A state of siege exists in the City of Los Angeles.
Not in the classic South American style as depicted in the 1972 film by the same name, but a surreptitious version run by the leaders of IBEW Local 18 and DWP management.
All that is needed is for the principals to wear khaki uniforms, shiny suits and shades.
The secrecy surrounding the two nonprofit institutes is the tip of the iceberg. The $40 million in ratepayer money funneled to these organizations pales in comparison to the years of manipulation condoned and driven by Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council.
Annual surplus transfers and rich union contracts have diverted cash away from infrastructure improvements. The oncoming waves of rate increases are a direct result of this trend, masterminded by the insidious, shadow government.
In a way, the nonprofit scandal was a blessing. It opened up some eyes, particularly those of Mayor Garcetti. It was a far better education than he received at Oxford. It was also a blessing that last year’s mayoral campaign exposed the real power of the IBEW for all to see.
The good news is that we can lift the siege.
It appears we have a triumvirate in the persons of Garcetti, Galperin and Feuer willing to challenge the junta that has been pulling the strings behind the scenes all these years. But they need our help. For one thing, the City Council is not stepping up to confront the hacks responsible for one of the most mismanaged utilities in the nation – investor owned or municipal.
The state of siege has produced two casualties, so far.
Ron Nichols was the first to fall. Mind you, the GM was respected throughout the industry and had good intentions. However, he was as passive as they get when it came to dealing with the slimy politics that underlies the management of the DWP. That’s probably why Villaraigosa hired him. Nichols was not one to make waves. He was not one to openly challenge questionable practices or the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars of ratepayer money to the general fund.
Wendy Greuel fell soon after.
After she had all but signaled a run for County Supervisor, she and her camp clammed up. Then she quietly announced she would not run. In my view, it was no coincidence she decided to say on the sidelines. The scandal of the nonprofits was snowballing with each day union boss Brian D’Arcy defied requests to produce financial records.
Any reasonable person applying common sense would reach the same conclusion I did. After all, the nonprofits were fully functional during Greuel’s tenure as City Controller. She had also received massive financial support from D’Arcy in her campaigns for controller and mayor. Undoubtedly, this would have invited questions as to her character (or lack thereof) in the supervisorial campaign.
Both Greuel and Nichols should be questioned under oath about their knowledge of the scheme. No stone should be left unturned. I hope Garcetti, Galperin and Feuer do not lose sight of that.
The ratepayers and voters could help bring down the gang by letting their City Council members know that they should refuse all contributions from the IBEW as well as renounce any attempt by the union to use independent expenditures. The message should be: dollars from D’Arcy are dicey.
We should insist that our elected officials put IBEW’s rank and file on notice. Unless they dump D’Arcy and his lieutenants, expect extremely tough negotiations in the next round of labor talks. The City Council must be prepared to stand up to the threat of a strike, even if it comes to requesting a court injunction.
Make no mistake, most IBEW employees enable their leaders to take advantage of us. Many of the employees do not even live in the city. While they are generally competent and possess a work ethic no different from the average worker, they fail to acknowledge that fairness is a two-way street. We are limited in our ability to pay their salaries, especially in view of the major capital improvements our water and power infrastructure will require in the decades to come.
Finally, what do we want to see in the next GM?
The chances of finding a replacement who combines technical skills with political savvy are slim and none. The GM should be first and foremost a political and labor hardballer, but assisted by a principal deputy with deep industry experience.
Lifting the state of siege must start now. Waiting until the next round of city elections will be too late.
We are off to a good start, but momentum is easy to lose.
It is time to get light a fire under your elected officials. Challenge them to change the culture of the DWP and swear off the D’Arcy dollars.