Yes, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is as bad as you've heard.

1) Its overpaid suits proposed unwarranted 28-percent rate hikes on residents last spring while guarding a $73.5 million surplus like territorial dogs. 2) They only show up to meetings when their own power is at stake. 3) Across the board, DWP employee salaries and pensions are set far above those of other city workers. (And those same employees are drinking on the job.)

The notion of a public-service monopoly existing so entirely without oversight seems ludicrous, right? So how is it possible that over half our 15 L.A. City Councilmembers voted to squash a three-years-in-the-making Office of Public Accountability for the DWP yesterday morning?

Going into the meeting yesterday, former DWP Board President Nick Patsaouras told the Weekly that, three years after proposing a ratepayer advocate for the insular department, he was finally confident councilmembers would approve the measure, giving voters a chance to ask for transparency at the DWP.

Patsaouras should have known better.

Seven of 15 councilmembers played dumb — petrified the DWP union would throw its crowns and jewels toward defeating them in the next election — and voted against one of the most popular measures they've seen in a while. Concerned citizens and Neighborhood Councilmembers have rallied behind the obvious greater-good all year.

Observe the gallery of 'No'-vote fools:

Richard Alarcon. Jose Huizar. Tom LaBonge. Herb Wesson. Janice Hahn. Ed Reyes. Dennis Zine.

And now for the fool on the hill:

City Council President Eric Garcetti.

Thing is, even before the seven dwarves had brushed aside public interest in the menacing shadow of DWP union head Brian D'Arcy, Garcetti went ahead and butchered the City Attorney-prepared measure. It's now a lite, spineless version of everything it was supposed to be, both back when it was proposed by Patsaouras, and this summer, when City Councilwoman Jan Perry began to really employ some elbow in the council-floor fight against the DWP.

Former LA Daily News editor Ron Kaye, seeing red after the meeting, detailed Garcetti's changes on Ron Kaye L.A.:

“… with an IBEW lobbyist lurking in the background, Garcetti pulled key paragraphs from the proposal, describing in detail the broad authority and power of what has become the Office of Public Accountability (OPA) and deleting any mention of the Rate Payer Advocate.

When Garcetti was done, the OPA will keep an eye of some sort on water and power rates and have vague authority as to even what information it can obtain.

What the OPA really will do and how the office is structured and the executive director is chosen will be decided later by the City Council…”

If there's one thing we don't need, it's another set of City Council decisions left for “later.” Not to mention another office full of overpaid city officials with no real jurisdiction or means to do their jobs. Councilman Greig Smith spoke up to Garcetti, pointing out that the new definition of the DWP accountability office would “gut” its function and make for one weakling of a watchdog.

In an early-August article, the Weekly had high hopes:

“Council President Eric Garcetti has pushed the ratepayer advocate idea hard. 'My goal is to empower a watchdog office with full-time independent oversight authority to ensure DWP is playing its straight with its customers and the public,' Garcetti said.”

Looks like union straight-jacket D'Arcy (who has said he “generally” thinks how ratepayers feel “is not relevant,” even though we technically own the DWP) and his army of high-paid handymen have got the cowardly City Council in the palm of the DWP once again.

Councilmembers will consider approving the watered-down measure again today. Watch them squirm.

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