Saturday, September 17, 2005

Cost escalation no resistance

What the devil is going on at the Commerce Energy and Natural Resources (CENR) Committee? The committee passed the IBEW raise 2 zip. Tony Cardenas and Bill Rosendahl aren't tough on cost escalation. To the contrary, they turn into door mats and fall over the red carpet. The meaning of the acronym CENR now stands for Cost Escalation No Resistance.

Henry Martinez volunteered that the damage to DWP infrastructure was minimal. Contrary to his report, the Haynes Generating Plant is still out of commission because of the outage. Employees claim the plant will most likely remain out of commission for the next couple of weeks.

The cost of living raise seems to be sailing straight through. The wage disparity between DWP and similar civil service classifications in the City seems of no concern to the CENR. They are okaying the raise hike as if it is a matter of due course. It is amazing that they don’t inquire about the discrepancy, ask for justification, or demand a plan to use the union windfall momentum to figure out a solution to the City’s wage disparity problem.

All these snafus are going to result in increased costs and decreased efficiencies.

Power Outage to Pump Up L.A. Gas Prices

Gas prices in Los Angeles inched lower on Friday, but Monday’s power outage caused refineries to interrupt operations, a situation that could likely send prices higher next week, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The average price for regular self-serve unleaded gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area dipped 1.6 cents to $2.976 on Friday from $2.992 one week ago. Prices haven’t reached a new record high since Sept. 6, when they hit $2.999. The price was $2.762 per gallon one month ago and $2.071 one year prior.

“Effects of the power outage likely will be felt beginning this weekend as Southern California motorists deal with thin supply caused by interrupted refining operations,” said Auto Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp.
The Orange County area had the lowest average price in Southern California, falling 1.4 cents to $2.947. The Bakersfield area had the highest gas price for the second straight week, losing 2.9 cents to $3.129. Of all the areas surveyed, only the Bakersfield, Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc and San Diego areas had average prices above the $3-a-gallon mark on Friday.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline as of 12:01 a.m. each Friday.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hear no, Speak no, See no

Backhoe mistake causes gas blast

Is it no surprise?

The water outage in Westwood, the Sylmar intertie, the retaliation complaints at CENR, and now a major outage, the pattern should be obvious. We think all these things are new and unrelated. These things are symptomatic of poor management and a culture that is in denial, closed to communication, hostile toward criticism, and blaming of its employees.

This is not to say that if there was a new manager in there a week ago that this latest catastrophe would not have happened. Culture does not turn on a dime. It has had a good many years to brew. What is happening is that DWP Mayoral appointments and organizational changes are taking their toll. 1) the culture is no longer empowered. 2) management is not stable enough to withstand criticism. Consequently, employees who are aware of the situation find it best to remain uninquisitive and quiet in this type of an environment. Best for them to serve as drones – loyal minions. “I didn’t know.” “I wasn’t told.” “It was not my responsibility.” Be quiet, do what you’re told, and hope the blame does not get them.

In this environment, no one dares risk a decision or take responsibility. In effect, it reduces the decision-making and productivity to one person, Deaton. Deaton is no leader. You'd think the most powerful highest paid city manager could do better than,"I'll get back to you." He will look into it and find an answer, human error – no doubt anybody but himself or the current oligarchy. Maybe even spring for a consultant or a blue ribbon committee. And at the next level we have in musical chair number two, an expired engineer, Enrique Martinez, and two (should be) retired attorneys, Thomas Hokinson and Hal Lindsey – well equipped to argue, defend their positions, tag individuals like the ones in LA Weekly, and to work the personnel patronage system (spoils), but again ill-equipped to lead.

The DWP is a very complex and integrated organization. Much of it created in a different environment and in a different era. Just as New Orleans claims that most of the pumps are not replaceable, the situation is quite the same. Many of DWP generators were built a long time ago. DWP has let go engineers and shops craft persons without passing on information. Buying and contracting out much of the expertise. What that means is that the inhouse deep understanding and familiarity is no longer available. And of course system and quality of service is likewise diminished.

Much of the motivation for maintaining system quality is based upon ownership. The concept is one of the underlying tenets of Civil Service. Entitlement – if one owns his or her job than he or she is motivated to act in good faith in the best interests of the public. With the cronyism of late, those motivational factors are refocused on a bigger prize – the next promotion a choice appointment. And with the number of carpetbaggers of late getting their spoils and further undermining the merit system, no one in their right mind is going to speak up about a latent problem or a fault that may not happen.

Even Local 18, which has benefited richly from the influence of late at the expense of those they represent, has let system important crafts, etc. go without passing on system-critical craft information. The advantages for turning a blind eye should not be.

People who speak up are labeled “chicken little” by the current management. The sky is not falling. Aren't we just making a mistake allowing these ne’er-do-wells continue in their positions? It seems we could have much better leadership.

Short of that in the near term, protecting whistle-blowers, people that have spoken up about system problems, is a critical step to culture change and ensuring that we (the citizens of Los Angeles) get some transparency on how the system is performing.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Could this be symptomatic of something else?

Are the number of outages increasing relative to the rates? Costs going up quality going down? Who to blame?

Article Last Updated: 9/12/2005 01:46 PM
Large portion of L.A. blacked out
Staff reports
LA Daily News

A large portion of Los Angeles -- from downtown to the San East Fernando Valley -- along with areas of Burbank and Glendale were blacked out this afternoon when electrical power was lost.

A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman said two "receiving stations'' were impacted, and that crews were working to determine the cause. She could not immediately estimate when power would be restored or how many customers were affected.

Terrorism was not suspected, according to Sgt. Catherine Plows, though the Los Angeles Police Department went on "full tactical alert,'' meaning no officers were allowed to leave duty.
Traffic lights throughout downtown and the Valley were not working, causing major traffic tie-ups, officials said. Electricity was out briefly at City Hall and Los Angeles International Airport, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was running its subways using back-up generators.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Labor Dispute?

What is in store for LA?

The DWP’s Perfect Storm
By Marc Haefele, LA Alternative Press

"Three sunny, blissful days before Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s al fresco inaugural, the Los Angeles City Council’s labor negotiating team offered perhaps the most generous labor contract in the city’s history to its highest-paid workers. Apparently, no one else on the council was aware this was happening. But there was probably frenzied celebration at the headquarters of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, who’d glommed on this bounty for its members… "

Find the rest of Marc Haefele’s article under Polis scroll down to about the middle of the page.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Tribute to John Wesley

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can." John Wesley, c. 1750

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Time for some house cleaning at DWP

With the scandals at Tyco, Enron, Worldcom, Edison, PG&E (to name a few), many companies have had to look inward to find out what has been going wrong. Except of course, the largest public utility, DWP. General Manager Ronald Deaton has proclaimed "zero tolerance" on violence, intimidation, and harassment in the workplace. However, the policy is not new. The same rules have been in the administrative policy manual for years. The DWP seems to be in denial that the situation exists.

If the policy is not going to be enforced, it is not significant. All the whistleblower protections, zero tolerance policies, and laws don't do a thing until someone takes some action on them. Think of making a no cockroach cupboard policy in an infested kitchen. Opening doors and shining lights will cause a lot of scurry, but nothing is going to happen until you take appropriate action to eradicate the little critters.

We question the leadership at DWP, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and the City officials for their part in allowing this to go on so long. The news articles are an embarassment to the citizens of Los Angeles. And for you high powered policy-makers, that does not mean shoot the messengers! It clearly means take appropriate civil action.

Mr. Deaton, you sir are on the hot seat. No more musical chairs. There are some underutilized city attorneys that should be directed to start perusing emails, gathering unfettered facts and statements, and preparing a defense for some high-level terminations at DWP. Direct those young hungry city attorneys to take appropriate action for "just cause" and conduct it with "due process." City Attorneys can start with the DWP Administrative Policy Manual Section 50-04, Guide to Employee Discipline. Make the cases similar to the one constructed for Luciano Yi. Only this time, let the punishment fit the crime. Start with the millions paid in illegal confidential settlements; adjust it appropriately for the level of management, expectation, responsibility, and the overall damage to the culture and integrity of the City.

I don't believe for a nano-second that the failure of DWP corporate values has anything to do with a storekeeper and a couple of custodians. "Zero-Tolerance," that is what you promised and that is what we expect -- Nothing less. Any questions?

See Jeffrey Anderson's latest DWP Dirt at

And if you would like a little more this will take you to a search of more DWP antics at