LA WATCHDOG - Despite being approved by almost 80% of the voters, the Ratepayers Advocate is going nowhere fast as a result of the corrupting influence of campaign funding Union Bo$$ Brian D’Arcy, the shadowy public-be-damned business manager of the IBEW, the union that dominates the affairs and decision making of our Department of Water and Power.
Of course, Bo$$ D’Arcy is being assisted in these self serving efforts by water boys Antonio Villaraigosa, the Mayor Who Broke LA, and wannabe mayor Eric Garcetti, the powerful President of the City Council.
Last year, in response to ECAF Fiasco where Villaraigosa attempted to extort the City Council to approve a 28%, $816 million rate increase in our electricity rates by threatening the City with insolvency, the City Council passed a motion calling for the creation of a Ratepayers Advocate. As a result, the City Council, led by Eric Garcetti, sponsored six DWP Reform Hearings throughout the City beginning on August 18 in Northridge and ending on October 18 in North Hollywood as well as additional hearings at City Hall.
During these meetings, there were no objections by any City Council Members to The Ratepayers Advocate Term Sheet that had been endorsed by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, the DWP Committee, and over 50 Neighborhood Councils. The Term Sheet essentially called for a well funded, empowered truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to review and analyze the operations, finances, and management of DWP.
Despite all of aggressive statements by Eric Garcetti about a “seat at the table” for the “tough watchdog” to insure “transparency and accountability” for DWP’s customers, the game changed when the proposed measure disappeared into the bowels of City Hall.
As a result of Bo$$ D’Arcy’s concern that the DWP’s labor bloated and inefficient operations and the $250 million a year IBEW Labor Premium might be subject to public scrutiny, Bo$$ D’Arcy and his highly paid lobbyists worked the back halls of City Hall, enlisting the help of the Mayor, Eric Garcetti, and other members of the City Council.
He even took out full page ads in The Daily News and The Los Angeles Times which stated, “While reform is needed, this proposal has too little deliberation and too little public input.”
Of course, many wondered where the Bo$$ had been during the DWP Reform Hearings.
Consequently, the Measure I (the Office of Public Accountability / Ratepayers Advocate) was watered down by the IBEW Eight, which included duplicitous Council Members Eric Garcetti, Hahn, Huizar, and Wesson, all of whom attended one or more of the DWP Reform Hearings without objecting to the Ratepayers Advocate Term Sheet.
In particular, the City Council limited the Ratepayers Advocate to just water and power rates, excluding the operations, finances, and management of DWP. The Mayor, Eric Garcetti, and the rest of the IBEW Eight also hog tied the Ratepayers Advocate by establishing an Office of Public Accountability and an Executive Director that would then pick the Ratepayers Advocate. And rather than providing the Ratepayers Advocate with any real authority pursuant to the ballot measure, the Mayor and the IBEW Eight decided to make everything subject to ordinances drafted by the same pliant City Council.
And now, three months after the overwhelming vote that approved Measure I, Council President Eric Garcetti and the City Council have done very little to draft the necessary ordinances, including a basic one to establish the Citizens Committee that is charged with selecting the Executive Director of the Office of Public Accountability.
Rather, we have a nine page memo from the City Attorney’s office that recommends a two stage implementation plan, the timing of which is very uncertain. The initial phase would involve the selection of the Executive Director while the second phase would include the selection of the Ratepayers Advocate.
As for the selection of the Citizens Committee, the five page memo of June 3 from Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer recommends the establishment of a five member committee to select the Executive Director, with two members appointed by the Mayor and three members by City Council President, Eric Garcetti.
Now that is like the fox guarding the chicken coop, having two of Bo$$ D’Arcy’s water boys selecting the Citizens Committee that appoints the Executive Director who, when she or he gets around to it, then selects the Ratepayers Advocate.
Rather than having Villaraigosa and Garcetti select the members of the Citizens Committee, that task should be delegated to the Energy and Environment Committee of the City Council, in large part because that Committee has been proactive in calling for greater transparency and accountability with respect to the operations and finances of DWP. And importantly, none of these members have been the meaningful beneficiary of Bo$$ D’Arcy’s campaign contributions, unlike Mayor Villaraigosa and Controller Wendy Greuel.
The City Council needs to aggressively work to establish a reputable Ratepayers Advocate, even if on an interim basis, especially now that our Department of Water and Power is considering the incurrence of many billions in additional debt to finance massive capital expenditures to “transform” the Water and Power Systems. These ambitious programs will require significant multiyear increases in our water and power rates.
By frustrating the wishes of the voters and the Ratepayers, Mayor Villaraigosa, Council President Eric Garcetti, and the City Council will only enhance the increasing distrust of Angelenos, the 1.4 million power customers, and the 640,000 water customers.
And if there is no Ratepayers Advocate to stand up for the unrepresented Ratepayers, then there will be no increase in rates according to Jan Perry, the chair of the Energy and Environment, a view that appeared to be supported by the other frustrated members of the Committee.
While Bo$$ D’Arcy may protect his fiefdom, the IBEW Labor Premium, the restrictive work rules, and inefficient work crews, Ratepayers and our Department of Water and Power will be getting the shaft.
We need a well funded, empowered, truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of our Department of Water and Power on a timely and continuous basis.
Excerpt from the City Attorney’s report on the implementation of the Office of Public Accountability / Ratepayers Advocate.
“Interest was expressed by the Committee in the PHASED implementation of Charter Amendment I. As we understand the approach, in the INITIAL phase, under authority established by an initial implementing ordinance codified in the Administrative Code and an initial budgetary ordinance, the citizens committee would be formed, an Executive Director appointed and confirmed, and limited initial staff and resources provided as operations commenced. Appointment of the Ratepayer Advocate and adoption of procedures on reporting and consumer protection and complaints would be deferred until the SECOND phase.
In the SECOND phase, the Executive Director, who would then be onboard, would be consulted about: (a) reporting requirements and schedules; (b) consumer protection and complaint procedures, (c) other duties to be performed; (d) the number, nature, qualifications, and compensation of additional positions to be established (including the Ratepayer Advocate); and (e) other resources required.
These deliberations would yield a supplementary implementing ordinance on these subjects amending the Administrative Code and would be accompanied by supplementary budgetary action to authorize the additional resources required. This secondary phase could itself be implemented in stages if it were so desired.”
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: [email protected] ) –cw
Tags: Boss D’Arcy, Brian D’Arcy, ratepayers advocate, ratepayers, LADWP
Vol 9 Issue 46
Pub: June 10, 2011