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A Road Map to True Reform of DWP

It’s not too late for the City Council to end the charade of reform.

They have until Tuesday to pull the 11 meaningless measures from the March 8 ballot, particularly the three weak and ineffective proposals that will do nothing to restore the damaged credibility of the Department of Water and Power.

Creating a Rate Payer Advocate with limited authority and insufficient funding and grabbing power for themselves to remove DWP commissioners and general managers will not fix even a fraction of what is broken.

Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold put the issue in perspective last week on his Spouting Off blog by asking the question: “When will we see true accountability at DWP?”

“These reforms are hardly bold and they don’t begin to solve the numerous
inherent problems at DWP.  In fact, the ballot measures are a cynical
and opportunistic attempt to take advantage of near-universal public
distrust of DWP . . . From an environmental perspective, the measures almost completely miss the mark.”

The mayor and Council, he said, “could create a culture of
accountability” by tearing into the DWP budget and rate setting processes, through annual
performance reviews based on the achievement of interim milestones, and by breaking apart the DWP into separate water and power agencies.

Those are all good suggestions but mean nothing by themselves without the political will of the mayor and Council to true reform — something that has been totally lacking throughout more than a decade of endless disclosures of DWP mismanagement, waste, fraud and abuses of its own employees and the public trust.

City Hall has milked the DWP cash cow for years to the detriment of investment in the aging water and power infrastructure and development of clean energy resources to replace the reliance of dirty coal for half the city’s electricity.

Our political leaders have kowtowed to union boss Brian D’Arcy’s strike threats, rewarding his blackmail with spectacular raises for DWP workers and ceding control of the utility to him.

None of the proposed reforms will do anything to fix any of this. Nor will the imminent appointment of a new general manager — the mayor’s sixth in less than four years.

In today’s LA Times, David Zahniser uses that appointment to trace how the DWP went so wrong and to discuss the mayor’s latest broken promise: The commitment to achieve 40 percent renewable energy by 2020 and make LA the “greenest city in America.”

“Since Villaraigosa took office in 2005, the nation’s largest municipally
owned utility has been in a state of churn. Multimillion-dollar
initiatives have been announced, then abandoned. Executives have been
installed, then jettisoned,” Zahniser writes.

“Leadership turnover — five general managers over the last three and a
half years and four DWP board presidents since 2006 — has caused the
utility to lurch from one environmental strategy to the next, investing
time and ratepayer dollars on projects, only to see them scrapped.”

First Deputy Mayor and Interim DWP GM Austin Beutner, architect of the latest radical shift in policy, dismisses the 40 percent renewable goal as “arbitrary” and thus unimportant.

The mayor’s spokesman “disputes” Villaraigosa had a hand in the DWP chaos while the DWP spokesman double-talks around the whole issue.

For his part, D’Arcy blames everybody but himself while pointing out that reaching the mayor’s “arbitrary” goal of 20 percent renewable this year was achieved by buying wind and solar power from others at high prices. 

“We bought more expensive [renewable] power, just to get to a goal,”
D’Arcy said. “And everybody has responsibility for that, including the
council, because they all went along with what they were told.”

So much for accountability which goes to the heart of the problem..

Civic leader George Kieffer said what’s needed is “a more qualified, independent commission and general manager free
from political interference.”

The question is how can they be achieved when the “DWP has been managed by the self-serving leaders of its key labor union,
IBEW, for years,” as Paul Vandeventer notes in commenting on Mark Gold’s blog post.

“They have worked not for the benefit of ratepayers in
Los Angeles, but for the benefit of ever-higher IBEW union member
wages, salaries and pensions that are wildly disproportionate in
comparison to other utility workers and contributing to breaking the
city’s fiscal back even as we speak. DWP has not been managed by the
putative DWP general manager for quite some time; the general manager
has been managed by the union, with the tacit consent of the Mayor and
the DWP commissioners.

Vandeventer offers a road map to the only way the DWP is going to be reformed since it is obvious that our political leaders, dependent on D’Arcy’s political money for their elections, are incapable of standing up for the public interest.

“Perhaps by naming and confronting the civic menace that a truly bloated
DWP, with its captive management and leadership, has become to the city
and its utility ratepayers, Heal the Bay — one of the region’s most
respected environmental leadership groups — could accomplish something
equally dramatic on the local scene.

“This would involve Heal the Bay
and other environmental groups overcoming some understandable liberal
squeamishness about taking on a labor union in the cause of breaking
IBEW’s grip on the purse strings of their DWP cash cow. But IBEW has
become arrogant, unaccountable to any but its own narrow member
interests, and dangerous to our civic integrity and resources.”

Imagine that: Environmentalists who jumped aboard the Measure B solar energy fraud and have happily accepted phony promise after phony promise from the mayor taking the lead in fighting for true reform of the DWP and real policies that make our water and power systems better and cleaner.

There’s no other way it’s going to happen.

“The time for true reform is now,” Mark Gold wrote. He’s right.

Heal the Bay and other environmental groups can bring together a coalition of community activists and civic and business leaders and bring about true reform that achieved their own goals and does so at a cost the public can afford.

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13 Responses to A Road Map to True Reform of DWP

  1. Anonymous says:

    In this month’s edition of the “Sherman Oaks Studio City Encino News” here’s a bit of what Paul Koretz had to say about the ballot measures:
    “…the City Council agreed to place many ballot measures before the voters… “The packed March 8, 2011 ballot will include an oil extraction tax requiring oil producers to pay $1.44 per barrel of local oil, giving L.A. an estimated $4.1 million annually…”Another measure would reduce city costs for pensions and health care for newly hired police officers and firefighters (pension reform for other kinds of city employees won’t require voter approval and is being pursued separately). “Other measures would increase funding for libraries, impose a tax on medical marijuana dispensaries, and introduce new campaign finance reforms.”
    And then Koretz drops the DWP bomb: “Another measure would approve a ratepayer advocate watchdog agency for the Department of Water and Power. One measure that’s not yet on the ballot but could still end-up there would give the City Council authrority to fire a DWP General Manager and remove DWP Commissioners – currently, the Council can do neither.”
    Does this sound to you like Koretz would even consider dropping any of these ballot measures? Instead, he makes it seem like the Council has accomplished so much without even bothering to fill in the obvious gaps.
    Vote No on March 8.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ron has mischaracterized Mark Golds statements.
    If you read the blog post mentioned, Mr Gold comes out AGAINST a rate payer advocate, saying it adds a level of bureaucracy, while doing nothing to make sure that the money is spent correctly or on environmental projects.
    He also comes out AGAINST giving the Council authority to hire and fire the GM and the Board.
    He does call for greater accountability and increased transparency while recognizing how great the level of distrust people feel for the DWP.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Half of Gold’s article is also a list of justifications for a rate increase, which I thought Ron was against. But apparently today he’s not. Whatever
    Environmentalists have good intentions but they tend to be lacking when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Their general rule is if it benefits the environment, money should be spent on those projects regardless of where it comes from and regardless of the city’s financial state. Which is why they were for Measure B. If Beutner hadn’t cut back on renewable projects that group would be dead quiet right now. And if we relied on environmentalists to act as political leaders, the air would be cleaner but everyone would be dead broke.
    Meanwhile, Vandeventer’s presumption that Heal the Bay can fix a municipal utility it has zero leverage over is so far out of left field the guy obviously has no clue how local politics works. God knows why he’s being quoted as a serious solution. And Ron still thinks the city’s 20% goal is arbitrary and fabricated by the mayor, as opposed to mandated by AB32. There’s another guy who has no clue what’s going on

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Environmentalists have their heads buried in the sand when it comes to fiscal responsibility.
    Like a cultest, Environmentalists are very gullible. Just look at Al Gore’s support of the the LA Mayor’s DWP rate increase because it was going to pay for a solar program. Of course that was hog-wash because they had no plan or accurate cost estimates. It was just a way to get a back door tax and stick it to the people of LA.

  5. Separate the water? says:

    Heal the Bay is focused on suing various entities whenever it can. It does have so much power that it is forcing the LA Basin to conform to the Clean Water Act to protect the oceans.
    I have found myself questioning Heal the Bay not only for its support of Measure B ( they are not experts on energy), but to its spreading itself too thin. I think they take on so many causes ( are they Heal the Bay) or the Sierra Club.
    When you take on too many projects, unless you have a really big staff, you cannot read all of the technical documents, and you cannot attend all of the meetings in which these issues are discussed.
    Heal the Bay – please stick with focusing on cleaning up the rivers, the harbor, and the coast.
    Let’s find another environmental group that actually focuses on alternative energy to take on our solar plans and alternative energy plans, and to implement AB 32.

  6. anonymous says:

    I’ve been opposed to a rate payer advocate from the get go. Who selects this advocate is the person who will be “advocated.” I agree with Mr Gold, that it would be another layer of bureaucracy. If, for any reason, this advocate actually did represent the rate payers, you can bet Council would start passing rules and designing ballot initiatives to bypass him/her.
    Chances are, however, this individual would represent the Mayor, Council or IBEW. If not their rep, then their scapegoat.
    The best advocate could have been Council. All they had to do with those rate increases was say no.
    BTW-I’m surprised they didn’t tag on a 4th term to one of the ballot measures.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is what Simone Wilson at La Weekly said about the Council’s ballot measure.
    “DWP, removal of commissioners and the general manager by the City Council.
    Corrupt politicians ripping the chair out from under other corrupt politicians. Whatever.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is what Simone Wilson at La Weekly said about the Council’s ballot measure.
    “DWP, removal of commissioners and the general manager by the City Council.
    Corrupt politicians ripping the chair out from under other corrupt politicians. Whatever.”

  9. Paul Vandeventer says:

    You’ve got to love the brave comment by “Anonymous on December 6, 2010 3:16 PM” who clearly hasn’t the brains to check out the complete post at SpoutingOff that Ron references. Without a doubt, “Anonymous on December 6, 2010 3:16 PM” is him/her/itself an expert on “how local politics works” but we’ll just have to wait and see if he/she/it cares to come out from behind the veil of anonymity and comment publicly on the record. Perhaps when that moment comes — and none of us are holding our breath — he/she/it will be revealed in all his/her/its glory as nothing more than what his/her/its comments suggest: a DWP public relations valet.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Paul, I read through your post before I commented and it was a joke. You want Heal the Bay, an ENVIRONMENTAL group, to determine who controls DWP and I’d love for you to explain in specific terms how you expect them to do that. You then bring in some Nixon analogy out of left field. You call the DWP the IBEW’s cash cow when it’s the city that’s been raiding the DWP proprietary funds, not the union that lost 1/3rd of its members (AKA 1/3rd of its dues) after deregulation. You lie about DWP wages being disproportionate to other utilities when Edison and BWP workers make more. Then you frame the whole solution as Heal the Bay vs the IBEW, ignoring the city charter and the mayor’s accountability. I could not find the part where you sounded like you knew what you were talking about. Now that you’ve responded with an adhominem attack instead of backing up your post, I’m pretty convinced that you’re clueless about local politics.
    Whether or not I’m anonymous won’t change the fact that your argument is ridiculous.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Paul, I read through your post before I commented and it was a joke. You want Heal the Bay, an ENVIRONMENTAL group, to determine who controls DWP and I’d love for you to explain in specific terms how you expect them to do that. You then bring in some Nixon analogy out of left field. You call the DWP the IBEW’s cash cow when it’s the city that’s been raiding the DWP proprietary funds, not the union that lost 1/3rd of its members (AKA 1/3rd of its dues) after deregulation. You lie about DWP wages being disproportionate to other utilities when Edison and BWP workers make more. Then you frame the whole solution as Heal the Bay vs the IBEW, ignoring the city charter and the mayor’s accountability. I could not find the part where you sounded like you knew what you were talking about. Now that you’ve responded with an adhominem attack instead of backing up your post, I’m pretty convinced that you’re clueless about local politics.
    Whether or not I’m anonymous won’t change the fact that your argument is ridiculous.

  12. Paul Vandeventer says:

    remind me again…who are you that knows so much but chooses to pass off your “wisdom” anonymously?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Unless you’re trying to employ a genetic fallacy, it doesn’t matter who I am. What does matter is my counter-argument, which you’re incapable of addressing

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