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The DWP Is Not the City Council’s Candy Store

LA WATCHDOG - On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners for our Department of Water and Power will consider the approval of a floating cover for the Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir because it is environmentally superior to the considerably more expensive buried reservoir alternative.

The Environmental Impact Report “determined that the floating cover alternative is the environmentally superior alternative due to its reduced impacts to air quality, cultural resources, noise, and transportation and elimination of impacts associated with biological resources and wildfires.”
And of great concern to budget conscious Ratepayers, the floating cover only costs $35 million as opposed to $140 million for the buried reservoir, a differential of $105 million.

Now this may not be popular with some of the local residents who want to preserve their million dollar views.  

Nor will this decision be popular with the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park who are lobbying for a buried reservoir costing $110 million, an $85 million premium to the $25 million cost of a floating cover.

And during the recent City Council meeting to approve the interim Water Quality rate increase, Council Members Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti voiced their support for the high priced alternative with the full knowledge that they were sticking the Ratepayers with the tab.  

While there is no doubt that recreational areas in Elysian Park and Upper Stone Canyon are a desirable amenity, the incremental costs of almost $200 million are not the responsibility of the DWP, and ultimately the Ratepayers who, as it is, are going to be hit with increases in their water and power rates of 22% and 26%, respectively, over the next three years.    

Rather, this $200 million ticket belongs to the City and the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Unfortunately, there have been many more raids on the DWP and its treasury.  

At the recent City Council meeting to confirm the Ratepayers Advocate, the not so subtle Ed Reyes was lobbying the proposed independent Ratepayers Advocate to approve funds for another one of his pet projects, most likely the $1.1 billion project to bury seven miles of high voltage transmission lines along the Los Angeles River.

And last year, DWP “loaned” the Street Lighting Maintenance Fund $8.6 million for LED lighting, bringing the three year total to almost $27 million.

And in the quest for funds, the Fire Department had the audacity to stuck DWP with a $1.5 million charge to inspect the fire hydrants that for some unknown reason are owned by the Department of Water and Power, and not the Fire Department.

Several years ago, the City forced the DWP Power System to purchase the City’s Fiber Optic Network for over $10 million.  And despite repeated requests, the DWP has failed to disclose the details regarding the purchase and operation of this Network.

Of course, the City used the proceeds from the sale of this capital asset to fund operating expenses, reminiscent of the Mayor’s boneheaded stunt last year when he proposed the sale of our parking garages to help cover the Structural Deficit caused by out of control increases in personnel costs.

DWP and its Ratepayers were also victimized when the City dumped 1,600 City employees on the Department. And this $175 million addition to the DWP payroll was compounded by DWP being forced to absorb almost $200 million in unfunded pension liabilities associated with these new employees.

And every year, Ratepayers have the privilege of funding the IBEW Labor Premium that adds about 5% to 10% to our bimonthly bills, thanks to the Executive Employee Relations Committee (the “EERC”) led by Mayor Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti, the former President of the City Council. But then again, campaign funding Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy, the public be damned business manager of the IBEW, has been very generous to the City’s political establishment.

As it is, the Ratepayers are doing more than their fair share.  The DWP is the City’s largest source of cash as the Money Train is expected to haul over $550 million to City Hall, including $300 million from the 10% City Utility Tax and $250 million from the less than transparent and unsupported 8% Power Transfer Fee.   

Despite the significant contributions by the DWP and the Ratepayers, the increasingly desperate City is trying to cover an understated $200 million shortfall that does not even include adequate funding for our lunar cratered streets and other infrastructure and the City’s two pension plans.  

And that means the Mayor Who Broke LA, our new City Council President Herb Wesson, the former Speaker of the Assembly during Gray Davis’ recall, the rest of our Elected Elite who rely on union campaign contributions, and the financial wizards that occupy the bowels of City Hall will resort to any and all tactics, including raids on the DWP and the other proprietary and special revenue departments.

Of course, this brings to mind the quote of Judge Gideon Tucker, often attributed to Mark Twain:

“No Man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

(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:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) –cw

Tags: Jack Humphreville, LA Watchdog, DWP, Herb Wesson, Mayor Villaraigosa, ratepayers, Ratepayers Advocate, Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti







CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 11
Pub: Feb 7, 2012


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