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.