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Will Union Bo$$ d’Arcy be Allowed to Emasculate the Ratepayers Advocate?

LA WATCHDOG - March 8, 2011 was a red letter day for the Ratepayers of the Department of Water and Power.

In the City elections, 78% of the voters approved the Ratepayers Advocate and 82% voted to streamline the DWP’s budget process. This avalanche was and still is clear evidence that Angelenos are demanding that our Elected Elite (and their partners in plunder) and the DWP operate in an open and transparent manner and be held accountable for their actions.
Importantly, this was the second electoral victory in as many years for Ratepayers.  

On March 3, 2009, they rejected Measure B, the Mayor’s Solar Initiative, a $3 to $4 billion, shenanigan ridden boondoggle that would have rewarded IBEW Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy for his generous 2005 campaign contributions. This rejection was in spite of millions “invested” by the Mayor, Bo$$ d’Arcy, Assemblymen Felipe Fuentes and John Perez, the well heeled environmental lobby, and many of their self interested cronies.  

Angelenos realized that Measure B would have cost Ratepayers billions extra because of inefficient and inexperienced IBEW construction work crews and the lack of any meaningful engineering plans.  

But you would never know that the Ratepayers won two stunning victories.  After almost ten months, a Ratepayers Advocate has not even been selected. Nor has the Garcetti led City Council even authorized the City Attorney to draft the necessary ordinances defining the role and responsibilities of the Ratepayers Advocate.


Because campaign funding Union Bo$$ d’Arcy views our DWP as his personal fiefdom as indicated by the famous d’Arcy saying:  “Nothing happens over there without my say so.” And increased transparency would expose the true cost of the IBEW Labor Premium and the overly restrictive work rules that may add up to 5% to 10% to our DWP bills.

Fortunately, DWP management has made a concerted effort to establish a meaningful relationship with Ratepayers and the Neighborhood Councils.  This is the direct result of the ECAF Fiasco that culminated on April 5, 2010 with the carefully orchestrated charade to extort a 28% ($816 million) increase in our electricity rates by our Ever So Clever Mayor and our not so independent Controller Wendy Greuel, both significant beneficiaries of campaign cash from Union Bo$$ d’Arcy.  

Nowhere was this openness more apparent than in connection with the proposed three year rate increases of 22% and 25% in our water and power rates as Ron Nichols, new DWP General Manager as of January 24, and his reinvigorated management team conducted numerous meetings all around the City, explaining and documenting the need to maintain DWP’s infrastructure and to comply with the many, very costly environmental mandates.  

While nobody is jumping for joy over the proposed rate increases, the DWP and its professional management earned the respect of many skeptical Ratepayers.  But that is not to say that the Ratepayers have endorsed the rate increases, especially since the Ratepayers Advocate has not even been appointed to review and analyze the multiyear rate hikes.

The DWP has also made a considerable effort to work with Ratepayers, Neighborhood Councils, and other stakeholder groups so that they can get a better understanding of impact on rates of other initiatives and programs, including the Power System’s Integrated Resource Plan, the Solar Incentive Plan, Feed In Tariffs, Once Thru Cooling, the Urban Water Management Plan, and the Recycled Water Master Plan.  

But Ratepayers need to be vigilant as DWP is viewed as a favor bank for our Elected Elite and their special interest pals.

For example, the environmental community has used its political and financial clout to such an extent that the Integrated Resource Plan (the “IRP”) appears to “favor solar resources beyond what can be justified by economics alone.” The IRP also calls for the early phase out of the Navajo Generating Station, an action that will cost Ratepayers $800 million and, at the same time, decrease the ever important reliability of the power system.  

The solar industry pimps are also salivating at the prospect of very high, fixed feed in tariff rates and millions in overly generous solar incentives, forced on the reluctant DWP management by their very green allies in City Hall who have very little respect for the Ratepayers’ wallets.  

The DWP is also being targeted by the City to fund underground reservoirs at a cost of almost $200 million more than covered reservoirs.  There is also a new $230 million underground reservoir in Griffith Park so that high priced views of the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe Reservoirs will not be disturbed by unsightly covers.  

There is even talk about DWP funding a $1 billion plan to bury seven miles of high voltage transmission lines along the Los Angeles River.  This is in addition to funding street lights, fire hydrants (and their inspection), and the reclamation of a portion of the Los Angeles River, none of which are the responsibility of DWP.

There is also the need to implement the recommendations of the charter mandated Industrial, Economic and Administrative Survey to institute a benchmarking program to determine the efficiency of DWP’s operations.  However, this initiative has been stopped cold by Union Bo$$ d’Arcy and his political allies on the Executive Employee Relations Committee (Villaraigosa, Garcetti and Zine) who have been instrumental in granting over the top wage and benefit increases to DWP union employees in return for campaign cash.  

And looming on the horizon is Proposition 26 (The Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act) that was approved by California voters in November of 2010.  Prop 26 may call into question the legality of the $250 million Power Transfer Fee to the City’s General Fund if the power rate increase is approved.  Any future transfer may require the approval of two-thirds of the voters, an unlikely scenario given the delays in implementing the Ratepayers Advocate.   

2012 will be an interesting year for our Department of Water and Power and its management, complicated by the politics associated with requested rate increases, Proposition 26, the mandated environmental requirements, and the demand for greater transparency and accountability.  

But the events of March 3, 2009, April 5, 2010, and March 8, 2011 have empowered Ratepayers to ask the Mayor, the Controller, and the IBEW Ring Kissers on the City Council (Garcetti, Zine, Wesson, Alarcon, Huizar, and Reyes), “Why are you still kissing the ring of Union Bo$$ d’Arcy after 78% of voters have demanded a well funded, empowered, trusted, and truly independent Ratepayers Advocate?”

(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 -- He can be reached at: –cw

Tags: Jack Humphreville, DWP, Ratepayers, Ratepayers Advocate, Union Boss d’Arcy, Brian d’Arcy, IBEW, union, DWP union, Mayor Villaraigosa, Controller Greuel, Eric Garcetti, Herb Wesson, City Council, Los Angeles, rate increases, DWP rates, Ron Nichols

Vol 9 Issue 104
Pub: Dec 30, 2011