Tue, May

DWP Union Fight Outcome Viewed as a Glass Half Full

MAYOR VS. THE MONSTER - The recent (and rather sudden) compromise contract agreement with the LADWP ended a fight between the new Mayor and the City Council in the same manner as it began--unexpectedly, and without any certainty as to what the "endpoint" of this fight was supposed to be. 

Yet it does appear that LA City Government has changed just a bit--if not in principle then at least in appearance--from a few short months ago. 

As opined by the Times, it's difficult to know just how many concessions Garcetti got from the LADWP with respect to health care costs, pension tiers for new hires, and pay hikes (or a lack thereof), but he did change the tenor of current--and, arguably, future--debates with the Council and the City's public sector unions. 

Yet for those of us who've watched Eric Garcetti the Council President, and Eric Garcetti the Mayoral Contender, and Eric Garcetti the Mayor, the fact that he "won a few and lost a few" with the compromise LADWP contract he promoted after just beginning to fight with the Council suggests a few things about Eric Garcetti the Man. 

First, Eric Garcetti will stand up for what he believes is right, but prefers compromise and bridge-building over a dog-fight...especially if that fight will either get him nowhere or will hurt his ability to work with, and request favors from, others in the future.  This tendency will possibly lose him his support from Angelenos who want that fight, but it will also (hopefully) keep things from getting overheated. 

(The fact remains that the City Council was, overwhelmingly, determined to give the LADWP what it wanted and avoid a strike...which certainly should put fear and trepidation in the hearts of Angelenos who are hoping for a more responsive City Council than the last one, but it did tie the Mayor's hands at a time when he'll need the Council's cooperation in the future.) 

Second, Eric Garcetti will not hesitate to use the Internet and Social Media to link with the Neighborhood Councils and other grassroots entities and give those latter groups representation if he believes that effort will further his cause, even if it alienates the City Council.  This tendency might hurt his relationship with some on the City Council, but perhaps this City Council is in need of learning what Neighborhood Councils are. 

(The fact remains that the City Council has a frightening number of Sacramento "retreads" who don't know, understand or likely give a damn about Neighborhood Councils, homeowner associations, the grassroots, etc., and why we choose to elect the same Sacramento politicians who ignited statewide redistricting reform and recent budgetary reform efforts is a question best answered in subsequent Council elections.) 

Third, Eric Garcetti takes his credibility very seriously, and has either seen and/or heard enough from Angelenos during his City Council tenure to know that--from all sides of the political spectrum--residents and stakeholders of this City have HAD IT with a Mayor and City Council who keep sticking it to taxpayers, ratepayers and businesses, and that they see Downtown as self-serving and infinitely remote from where it ought to be. 

(The fact remains that much of this LADWP contract was written during the last few days of the recent Villaraigosa/Wesson era, where ordinary Angelenos were excluded as a matter of principle, and where money and power talked.  Garcetti needed to leave his particular mark--which he did--but Herb Wesson and his Sacramento allies on the Council will do what they can to retain the upper hand in Downtown money politics.) 

Fourth, and most importantly, Eric Garcetti got elected during an election cycle that favors more conservative voters, and often with a lower voter turnout, and he will be re-elected during that same election cycle.  Both Garcetti and Controller Ron Galperin have done extraordinarily well among exasperated Angelenos who are pleading for LADWP reform, and appear to have gotten a small piece of reform in the LADWP fight. 

It's only a small piece, however, and probably very little compared to what Neighborhood Council reformers wanted.  

Yet it's also to be reminded that the newly-appointed LADWP Board (along with the other mayoral-appointed City Boards) is also very reform-minded and isn't going anywhere.   

Anyone used to the Downtown gravy train of past Mayoral tenures will have to come to grips with the fact that the new Mayor is both a Rhodes Scholar and a Naval Reserve Officer, and while preferring compromise and friendliness he is neither without intelligence nor without resolve. 

And so long as our new Mayor never forgets to stay allied with the voting/grassroots public that got him elected, he will remain OUR Mayor.  Whether or not the City Council chooses to take a page from the Mayor's playbook is their business (I really wish they would), but right now the LADWP contract--while not a resounding win--is a sign that the Garcetti Era of Los Angeles is off to a good start. 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 






Vol 11 Issue 69

Pub: Aug 27, 2013