Change has to start at the top, and the DWP needs serious change. Garcetti’s moves since assuming responsibilities of mayor are consistent with his promise to reform the utility.
The most encouraging news on the DWP front of late are Garcetti’s appointment to the boards of the two secretive nonprofits and the hiring of a new general manager.
Since replacing four of the five DWP commissioners, essentially sweeping out the Villaraigosa lackeys, other changes have followed. Assistant GM Aram Benyamin, who has been tagged as an ally to IBEW18 Boss D’Arcy, is on administrative leave. Benyamin also served alongside Ron Nichols on the boards of the Joint Training and Safety Institutes nonprofits. Another manager, Chuck Kokaska, retired soon after he failed to provide an adequate explanation of the trusts’ activities.
The new GM is Marcie Edwards. Her record is unblemished and she knows what it is like to navigate the municipal landscape owing to her extensive experience as Anaheim’s City Manager and Manager of Public Utilities. It has been many years since she worked for DWP, so it is likely she is very independent from D’Arcy.
Edwards will join Richard Llewellyn on the nonprofit boards. Lewellyn is Garcetti’s legal adviser and has not previously been associated with DWP’s operation.
The two are a fresh set of eyes who understand the importance of accountability to the ratepayers, unlike Nichols, who trembled in the shadows of D’Arcy.
The battle over the financial records of the trusts is larger than their materiality to the DWP as a whole.
The steady infusion of $4 million per year to a pair of virtually unregulated entities is proof of a corrupt culture governing what is arguably the most important service to the residents of the city. The accumulation of a $11.8 million stash in the accounts of the trusts shows just where the priorities of Nichols and D’Arcy, along with their colleagues, were (and still are).
Exactly what are the plans for that money?
At the current rate, the cash balance will continue to grow unless the funding ceases – it is already over three times the amount of the annual operating expenses. The commissioners are opposed to further funding, but who knows if their decision will not be challenged by the union? Just consider the roadblocks Controller Galperin is facing with the audit.
What, if any, proven advantage is there for using separate bureaucracies to manage safety programs?
While there has been no oversight to pouring money into these questionable trusts in years past, the DWP’s IT capabilities have been allowed to deteriorate. We could have used some of that money to upgrade systems. The botched rollout of a new billing system – a direct result of mismanagement – will likely be costly to fix and make cash flow difficult to manage, not only for the DWP, but many of its customers who have been billed incorrectly.
What’s more important? Hiding cash or serving the ratepayers? Or rewarding IBEW employees with the highest compensation in the city and at least one of the highest in the industry?
This is D’Arcy’s legacy with help from his enablers – Nichols, Freeman and Nahai…also Villaraigosa.
Garcetti’s strategy has been measured. Some say too slow.
I think the pace is about right when you consider the damage that must be undone from years of cronyism.
As ratepayers, we need to keep pressing for DWP reform – a commitment to efficiency and freedom from union politics.