent professional to run the DWP in more than a decade. It is now being run on a daily basis by a man who has gone through personal bankruptcy and been fired for misconduct in an earlier stint at the DWP while First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner serves as a part-time interim general manager who is giving away tens of millions of dollars of ratepayer money to developers and corporations to buy jobs no matter what they cost.
It is an unending scandal. The measures proposed to quell public discontent will do nothing to restore the DWP’s credibility or its efficiency at fulfilling its mission to provide the city with water and power. .
Jose Huizar was the first to propose a Rate Payer Advocate to protect the public from the DWP’s price-gouging but with his re-election very much in doubt in March, he quivered and hid when it came time to fight for real reform.
Council President Eric Garcetti was even more cowardly, leading the effort to water down and gut the public’s demand for a fully funded, independent and powerful advocate for the public interest who could stand up to the union and the entrenched bureaucracy.
He cut a deal with the devil D’Arcy to slash funding for the OPA/Rate Payer Advocate by 75 percent from $4 million to $1 million and limit its ability to break down the DWP’s wall of secrecy with access to full and complete information.
The measure going before voters defines the OPA/Rate Payer Advocate’s authority to providing a “public independent analysis of department actions as they relate to water and electricity rates” — a far cry from what was supposed to be an office with the broad power to evaluate all aspects of DWP activities.
If there were any doubt about whether to take this crumb from the table of power, remember this: Actual implementation of this measure will be up to the Council to decide through ordinances, the same Council that quaked in the face of D’Arcy’s threats.
The removal authority itself is laughable.
The Council routinely applauds every mayoral appointment to the every commission and only on the rarest of occasions does even a single member object to a nominee.
At any point in the last year of heightened controversy and conflict with the DWP and its commissioners, the Council could have passed a “no confidence” motion that would have brought the issues of soaring rates and failed policies to a head.
In the past six years, this mayor and this City Council have approved two long-term contracts with the IBEW that gave raises up to 6 percent a year and guaranteed at least 2 per cent raises even at a time of deflation.
At the same time, the DWP has sought and gotten massive rate increases that sent water and power bills soaring higher than many people’s mortgage payments.
The DWP outrage doesn’t end there. The city illegally transferred $130 million in “surplus” water revenue to the general fund and never paid ratepayers back and it increased the transfer to the general fund from “surplus” power revenue from 5 to 8 percent — a tax that comes on top of the 10 percent DWP utility tax on every bill.
Back in the spring, the mayor tried to take it a step further by seeking a 28 percent increase in electricity rates and the ever obedient DWP Commission and department leadership manufactured phony numbers to justify withholding $73 million in surplus revenue transfers to get the rate hike approved.
It was a blatant attempt at extortion that failed because for once the Council was so afraid of the wrath of the people that they stood up to the power of the DWP, settling for a mere 5 percent rate hike.
Measure J on its face is a clumsy attempt to set dates and timelines and procedures in the stone of the City Charter to prevent this kind of fiasco from happening again.
In reality, it is a power grab that is so full of loopholes and gobbledygook language it won’t achieve anything.
You cannot write rules to make elected officials responsible. You have to elect responsible people to office to achieve openness, honesty, accountability and good government.