Thu, Aug

The Ratepayers Advocate in 2011: Don’t Hold Your Breath

LA WATCHDOG - At the fourth City Hall meeting of the Citizens Committee on Thursday, Heather Renschler, the President of Ralph Andersen & Associates, the Sacramento based executive search firm to assist in the recruitment of a Ratepayers Advocate, implied that we would be lucky to have a Ratepayers Advocate by the end of the year.

At the next meeting of the Citizens Committee, Renschler will hopefully present a comprehensive and well thought out draft of a job description that reflects the recent comments of the Committee members, selected members of the City Council, and the well written memo by Ron Nichols, DWP’s General Manager.

Most importantly, however, Renschler needs to take the initiative and provide the Citizens Committee with realistic market inputs, including the necessary qualifications required of the Ratepayers Advocate (experience, technical knowledge, financial expertise) and the appropriate levels of compensation.

Unfortunately, the development of the job description and related information will be cumbersome because the Brown Act requires that the Citizens Committee operate in an open and transparent environment.  Also adding to this inefficient process are the City bureaucrats who are trying to fit the Ratepayers Advocate into one of its many job classifications despite the fact that this position is exempt from civil service.

According to Renschler, once the recruitment “brochure” has been developed, it will take at least 60 to 75 days to recruit the Ratepayers Advocate.  And then there is the approval process that requires the blessing of the City Council and the Mayor.

Recruiting a qualified person is not going to be easy.

On the one hand, we want an exceptional person who not only has the necessary skills to review and analyze the operations and finances of the Department, but the ability to work constructively with many constituencies, including, but not limited to the Ratepayers, the public, DWP, and, of course, our Elected Elite who view the DWP as a cash cow and favor bank.

On the other hand, a qualified candidate will more than likely have to take a significant haircut in compensation compared to levels in the private sector.

The whole process of recruiting a qualified and trusted Ratepayers Advocate is further complicated by the powerful political influence of campaign funding Union Bo$$ d’Arcy, the public-be-damned business manager of the IBEW who is adamantly opposed to increased transparency and accountability into operations and efficiency of DWP.

This opposition explains why the Mayor and the IBEW funded cabal on the City Council have not even drafted the necessary ordinances to define the role, the responsibilities, and the budget of the Ratepayers Advocate, despite the fact it has been 32 weeks since 78% of the voters approved the formation of the Ratepayers Advocate.

It may also help to explain why the Citizens Committee has limited public comment to two minutes at the beginning of the meeting, not allowing for public input after hearing what everybody has to say.
And it may also be why all the meetings are being held at City Hall in the middle of the afternoon, limiting the input and participation of hard working Angelenos, but allowing for behind the scenes communications with Committee members.

Are the Ratepayers going to be sandbagged once again as we were in November when the Garcetti led IBEW Eight emasculated the Ratepayers Advocate ballot measure?

Or is the City Council going to respect the wishes of the 78% of the voters who demanded a “well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of DWP on a timely and continuous basis?”

Note: The Citizens Committee for the Selection of the Ratepayers Advocate will hold its fifth meeting at City Hall in Room 1060 at 3 PM on Thursday, October 20, the 38th Anniversary of The Saturday Night Massacre and the 40th birthday of Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg).

(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, City Hall, Citizens Committee, DWP, Ron Nichols, Brown Act

Vol 9 Issue 83
Pub: Oct 18, 2011