A lot of ink was spilled this morning on why Los Angeles hasn't rebuilt its decaying infrastructure after a good portion of UCLA was flooded by water main break on Sunset Boulevard. Most commentators - including Jon Christensen and Mark Gold at LA OBSERVED - gave reasons why this has continued to be a problem - and discussed potential solutions to the problem. None of them, however, addressed a major - if not even, the single major reason why the DWP has not replaced our oldest water mains - much less proposed any solution to that problem.
That reason was first made public clear back in 2007 after an internal audit by the DWP showed that if the DWP had to use their own employees - rather than those hired by an outside contractor - it took both twice as long to do the work - and then also cost twice as much money - for the DWP crew to rebuild the truck line than if it had been done by the private contractor.
And the extra time and extra cost was not blamed on the skills or work ethic of the DWP workers. It was attributed to the union designed work rules which were designed in a way that made the work take twice as long - and cost twice as much money.
But - other than Kerry Cavanaugh of Daily News which first reported the story - most of the media didn't follow up on this story - and there was no demand - from anyone - that something be done about the situation, other than by the neighborhood councils
This all happened not long after the neighborhood councils had already asked the City of LA do an audit of millions of dollars the DWP and its rate payers gave to the union's private slush fund - and look at how long it's taken before the Mayor and the media are now - suddenly - also demanding the same audit we had asked for over seven years ago.
Hopefully, this time - the corrupt work rules situation can be addressed well before any new bond issue is written, much less put on the ballot to rebuild those water lines. Because if it is not done now - before any bond issue is drafted - than that bond issue will be going down to defeat just as the solar energy proposal did once it became obvious that the rate payers were going to be ripped off by the main DWP union for hundreds of millions of dollars.
UPDATE - I decided to look for a mention in my blog about the Neighborhood Council's oversight of the secret 'educational foundation' that the DWP has millions of dollars to without any public disclosure about what happens with the money. Well, it turns out the two stories are connected.
When the union finally agreed to allow some of the trunk lines to be built by far more productive private crews (at half the price and in half the time, if past practices are followed) - the union first insisted that a second DWP (and a far more expensive and far slower crew if the existing union work rules were followed) had to be created (which would further delay the work getting down and would reduce how much of the trunk line could be rebuilt) - and the union's second condition was that the DWP give even more money to their secret foundation.
A lot more money. And not just once - but every year.
The union leadership dropped their demand for even more union members jobs if - and only if - the DWP gave their secret foundation 2.1 million dollars - every year. And that's what now really makes me want to know - what the hell are they doing with all that money?
And in the... seven years... since then - I'd also like to how many miles of trunk pipe have been replaced? And how many miles still need to be replaced? And how many miles have been done by DWP crews and how many have been done by private crews? And how much has the cost differential been? And were the work rules reformed enough to allow the DWP crews to be cost competitive? And I'd really like to know when was the part of Sunset Boulevard that just blew up supposed to be replaced? This inquiring cowboy wants to know all that - and a lot more.
Here is my link to the Daily News article.
And here is the Daily News Editorial that summed up the whole corrupt mess:
Thursday, April 19, 2007
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
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.