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Is Half A DWP-IBEW Deal Better Than A Real Deal? It’s up to Garcetti — and You

It was unusual, unprecedented, an historic event symbolizing City Hall’s commitment to transparency, to an open and honest public conversation on an issue of great importance: The outrageous high wages and benefits granted over the years to the Department of Water and Power workers and the outrageous rate hikes imposed on customers, even the 20 percent who get hefty discounts, even the 40 percent hit with huge bills in the summer’s broiling heat San Fernando Valley.

Every element of that sentence represents a triumph for community activists, Neighborhood Councils and everyone else who has cared enough to try to do something to make L.A. a better city despite the reign of havoc of the tyranny of a minority majority that attained near absolute power over processes and information thanks to the bottomless pit of money coming from labor-business-developer special interests that profit handsomely from the public’s business at the public’s expense.

Nothing about the “unusual, unprecedented, historic” event would have been said previously, the event wouldn’t even been held if they weren’t afraid of the people, that something just might trigger a reaction that would awaken the zombied populace to action.

Friday’s joint meeting of two key Council committees was called to discuss in public the proposed deal between the DWP and its union, IBEW Local 18, to clear the way so DWP officials, with the “Rate Payer Advocate” so evidently in tow, could come forward quickly for approval of another series of major rate hikes on top of the 52 percent imposed for electricity in the last six years.

Propagandist Supreme Paul Krekorian, as the Councilman in charge, was proud to pay homage to the “unusual,unprecedented, historic” nature of this “open and transparent” event — words that had never before spoken in such earnestness in this Temple of Democracy, as the mayor describes it.

Assisted by rising City Council star Felipe Fuentes, he led the public and his colleagues through a more than three-hour performance worthy of theatrical awards though it did drag as he went on and on through the drudgery of having each and every highly paid member of the cast of bureaucrats formerly known as public servants — the CLA, the CAO, the CEO, the RPA, the CA — swear allegiance to the story that was so well scripted and choreographed with such attention to detail. It was hard not to wonder why they never work as hard to solve the people’s problems as they do to conceal them.

They intended to leave no openings in the logic and facts presented. Cynics, skeptics and heretics were lying in wait, ready to drive enough truth through such openings to catch the ear and open the minds of a populace so obviously blind to reality, or so oblivious to reality, that they were incapable of reaction to anything one degree less the a gun in the face or a massive earthquake.

Trying to penetrate the false premises and gross omissions of fact among so many other intellectual and moral flaws that seem to be part and parcel to politics these days was meant to be so challenging that few would try and even if anyone got past the numerous layers of deceit, they would find it took so long to explain that only people who already knew the truth would pay attention.

The reason the event was structured as “unusual, unprecedented, historic” was because those people who know the truth about what is wrong have found so many chinks in the armor protecting this concrete fortress that something could go seriously wrong. After all, they have been walking a fiscal tightrope for so long and are so deeply indebted to benefactors that they would sell just anything, cut any deal or say just about anything if they could last another day in hopes of the miracle that could save them from the consequences of their failures, their betrayals of the public trust.

It was a pandering tribute to the risk they face of inflaming public passions, yet some who some who could have shown courage groveled at their feet, some critics sought nothing more than time to talk the issues to death as they have been so comfortable doing for so long and, in a brilliant masterstroke by the Master of Ceremonies Herb Wesson, they were all reduced to being a claque clapping on his cue for the very people they should be shunning.

It has been more than 20 years, through at least three major recessions and four mayors, since DWP workers went without raises — some years getting 5.9 percent more, every year getting more, leaving everyone else on the city payroll, even cops and firefighters, and employees in other utilities, green with envy.

But this was different and everybody who profits from the public’s willingness to pay high taxes and fees and endure soaring rates was delighted by what’s good about the deal: The IBEW is willing to defer its 2 percent raise due in October for four years, agree to tougher pension rules and lower salaries for new employees only and accept at least a few of the reforms on pensions that other city unions have lived with since the recession hit five years ago — but not health care, overtime or more than 600 special advantages they enjoy among so many other issues.

“It’s a start,” said one city official after another.

The same sentiment was echoed by even the most critical and passionate opponents but they all added it was not an end, not a solution to what is broken. It is after all based on nothing but the same kinds of tinkering that has perpetuated this fiscal catastrophe for five years without an end in sight unless you believe the city’s fanciful claims based on nothing but the dream that L.A. will become the greenest, cleanest, most wonderful big city in the world, the No. 1 destination for everyone with money to spend in search of the greatest time of their life and for everyone without two pennies to rub together to try to do great things and find happiness and freedom.

The fatal flaw is that the deal on the table doesn’t solve the city’s or the DWP’s problems because it is based on the city’s failed policies over years. It is based on a hope and a prayer that 30 years from now, somehow, a miracle perhaps, everything will turn out just right with public employees wages and benefits in line with the revenue streams that treat everyone fairly and with high-quality services that engender a feeling across all the divisions of being part of something greater than ourselves.

But they had to admit the deal on the table would mean less than a 2 percent reduction in water and power rate INCREASES over the next four years — a period in which ratepayers are girding for hikes of 20 or 30 or even 40 percent. It’s better but it’s nowhere near good enough.

There’s no mystery to why it’s not good enough: Once an employer takes off the table the possibility of give-backs and wage reductions and real reforms of benefits and work rules, what leverage is there? Only to give away more, never less.

And that’s why the big lie they told matters so much.

Under the law, employers and unions are required to negotiate in good faith and provide a factual rationality to their positions. But if nothing comes of the negotiations, the employer can declare an impasse and impose its “last, best and final offer” as Glendale did to the IBEW union in union after long unfruitful negotiations. The offer cut everyone’s pay 1.75 percent and it stays in effect until the conflict is resolved.

It doesn’t work that way in L.A. — or so every official involved swore on a stack of reports and studies.

All those highly paid bureaucrats who said exactly what the Council wanted to hear agreed that L.A. has such a cumbersome procedure for reaching an impasse and imposing wage and benefits conditions that a year would pass and under the city’s rules a new round of negotiations would have to start and take most of a year, meaning they could never reach the end point of imposing the “last, best and final offer.”


The two committees that met jointly were the Budget and Finance Committee — Krekorian, Englander, Koretz, Blumenfield and Bonin — and Energy and Environment — Fuentes, Blumenfield, LaBonge, Huizar and Koretz.

Could it be a coincidence that the Westsider Bonin and the Eastsider Huizar were nowhere in evidence, leaving only the six Council members from the Valley — members who with Nury Martinez carve up the Valley into demographic cohorts that dilute the representation of less than 40 percent of the city’s population by giving them nearly 50 percent of the Council members, all them beholden to special interests mainly over the hill?

It was not a mistake that this was the case. Council President Herb Wesson, driving for a rapid approval of a half-loaf deal — instead of the real deal that is sitting there for the taking — made it clear at the outset that it’s the Valley that could upset everything and that’s why he produced this spectacle.

As someone who has created a vast body of journalism relevant to what is being raised for nearly 30 years, I can say with certainty that the Valley no longer has any significance in the politics of Los Angeles. There is no leadership. There is no sense of place. There is no vehicle for the desperately needed conversation that could save the remnants of the middle class from city policies.

And that’s what makes so significant the comments made to the City Council by the Valley business community’s spokesman, Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.

Neighborhood Council leaders and community activists, even the all-powerful Central City Association, all testified to the Council that the deal on the table was a start but it was not good enough. More needs to be done and more time needs to be taken.


Yet, with six Valley Council members as witnesses, all of them elected on the power of money from the outside, the Valley business community called the deal “incredible” and “a great start that really could change the face of the city … it needs to be done by Oct. 1.”

That was an important goal of this farce: Disarming the Valley.

But not so fast. There is a surprising twist that leaves an opening for people all over the city from every walk of life and every political stripe to rise above the banality of what is on the table and recognize that we are at a critical crossroads that demands we rise above the b.s. and see how our lives and fortunes are bound together.

I have hardly written anything for a long time because I have beaten the horse of LA corruption to death and have nothing further to say, convinced that calamity is a certainty and that tragically it will be the most vulnerable who suffer, not the perpetrators.

Eric Garcetti has taken a stand against this half-loaf deal and shaken up the DWP Commission with four new appointees, including Jills Banks Barad, founder and longtime head of the Valley of Neighborhood Councils, She was one of Garcetti’s appointees to the DWP board year still had the courage to testify Friday that we need a better deal.

If you will not mobilize across this city now for a chance to demand real reforms of the DWP and of every aspect of the way the city is run, when will you do it?

This entry was posted in City Hall, Community Activists, DWP, Glendale-Burbank, Hot Topics, Los Angeles, The Valley, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Is Half A DWP-IBEW Deal Better Than A Real Deal? It’s up to Garcetti — and You

  1. transparency says:

    Hello Ron:
    We know Friday was just another theatre to give people the feeling that the council is really interested in the wellbeing of the public, but we know better that all of them are in cahoots and will continue fleecing the public.
    PEOPLE’S UNION vs. IBEW. Maybe this would be a way to confront the BULLY? I expressed this idea at the council but to make it work we have to repeat it over and over again…We the people, could all decide to pay only half of the DWP bill. I believe that as long as we pay a certain amount of our bill they cannot cut our services. I wonder for how long we could do it? People have tremendous power if they just put it in action.

  2. Stuart Waldman and VICA are the most worthless, spineless voices of the Valley that ever lived.

  3. Carl Olson says:

    The biggest city expenditure for electricity is for street lights. This
    proposed system turns them on only when vehicle/person is present. Savings of
    40% is possible–or hundreds of millions of dollars per year. It’s like motion
    detector lights on a grand scale.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/18/tech/innovation/tvilight-street-lamps-roosegarde/index.html?hpt=hp_bn5

    Let’s push mayor and city council and DWP to adopt ASAP.

  4. anonymous says:

    Stuart Waldman and VICA…as “leadership” ? HA !
    Waldman betrayed the best interests CD#6 and the entire Valley
    during the Corrupt Redistricting-Realignment of Powers last year.
    Connect the dots…and follow the money…

  5. Wayne from Encino says Ron is learning that one-party rule is bad for L.A. says:

    NO I DIDN’T WRITE IT, RON DID–CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!!
    “As someone who has created a vast body of journalism relevant to what is being raised for nearly 30 years, I can say with certainty that the Valley no longer has any significance in the politics of Los Angeles. There is no leadership. There is no sense of place. There is no vehicle for the desperately needed conversation that could save the remnants of the middle class from city policies.”
    The Valley is occupied by Dopers, Gang-Bangers, Wellfare mooches, wanna-bees and has-beens and “home-based daycare centers” and some affluent Jews who vote 11o% for the Left-Wing RETARDS who raise all these taxes and help destroy the place—Ron isn’t quite enlightened enough to say it quite like that (but he’s getting cloooser.) So I’ll have to be the voice of sanity for the Bankrupt City of L.A.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Doug McIntryre’s article in the Daily News is an eye opener about one of our councilman -Cedillo- who has warned about preparing for a DWP strike. This is the same guy who cried about losing his pay when the State failed to pass a budget. His son is part of some corrupt scheme with the Central Water District. And, here he is, a piece of dung representing us & affecting our lives and livelihoods. We have no representation and can’t allow garbage like Cedillo to control our city. How they get elected is another story.

    “Our secretary of state was one busy diplomat last week scrambling to get ahead of a mushrooming crisis.

    Not John Kerry and not Egypt, although his week wasn’t exactly a day at Disneyland either.

    I call your attention to the secretary of state for the city of Los Angeles, Councilman Gil Cedillo.

    You didn’t know L.A. has a secretary of state?

    Nobody did until last Wednesday when the councilman from the 1st District brought together five consuls general for a meeting billed as “The Cedillo Summit.”

    Joining Secretary Cedillo in his City Hall office were the consuls general of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico along with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hispanic outreach liaison officer, Lt. Al Labrada.

    On the agenda were three specific issues: passage of the Senate immigration reform bill; damage control for Special Order 7 — the LAPD’s soft auto impound policy for motorists caught driving without a license — after it was ruled illegal by a Superior Court judge; and a call for more services and cultural celebrations for the Central American communities of Los Angeles.

    And as a bonus agenda item another push for AB 60, Cedillo’s long-cherished dream of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

    He isn’t called “One Bill Gil” for nothing.
    But that nickname diminishes Cedillo, who should be taken seriously. When it comes to representing the interests of illegal immigrants Gil Cedillo is a true believer.

    He’s not a pretender or one of the many politicians including a growing number of Republicans, willing to betray principles for political preservation. The secretary of state for Los Angeles is deeply committed to representing “his” people.

    And if there was ever any doubt who Councilman Cedillo’s “people” are it was erased by Juan Carlos Mendoza, acting consul general of Mexico. “We are here to support our council member,” he told the summit attendees, “because we understand the best way to solve this problem is license these people.”

    “Our” councilman?

    Funny, I thought Gil Cedillo was elected by American citizens to represent the interests of America’s second-largest city, not the interests of the Mexican government.

    The goal of any responsible government is to look after the best interests of their citizens wherever they may be. So we can’t begrudge Sylvia Ugalde, the consul general from Costa Rica, when she plainly states, “Special Order 7 is good for our people in the sense it enables them to not pay a lot of fees and expenses and things that are difficult for them.”

    We should, however, begrudge American government officials, especially Councilman Cedillo, for doing the bidding of foreign governments at the expense of the citizens of his own country.

    For the millionth time Cedillo reminded us that Los Angeles is “a city of immigrants,” as if anyone isn’t aware of our diversity. His talking points include a portrait of his council district, 72 percent Latino, many of whom are “people living abroad in CD 1,” as if CD 1 is a nation unto itself.

    “They are good people and they are working,” added Consul General Mendoza, and that may be true, but is utterly irrelevant.

    The issue is and always has been the rule of law versus chaos. We either believe in sovereign borders or we don’t.

    Apparently the secretary of state for Los Angeles does not believe in borders.

    “We must not ignore that socioeconomic problems have no borders,” claims Councilman Cedillo. But if that’s true it’s because politicians like “One Bill Gil” have done everything they can to weaken our nation’s borders and have allowed the socioeconomic problems of Central America to spill into the United States, with Los Angeles as ground zero.

    Sadly, Mexico and other Central American nations do a better job protecting their people in Los Angeles than the people elected by the citizens of Los Angeles do for L.A.”

    • ex valley says:

      “Doug McIntryre’s article in the Daily News is an eye opener about one of our councilman -Cedillo- who has warned about preparing for a DWP strike”

      Why is this such an eye opener? Did you think any of these politicos represent you and not various special interests? On any level: local, state, national. Just name one that cares about *your interests*.

  7. LA Moderator says:

    Ok, here’s my take: Garcetti is going to throw us a bone…maybe two, but we’ll see what kind of meat there is on it.

    The deal on the table is merely saying that the choke-chain will only be tightened for infrastructure/water quality/renewables/Owen’s lake dust suppression for now, and leash won’t be yanked for COLA for a few years. Obviously there’s a few other things in this deal, but as GN Nichols was saying about odds and ends like Work Rules, it’s sooo complex (for us weak minded mere citizens) that it’s best to settle the big package, so the analysis on the rest would be easier. That’s like taking 10 years to lay pipe (River Supply Conduit through Griffith Park ) without knowing where you’re going to dump it on the other end (Silver Lake redux?).

    I for one hinted that some of us are used to bigger, more regulated bureaucracies than DWP, and use tools to develop and analyze harder problems, so he should not assume this ‘unprecedented transparency’ into the deep end is over our heads.

    Still, last night, he and Santana kept ringing the same bell until many of the Budget Advocates and others started drooling: By putting off the COLA, that will also slow the growth of the Pension balloons…particularly if attrition hits before then, and new hires come in the new 28 job classifications with other reforms including a less lucrative pension calculation.

    “Dare we ask for more…we don’t want to be obstinate nay-sayers and have our new friends in power ignore us…let’s think about assenting to this deal and asking pretty-please consider to considering the other things in the next year or so.”

    It’s like finally breaking past the car salesman, having the manager show you the Invoice, and believe him when he says he’s chopped out all the profit out of the vehicle. You have to have done your homework, with firm offers from other dealers, or at least be armed with the knowledge that they get other rebates and kickbacks that aren’t on the sheet.

    Garcetti’s done his homework, so he knows there’s still plenty or room to maneuver. I’m under no illusions that his baring his teeth to D’Arcy means he’s going to take a big bite. We’ve already been nipping at his heels! D’Alpha Dog will drop the bone, as choreographed, and IBEW will give and look noble for doing it…they have plenty more stashed away.

    Our Master/Mayor will then present us on a silver platter, but here’s the real trick. He gets credit for it.

    His Leadership!

    Forget the Measure B battles, RPA, and everything else we’ve proved that can put notice to these guys that we’re on to ‘em (even if the votes don’t yet coalesce for alternates)…its all because “(WE) elected (HIM) to reform DWP, and just six weeks after taking office, (OUR) vote is making a difference.”

    So says the #lamayor missive e-blasted today…so sign up at “Fix DWP” and take the pledge, and add yourself to mailing list! He’s taking his heroics viral!

    And beefing up his database, by the way, for future use…(nobody cool depends on franked snail-mail anymore).

    So let’s keep barking it up, until he has to see what’s in the hand behind his back, because if we have to beg, only to be told to roll over and play dead, I’d rather keep sniffing around for someone who isn’t just trying to confuse the steak-holders.

  8. Wayne from Encino says pay 1/2 the DWP-Guy got it right says:

    It is great to see a few brains still are functioning!!! Actually, if you pay THE ELECTRIC PORTION OF THE BILL AND WATER PORTION OF THE BILL, then it may be possible to force the human garbage at DWP to not cut service. Why? Because the DWP contains NON-DWP fees—”Solid Waste Resources Fees (Trash);” “Sewer Services Charge (the thing the City uses to DOUBLE THE WATER PORTION OF THE BILL); City’s UTILITY TAX (10-12% CHARGE.) I suppose a rate-payer (BY THE WAY YOU THE DWP CUSTOMERS OWN THE DWP—THAT’S A FACT) could ITEMIZE A LIST OF CHARGES TO DISPUTE (NOT PAY) AND SEND THE CHECK WITH THE ADJUSTED AMOUNT. Example: BILL $150.00 TOTAL. $73,00–Solid Waste resources Fees, $30.00 SSC (Sewer Service Charge) and $15.00 “City Utility Tax.” Thus, cut out the last 3 ($118.00) and send them the CORRECTED AMOUNT FOR WATER AND POWER ($32.00)!!! This by the way is an actual bill of mine this year and how it roughly broke down—I used $32.00 OF WATER AND POWER FOR 2 Months, and the Rest $118.00=WENT TO THE DOWNTOWN DWP MOB!! According to the DWP, the SSC and SRC (sewer tax and trash tax) as well as the City’s sales tax on utilities DOESN’T GO TO THE DWP—THE DWP COLLECTS IT FOR REMISSION TO THE GANG OF 15 CLOWN MEMBERS!!!! If enough people did this bill adjustment, the City would have to steal these fees another way (such as by a lawsuit to the DWP customer or the property owner) or try to put it on the annual property tax bill, etc. BUT IT WOULD BE A MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS FOR THEM. It’s far easier for Eric Garcetti, Kevin James, and their new buddy Gil Cedillo to collect these outrageous fees and fines OR SHUT OFF YOUR WATER AND POWER!
    I sense a rebellion by the city’s tax payers (the actual ones who work their asses off and kill themselves paying for their families and 20 other families on the dole, plus the politicians and their goons) is looming, since everywhere people are talking about their UTILITY BILLS and mostly using FOUR LETTER WORDS about it!!! City Hall has been sold out completely, thus they don’t care. That is why I think people are going to start finding innovative ways to turn this into a crusade—unless GARCETTI LOWERS THE DAMN RATES, AND NOW!!! He can’t win by attacking the D’Arcy Union AND NOT LOWER THE RATES TOO. And he can’t sit back either and HIKE THE RATES AND APPROVE THE DEAL TOO. When the City goes into Chapter 9 proceedings (sometime mid 2014 or 2015) the DWP will be sold to PRIVATE INVESTORS among other things to be sold off to the private sector. Garcetti knows this also—he spent 12 years in the horseshoe letting his seat automatically vote yes. The Middle Class is fleeing the City Limits, and those who own homes rent them out and don’t care who lives in them as long as they get the rent each month. Those households are being replaced with PUBLIC ASSISTANCE TAKERS more and more to the tune of 80% on the dole or partially on the dole vs. 20% not on the Dole. I’ve seen in many neighborhoods the last 6 months blocks of houses being rehabbed AND SOLD TO INVESTORS FOR RENTAL PROPERTIES!! So if you own a home in the Valley, have equity—NOW IS YOUR CHANCE TO GET THE HELL OUT WITH SOME FUNDS (OR MAYBE ALOT OF FUNDS.) I have one neighbor working night and day resodding the lawn, painting, putting in floors and windows–so he can get the house on the market before Labor Day!!!! His name is Fred—who has lived over 30 years in the SFV!!!! He’s going to get 35% more for the house then he could of last year—he’s moving to Arizona! HE’S ONE LUCKY DUDE!

  9. JEAN FLEMING says:

    RON,
    I ALWAYS AGREE WITH YOU. WE’RE LUCKY TO HAVE YOU TELLING IT LIKE IT IS. UNLIKE OUR POLITICANS YOU ARE NOT DEPENDANT ON ANY GROUP

  10. Fred Valenzuela says:

    My neighbor worked for DWP in power generation for over 30 years and he stated that what he has seen in the past 15 – 20 years is deplorable how the company has gradually staffed up with spineless gutless yes-men at the top managerial positions. They do not have the skills and abilities to manage and run a multi-million dollar public utility. They have made no changes or re-orgs to run the organization more efficiently. Instead, they go along and get along by simply bowing their heads and acquiesce to the IBEW’s bidding. The entire work force has been shut up too because they are being placated with carte blanche overtime. No one is complaining or making a stand. When you have entry level and mid level supervision making $200K to $250K (over $100K in overtime) every year, who is going to complain? Everyone’s pockets are being greased with overtime. But here’s the real problem, nobody is learning their trade. The skill / knowledge level has been derailed. It’s getting to the point where if a generating unit goes down, it would be hard pressed to find someone with the experience and knowledge to restart it. Also here’s the tragic trickle down that’s happening now at DWP. When there’s selfless greed and corruption at the top (and don’t think the bottom level workforce doesn’t see it), everyone becomes selfless, greedy, and corrupt. A company surely cannot last too much longer when it’s being run into the ground like this.

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