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Can a General Manager from the Ranks Save DWP?

GUEST COMMENTARY--This past week we watched the FBI raid the City's Department of Water and Power headquarters on Monday, carting off many documents. The next day, Mayor Eric Garcetti abruptly removed the former General Manager from the building (after the former GM finished being deposed in a contentious City lawsuit). 

Also, on Tuesday, the LADWP Board understandably skipped over an agenda item about its high-priced contracts with companies affiliated with attorney Paul Paradis. Paradis was hired by the City Attorney as an advisor in earlier class action lawsuits against LADWP over DWP's customer service billing system failures in 2013. Paradis is accused of representing both customer plaintiffs in the class action and the City in its defense, earning fees from both sides. 

In the midst of the chaos, DWP's Board named Chief Operating Officer Marty Adams (photo above) as the Interim General Manager, effective immediately. His appointment now moves to the City Council for approval. Adams is a 35-year veteran at DWP. He is well respected both inside and outside of the Department. Adams' style can be described as friendly but firm. Most important, I think that Adams is a straight shooter who will give you the facts. 

Martin L. Adams is the fourth General Manager since Mayor Garcetti arrived in 2013. During that time, it seems that everyone in City government has been trying to "reform" the DWP. The Mayor's staff approve every item that goes before the DWP Board and make engineering decisions. The Department is not allowed to hire its own lawyers. It must use the City Attorney exclusively. (If outside counsel is needed, the City Attorney selects the firms). When the City Council asks (as is its right) that DWP study what it would take to make the city's power system use 100 percent renewable energy, DWP launches a multi-million-dollar study with a national consulting company that is still underway. 

The Department's labor partners keep the lights running with the aging coastal power plants that are being held together with duct tape and prayers. When they hear that those plants will not be rebuilt, they get angry. So now we have a multi-million-dollar public advertising campaign against the 100 percent renewable effort from DWP's dominant union. As DWP is buffeted left and right, I am sure that morale at the Department (and probably among its Board of Commissioners, who are supposed to be in charge) is at an all-time low. 

Maybe what DWP needs is fewer reformers and more control and management responsibility at 111 North Hope Street. With that in mind, on Thursday I sent the following letter to the City Council to support the confirmation of Marty Adams as General Manager (Council File 19-1200-S29).

 

(Tony Wilkinson is a long-time community activist and neighborhood council participant who lives in Panorama City.)

-cw