This is only the beginning of the examination of the contracting mess at the DWP. Lots more to come - and I have an article that will be published on CITYWATCH first thing Friday morning.
Public held hostage by utility's all-powerful union
Article Last Updated:04/18/2007 08:28:46 PM PDT
THE Department of Water and Power has a long-standing practice of misusing the public's money to benefit its employees, contractors and good friends - and then extracting more money from ratepayers to cover what was squandered.
There is only one word for this practice: blackmail.
That's exactly what happened this week.
A Daily News review of reconstructing the city's aging water pipes found that costs doubled when the department quit using outside contractors in favor of unionized in-house crews.
Not only did the DWP workers cost twice as much as private-company workers, but they took twice as long to do the same work.
Despite this revelation, the DWP Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to expand the number of in-house crews. The deal was called a compromise, but really it was nothing but surrender to extortionists.
The DWP employee union wields so much political power that all but a few dozen of the utility's executives are forced to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers. The IBEW's clout is so great that DWP workers earn as much as 30 percent more for the same work as their well-paid counterparts in other city agencies.
Unlike previous DWP commissioners, this board is actually working hard to penetrate the wall of secrecy, dishonesty and incompetence and fix what's broken. But even good intentions weren't enough in this case.
It was obvious to the board that water-pipe reconstruction was a job that should be outsourced. Just one comparison makes that clear: A $6.2 million proposal to install a 42-inch pipeline beneath Burbank Boulevard and White Oak Avenue in 250 days by a private company was ignored in favor of DWP crews, at the urging of the union. The job took 439 days to complete and cost $13.8 million.
This was not a difficult choice to make, unless you factor in political power at City Hall.
The result was that instead of dismantling the two DWP crews doing this work, a third one will be added. If there's any work left undone, private firms will be hired. Don't count on it.
If you wonder how the DWP can afford this kind of wasteful spending, look in the mirror. The public pays.
Last fall, after approving salary increases potentially twice those other city employees are getting, the City Council endorsed a DWP proposal for a 5.5 percent water-rate increase over two years. Those come on top of other recent rate increases and more are sure to come in the years ahead.
This water torture of the people of L.A. is just one more example of how the city government operates primarily for itself, its employees and their special interests, and not for the people.
We wouldn't pay blackmail to criminals, and we shouldn't pay blackmail to people who are supposed to be our public servants.