Sat, Apr

DWP Reform: ‘A Rose by Any Other Name’


RATEPAYERS BEWARE-DWP Charter Reform will be on the November 8th ballot. Voters will do themselves a favor by viewing this initiative with a healthy dose of skepticism. As Shakespeare reminds us, “a rose by any other name….” Just so happens that in this case, the same can be said of reform. 

Some folks will be encouraged by the word “Reform” and operate under the correct notion that something needs to change at DWP. What they may not realize is that “something” is Brian D’Arcy’s power and that the proposed “reform” likely originated with D’Arcy himself. As documented by the LA Weekly, D’Arcy’s union Local 18 has made contributions to Councilman Fuentes’ campaign. Fuentes then introduced the D’Arcy measure under the rubric of reform. (The current rumor is that the reason Fuentes is not running for another City Council term is that D’Arcy has promised him a job). (Photo above: Brian D’Arcy.) 

At this point, some may ask, “What does the DWP boss get from this?” That’s a good question; and here is the answer: The D’Arcy measure allows for Civil Service standards to be bypassed pursuant to a legally binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This means that a DWP union’s MOU, not the Civil Service standards developed over the last 130 years, will determine how DWP employees are hired and fired. This will provide D’Arcy an embarrassment of riches with regard to political power (and the exact opposite of what needs to be done to reform DWP). 

D’Arcy will be able to hand out $200K plus/year jobs (just as he does at JSI/JTI today) as political patronage, and get DWP employees fired that dare challenge him. This type of behavior is a rollback to the 19th century practice of patronage that inspired the creation of Civil Service in 1883 via the Pendleton Act. According to Tony Wilkinson, Chair of the Neighborhood Council DWP MOU Oversight Committee, in a CityWatch article on July 11, 2016, this will make DWP “totally dependent on labor negotiations with its dominant union (Brian D’Arcy’s Local 18) for a solution to its hiring crisis.” 

What voters need to know is that real DWP reform starts with curtailing, not enhancing, D’Arcy’s power. A real reform measure would limit the percentage of DWP employees that can belong to any one DWP union, abolish the JSI/JTI slush funds, and ensure that DWP employees that challenge D’Arcy (or any union boss) are protected from retribution. The D’Arcy Charter Reform is not reform, it is a union boss power grab. 

The forces supporting this initiative have constructed a Trojan Horse decked out in the livery of reform. Their intent is simple: mine DWP for resources to further their political aspirations. Able to bypass Civil Service, DWP jobs will be handed out as political patronage. Local 18 cash, funded by high salaries fueled by greased rate hikes, will flow into the campaigns of politicians willing to do D’Arcy’s will. What these supporters want is a 21st Century Tammany Hall, financed by DWP cash, with D’Arcy in the role of Boss Tweed. 

Those sitting on the fence may ask, “Is there anything good in D’Arcy’s DWP Charter Reform initiative?” Well, according to Tony Wilkinson’s July 11, 2016 CityWatch article, this initiative does not free DWP from the political meddling of elected officials and does not include the exemptions needed to resolve DWP’s hiring crisis. Wilkinson’s criticism does not stop there. He further states in his article that: 

“Inserting into the Charter a requirement that DWP implement monthly billing by January 1, 2020, raises the specter of a three-year (2017, 2018, 2019) forced march to a major billing system software change that can’t be halted if it is not ready. Did we learn anything from the last billing system fiasco?” 

Now, why does D’Arcy’s DWP Charter Reform initiative call for monthly billing (as oppose to the current bi-monthly)? The answer is simple: rate hikes will be less apparent to DWP customers, and rate hikes are required to fund Boss D’Arcy’s 21st Century Tammany Hall. 

In summary, D’Arcy’s DWP Charter Reform is not reform. It is a vehicle for cronyism, corruption, and rate hikes. And those supporting it need to re-visit this issue in-depth. “A rose by any other name…”


(Los Angeles native Schuyler Colfax is an independent writer and former military officer residing in the beautiful San Fernando Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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