LA WATCHDOG-Griffith Park, the largest urban wildlife park in the United States, is one our City’s most recognized crown jewels. But that does not mean that the Ratepayers of our Department of Water and Power are required to subsidize the operations of this 4,300 acre park.
But that is exactly what City Hall is doing, costing Ratepayers an estimated $15 to $20 million a year, if not more.
Under the current system, the Department of Recreation and Parks receives a discount of more than 50% on its water rates compared to homeowners, renters, landlords, and business establishments. Furthermore, unlike the rest of us, Recreation and Parks is not charged for higher rates once its usage surpasses predetermined levels. These “tiered” rates are designed to encourage conservation.
Based on some rough assumptions on the amount of water used by Recreation and Parks and the amount of the discount, the “savings” are in the range of $10 to $15 million. Of course, the Ratepayers are once again stuck with the bill.
Between 1998 and 2006, DWP was forced by City Council to “invest” over $40 million in the operation, maintenance, and reconstruction of the Griffith Park Water System that had been grossly mismanaged and neglected by Recreation and Parks. However, DWP has not earned a rate of return on this sizeable investment nor has it been reimbursed for its operations and maintenance costs.
This would imply that the DWP and the Ratepayers have been stiffed for at least $5 million a year.
As a side note, the reconstructed system with its upgraded tanks and hydrants were instrumental in saving large portions of Griffith Park along with many houses in the Los Feliz during the May 2007 fire that consumed over 1,400 acres of park land.
According to recent City Council motions, Recreation and Parks and DWP are being asked to evaluate the condition of the Griffith Park Water System as well as the use of recycled water in Griffith Park, including the installation of miles of “purple pipe” to the southern portions of the park.
Of course, this will cost tens of millions, all of which will come out of the pockets of the Ratepayers.
Ironically, the charter funded Department of Recreation and Parks is also being raided by City Hall. Over the last four years, Rec & Parks has seen its net “chargebacks” increase to almost $30 million, requiring it to make significant cut backs in its staff and programs and the maintenance of its over 15,000 acres of parkland.
Included in these “chargebacks” is a $15 million expense for water and power which resulted in the friends of our parks wrongfully blaming DWP for its budget woes. Ironically, these friends do not realize that their rates are heavily subsidized by the Ratepayers.
In January, DWP will propose a significant, multiyear increase in the base rate for water. It is needed to finance mandated environmental expenditures and the repair and maintenance of the Water System’s infrastructure. This will be in addition to the 40% to 50% increase in our water rates associated with the purchase of expensive water from the Metropolitan Water District now that higher quality, less expensive water from Owens Valley has been curtailed because of environmental regulations.
With this massive increase in rates, Ratepayers can no longer afford to finance the City Council’s pet projects, which along with the 10% Utility Tax, the 8% Transfer Fee/Tax, the IBEW Labor Premium, IBEW restrictive work rules, and the cost associated with City employees that have been dumped on DWP, now exceeds $1 billion.
As a first step, our new Board of Commissioners must develop a better understanding of how 25% of our bill is making its way to City Hall and their cronies, including IBEW Union Bo$$ d’Arcy. This would also require an analysis of City Hall’s pet projects that are not essential to the efficient operation of DWP’s water and power systems.
Now is the time for the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to stop this Ratepayer abuse and respect our wallets. Otherwise, Ratepayers will not be very receptive to the $4.5 billion Street Repair Tax.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, The Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.)
Vol 11 Issue 89
Pub: Nov 5, 2013