Thu, Aug

Ratepayers Advocate: Is the Fix In?

LA WATCHDOG - Will campaign funding Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy, the public be damned business manager of the IBEW, be successful in emasculating the Ratepayers Advocate?  

Or will the Mayor and the City Council respect the will of voters, 78% of which approved Measure I that authorized the Office of Public Accountability and the Ratepayers Advocate.  And will the City Council establish a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to review and analyze the operations, finances, and management of our Department Water and Power on a timely and continuous basis.  

On Friday, August 12, over five months after voters approved Measure I, Mayor Villaraigosa and Council Members Garcetti and Perry selected their five appointments to the “Citizens Committee for the Appointment of the Executive Director of the Office of Public Accountability (OPA).” (Link)

Unfortunately, this is an inauspicious start.

None of the five appointments have any experience in managing large complex organizations such as the $4 billion revenue Department of Water and Power with over $20 billion in assets.   

Nor do any of the appointees have the engineering or technical background that is necessary to understand the complexities of the Department’s highly sophisticated water and power infrastructure.

Nor do any of the appointees have the expertise to judge the efficiency of DWP’s operations and work force, especially when compared to other regional utilities.  

Nor do any of the appointees have the financial background or expertise to analyze the five year, $13 billion capital expenditure program and its impact on the DWP’s credit ratings and operations.

Nor do any of the appointees have any apparent experience with seriously unfunded pension plans, such as the Water and Power Employees' Retirement Plan which is underfunded by $2.6 billion (70% funded).  

Nor do any of the appointees have experience in dealing with a domineering and politically powerful union, such as the IBEW that controls over 90% of the more than 9,500 DWP employees.

Nor do any of the appointees represent the residents of the Valley, home to 40% of the residents of Los Angeles who have significantly higher bills than the average household.

Fortunately, two appointees were instrumental in development of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Neighborhood Councils and the Department of Water and Power.  As a result of their involvement, they have an understanding of the history of the 2005 and 2008 rate increases; the shenanigan ridden Measure B, the Mayor’s pay off to Union Bo$$ d’Arcy who so generously financed his 2005 campaign; the devastating impact of the Rate Restructuring Plan and Shortage Year Water Rates on single family residents during these tough economic times; the 2010 ECAF Fiasco where the Mayor tried to extort a 28% ($816 million) increase in our power rates; and the events surrounding the approval of Measure I by 78% of the voters.

Ratepayers have a right to be more than skeptical.  

For instance, in November, after six community meetings around the City where many Council Members implicitly and explicitly endorsed the Ratepayers Advocate Term Sheet, campaign funding Union Bo$$ d’Arcy  raised his last minute objections, resulting in the Garcetti led IBEW Eight emasculating the Term Sheet. As a result, rather than delineating the role and responsibilities of the Ratepayers Advocate in Measure I, they will be determined by ordinances crafted behind closed doors where IBEW money talks. (See “Ratepayer Advocate Term Sheet

Underlying the overwhelming approval of Measure I was the voters’ lack of trust and confidence in the Department of Water and Power, its politically appointed executives and commissioners, and the IBEW as well as the City Hall politicians who continue to use the DWP as a cash cow and personal favor bank.

That is why it is imperative that the members of the Citizens Commission introduce themselves to the Ratepayers and answer questions about their qualifications and positions on issues involving DWP.

The Citizens Commission must also conduct its meetings and decision making process in an open and transparent manner, including defining the role and responsibilities of the Executive Director and the Ratepayers Advocate and the resulting hiring criteria.

While Union Bo$$ d’Arcy may strenuously object to a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of DWP on a timely and continuous bases, our Elected Elite need to review d’Arcy’s recent political forays. While he was successful in helping elect Mayor Villaraigosa and Controller Wendy Greuel, his millions in campaign contributions to support the passage of the infamous Measure B and the election of Jackie Weiss, Chris Essel, and Forescee Hogan-Rowles were singularly unsuccessful.

So our Elected Elite have an interesting situation: do they prostitute themselves to Union Bo$$ d’Arcy’s cash or do they back the over 1,500,000 Ratepayers who were supported by 78% of the voters?

(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: Ratepayers Advocate, Office of Public Accountability, Union Boss D’Arcy, Citizens Committee, DWP, Department of Water and Power, Measure I, Measure B

Vol 9 Issue 65
Pub: Aug 16, 2011