By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When the DWP, whose top managers and powerful, politically appointed commissioners all work at the pleasure of the mayor, was pursuing huge, controversial rate hikes and rate restructuring in May, June and July, Humphreville both called and wrote to Villaraigosa, but to no avail.
In the scheme of things, Humphreville is an unlucky Angeleno who can’t do anything personally for Villaraigosa. He doesn’t raise any political money for him, he can’t introduce him to powerful players, and he can’t drum up union members to get out the vote for Villaraigosa next year. All he can do is act as a citizen voice, questioning massive utility hikes and quiet surcharges that are pushing average household electric bills to almost $800 a year by 2010.
“We’ve found the mayor’s office to be nonresponsive,” Humphreville says, making it clear that he was speaking only for himself and not for the committees on which he serves. After he was shut out by the bustling mayor during that key debate, “Nobody on the City Council and nobody in the mayor’s office did a real analysis on the impact of the [rate] restructuring plan on single-family homes.”
By the same token, Humphreville, who’s active in the neighborhood-councils community — a growing, grass-roots force in city life that is mostly absent from the mayor’s packed calendar — says, “The only time I’ve seen the mayor with the neighborhood councils is at the groups’ fests, where the mayor comes in, makes a speech and leaves.”
Humphreville may have rubbed Villaraigosa the wrong way when he asked DWP officials for a full financial breakdown of the mayor’s recent trip to Israel, which, oddly in the view of some critics, the DWP paid for. Villaraigosa says he was learning green technology and airport security from the Israelis, justifying the cadre of 19 City Hall politicians and staff who accompanied him. But in the two months since that pricey trip, the DWP has not released those details, says Humphreville. “We haven’t seen squat.”
When told about how the mayor spent his time this summer, Humphreville responds, “What’s wisely? His goal is to be re-elected and raise a lot of money. He’s doing what’s best for him, although he likes to spin it another way.”
Throughout May and June, Villaraigosa was said to be gearing up for the July 1 takeover of 10 low-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District through his Partnership for L.A. Schools program. But in fact the record shows the mayor was busy visiting New York City and Israel between June 9 and June 17, and he was holding 16 fund-raisers that month. Even so, Bill Ring still hoped to hear from Villaraigosa. “We were never contacted,” says Ring. The father is the former chairman and active member of the Parent Collaborative, a group funded by LAUSD that brings together all the major parents’ organizations in the nation’s second-largest public-school system.
The Parent Collaborative is considered by many to be the key resource for parental feedback, especially for Villaraigosa, now that he is apparently making decisions at 10 troubled schools about how to educate people’s kids. Ring says Villaraigosa has never asked to meet anyone from the Parent Collaborative, although they have sent the mayor letters.
Marshall Tuck, CEO of the Partnership, met with Ring and another Parent Collaborative member in the fall of 2007 — almost a year ago — but, Ring says, “Nothing came out of it.” He isn’t expecting to hear from the mayor soon. “I think there’s a perception that the mayor has other things on his mind,” says Ring.
In June and July, Villaraigosa did have the time, however, to send out two letters to solicit his latest round of campaign contributions. The June letter said he’d moved Los Angeles “forward in becoming the greenest and most efficient big city in the world.” The July letter boasted about how he was transforming “L.A. into the cleanest and greenest big city in America.”
Not so, says Tom Ford, one of the top environmentalists in the region.
Ford, through his work as executive director of Santa Monica Baykeeper, protects and restores Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay and other waterways throughout Los Angeles County. He says Los Angeles is nowhere near the “greenest city” in the world, or the United States, as Villaraigosa has lately begun to claim.
Some 60 percent of the electrical power supply for L.A. “comes from out-of-state coal-burning,” says Ford, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the mayor when he ran in 2005. “It’s bad for air quality and bad for the water supply.”
He is still waiting for his first face-to-face with the mayor. “I have not engaged in any personal encounters with the mayor,” he says wryly.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city