Search for L.A. Department of Water and Power 'Ratepayer Advocate' Off to Terrible Start
Remember that feel-good ballot measure you voted on last spring, having to do with your electricity/water bill and government oversight and transparency and all that jazz?
Or didn't vote on, but should have?
Well, sort of feel-bad news on that front: Jack Humphreville, DWP gadfly and our old pal from back when we used to rail on the DWP more regularly (those were the days!), reports on CityWatch today that City Hall has somehow managed to screw up the noblest initiative it's proposed in recent memory, before it even really got started.
Here's what a resounding 78 percent of Los Angeles voters said "Yes" to last March (text provided by the reliable City Maven):
OFFICIAL BALLOT LANGUAGE: Shall the Charter be amended to establish an Office of Public Accountability for the Department of Water and Power, overseen by an Executive Director appointed by a citizens committee and confirmed by the Council and Mayor for a five-year term, to provide public independent analysis of Department actions as they relate to water and electricity rates?
BACKGROUND: The Office of Public Accountability would be overseen by an executive director, who would be selected by a citizen commission and approved by the Los Angeles City Council and mayor for a five-year term. With that office, the ratepayer advocate would be tasked with evaluating the water and power rate increases proposed by DWP officials. The annual budget for the office would be .025 percent of the utility's annual water and power revenue, which is roughly $1 million.
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Such hopes! Such dreams!
But Humphreville reports that the five "citizens" charged with finding said advocate -- chosen by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and City Council President Eric Garcetti -- have been totally shafted by the politicians that appointed them in early August.
First off, it took seven months for the commission to even take shape. And now that they're finally positioned to complete the very important task at hand, Mayor Villaraigosa and Council President Garcetti have given them an unreasonable (and ironic, considering their own "delay artistry," as Humphreville puts it) deadline.
Commissioners have 60 days to find the perfect guy/gal for the job.
This sudden rush is no doubt linked to the fact that the DWP is chomping at the bit to hike its rates -- because, despite its bloated worker pensions and history of squirreling away Scrooge-piles of dough, it claims it needs even more to meet the state's pesky green goals -- and Villaraigosa has (rightly) promised not to let the department do so until a Ratepayer's Advocate is chosen.
But the two-month crunch could have real, detrimental effects on the quality of the chosen one.
Humphreville reports that reputed local recruiting firm Korn/Ferry, aptly familiar with the DWP and its needs, could not accept the commission's request to find a candidate because it needed more time.
He says Korn/Ferry also refused the offer because of the enfuriating, and completely inexcusable, reality that "the Mayor and the Garcetti-led City Council have not passed the necessary ordinances that define the role and budget of the Ratepayers Advocate, including the compensation package that would be necessary to attract a serious person with the necessary experience, expertise, and financial wherewithal."
Now, writes Humphreville, the commission is stuck with Ralph Andersen & Associates, "a small Sacramento based firm that works exclusively in the public sector."
If our cross-eyed Council is any indication, the last type of goon we want in this six-figure position is a freaking public-sector puppet -- wobbly-kneed in the face of DWP union boss Brian D'Arcy and ignorant to the principles of good business. We've already got plenty of those to go around.
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