Tue, Jun

Ratepayers Advocate: City Council Is MIA

LA WATCHDOG - To date, 27 people have expressed interest in becoming the Ratepayers Advocate.  And more are expected to be received by the deadline of December 2, 2011.  

Then, the Citizens Committee for the Selection of the Ratepayers Advocate will screen and interview the qualified candidates with the help of Heather Renschler, the President of Ralph Andersen & Associates, the Sacramento based executive search firm hired to assist the Citizens Committee.

According to John Murray, the Chair of the Citizens Committee, the Ratepayers Advocate will be selected by mid January, subject to the approval of the Mayor and City Council.

The recruitment of a qualified and credible Ratepayers Advocate is not going to be easy.  We are looking for an All Star player, but offering journeyman wages to work in a potentially hostile work environment with numerous prima donnas.

Our ideal candidate is an experienced executive with strong leadership, financial, operational, and technical skills who will be able to establish a high level of credibility with the Ratepayers, the Department of Water and Power and its management, the Mayor, the City Council, and other stakeholder groups. (Link)

However, the proposed compensation of $185,000 to $230,000 is substantially below what such a person would command in the private sector, whether as an industry executive, a consultant, or investment banker.  

At the same time, the Ratepayers Advocate will have to endure the political environment of City Hall where our all knowledgeable Elected Elite are seldom in doubt or have some self serving agenda.  

In addition, the search for a qualified Ratepayers Advocate is hindered by the negligence of the City Council to draft, to say nothing of enacting, the necessary ordinances needed to define the role and budget of the Ratepayers Advocate.

After all, it has been over 8 months since 78% of the voters approved the Ratepayers Advocate.

In November of 2010, the IBEW Eight watered down the ballot measure for the Ratepayers Advocate.  The stated reason was that they did not want the active opposition of campaign funding Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy, the public-be-damned business manager of the IBEW, the DWP’s domineering union.  

However, at the same time, concerned members of the Neighborhood Councils were assured on at least two occasions that the enabling ordinances would rely on the Ratepayers Advocate Term Sheet that was the basis of discussion of the six City wide DWP Reform Hearings.

So why hasn’t the City Council drafted and enacted ordinances that provide for a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of OUR Department of Water and Power on a timely and continuous basis?

While the City Council has not had time to draft and enact the necessary ordinances for the Ratepayers Advocate, they certainly have had time to devote to back room politics regarding the desire of Herb Wesson (of Harold & Belle’s fame) to be the next President of the City Council and the inappropriate, strong arm tactics of his staffer, Andrew Westall, who, as the Executive Director of the City’s Redistricting Commission, is trading redistricting favors for votes for Herb from other Members of the City Council.

In the meantime, DWP is unable to implement its infrastructure improvement programs and to meet some of its environmental mandates in an orderly manner.  This will result in increased costs and possible fines for non compliance which will be passed on to the Ratepayers.  

And that is not OK.

While Proposition 26 complicates any increase in our power rates because of the impact on the beloved $250 million, 8% Power System Transfer Fee, the City Council may authorize an interim 5% increase in our water rates.  This bump would allow the Water System to proceed with its pipe replacement program and other infrastructure improvements and to work on the covering of our reservoirs as required by the Safe Drinking Water standards.

Provided, however, that none of the interim increase be devoted to extravagant pet projects involving underground reservoirs in Elysian Park and Upper Stone Canyon.

In analyzing this interim increase that would be subject to the later review of the Ratepayers Advocate, it represents less than 5% of the total requested increase in our water and power rates over the next three years.

Now is the time for the City Council to quit screwing around with its petty politics and the kissing of Union Bo$$ d’Arcy’s ring and enact ordinances that establish a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate to oversee the operations, finances, and management of OUR Department of Water and Power on a timely and continuous basis.

After all, DWP’s ten year Strategic Plan envisions outlays of $60 billion. That certainly has the attention of the Ratepayers.  And they will be voting in March of 2013.

(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, DWP, City Council, Citizens Committee, Herb Wesson, Andrew Westall, Redistricting Commission

Vol 9 Issue 90
Pub: Nov 11, 2011