Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a national nonprofit interest group, took Mayor Garcetti and Ratepayer Advocate Fred Pickel to task for allowing the DWP’s practice of deception and resistance to reform to continue unabated, as evidenced by the mishandling of the billing system scandal and negligence in the handling of the controversial nonprofit trusts .
He did not go far enough. General Manager Marcie Edwards and her predecessors are equally complicit.
Let me focus on Garcetti and Pickel first.
The mayor made DWP reform the cornerstone of his campaign in 2013. Was he merely leveraging off of Wendy Greuel’s overt cash and support from the utility’s union, or did he really intend to seek reforms?
Greuel would have been the best friend Brian D’Arcy ever had at City Hall (and he’s had his share).
It appears that Garcetti may rank near the top of D’Arcy’s Christmas card mailing list this Holiday season. Makes you wonder why he squandered so much money on Greuel when he could have had Garcetti for peanuts. That’s a question the union head’s members should ask. $2 million-plus pays for lots of goodies.
Let’s examine the progress Garcetti has made towards reform……
If I missed anything, let me know.
Aside from caving in on the union’s contract demands upon assuming office – the already well-compensated local did not have to make any of the sacrifices other city unions did in the face of the recession – he then failed to provide any measurable support to Ron Galperin’s quest to audit and end the blatant misappropriation of $40 million of ratepayers’ money. The cash was used to fund highly questionable practices at two nonprofit trusts jointly controlled by IBEW Local 18 (D’Arcy) and DWP’s spineless management team, which included former GM Ron Nichols, who did not raise so much as a red flag about lack of controls and lavish spending. He, as much as anyone, was aware that the DWP’s own safety programs made the existence of the trusts unnecessary.
Garcetti folded like a cheap beach chair at a barbecue for the WWF when D’Arcy denied the seating of the mayor’s appointees to the boards of the trusts. D’Arcy was fine with the new GM, Marcie Edwards, as a member. Subsequent events proved she was a wise choice to advocate his interests at the trusts.
Speaking of advocates and advocacy, what progress has Ratepayer Advocate Fred Pickel made towards facilitating reform at DWP?
Allow me to summarize…..
Want me to spell it out again?
To be fair, Pickel is not an administrator, nor does he have anything resembling executive power, but successful advocates do not need delegated authority from the top.
In a city such as ours, where many officials are bankrolled by special interests, an advocate will hit a brick wall when dealing with the establishment. The only chance of success is to involve the public…and that takes inspirational outreach. People need to be educated as to what is not working, in terms they can understand.
The only way to fight gross mismanagement in public administration is by reaching the hearts and minds of the stakeholders, ratepayers and residents in general. In the case of the DWP, we are all affected whether or not we are a customer. Only the people can effect change, but they need to know why change is necessary. There also needs to be a critical mass reached.
I have no doubt Mr. Pickel has his heart in the right place, but he is not assertive. Not even close. If he is more concerned about losing his position, he has a moral obligation to step down and allow a true advocate to assume his role.
Pickel would be more effective as an adviser to an advocate who truly knows how to communicate with and engage the public and the media.
To date, none of her managers have been fired for their role in the disastrous implementation of the DWP’s billing system, despite the anxiety and woe it created…and still causes…among the ratepayers. No customers can assume they will be unaffected somewhere down the line. Some customers have been treated which disdain tantamount to abuse.
Edwards has glossed over this, not admitting she failed to order her direct reports to pursue disciplinary measures, including termination, against those who approved the system. While Price Waterhouse Coopers deserves to pay heavy damages, any system, regardless of who developed it, must be fully tested and pass management’s expectations.
Failures at DWP will continue if there is no change in key, decision-making positions.
Edwards also sided with Bryan D’Arcy against the audit of the nonprofit trusts pursued by Controller Galperin.
She does not represent the interests of the ratepayers, just management’s and City Hall’s status quo.
Until the public pushes back at the ballot box, little will change.
Garcetti, Edwards and, to an extent, Pickel are more interested in keeping their jobs. It’s too much trouble for them to tackle reform. They choose to acquiesce to D’Arcy, the union and those who are beneficiaries of the deceitful entity known as the DWP.