Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Rob from the poor and give to the greedy

Here is the vision we see based upon Federal statistics and set against the averages for the State and Nation. Los Angeles is not doing so well.

Estimated population (2004) in Los Angeles County was 9,937,739. In 2000, 69.9 percent of the population 25 years or older residing in Los Angeles County completed a high school education. This percentage is much lower than the State or the Nation with 76.8 and 80.6 percent (respectively) graduating from high school.

In 1999, 17.9 percent of the population of Los Angeles County was below the poverty level. The State and the Nation as a whole faired better with only 14.2 percent for California and 12.4 nationwide.

In 2000, per capita personal income in Los Angeles County was $29,522, $32,149 for those living in California, and $29,469 nation wide.

Statistics from: http://www.fedstats.gov/qf/states/06/06037.html and http://www.fedstats.gov/qf/states/00000.html

Using these numbers, here is a way to consider how much the raises that Villaraigosa and the City Council gave to their strongest supporters, DWP and (possibly to) EAA.

Assuming a closed static system. If the population of Los Angeles County is 9,937,739 and per capita income is $29,522, then the total income for Los Angeles County amounted to $293,381,930,758. If 16,000 workers (8,000 DWP/IBEW workers and 8,000 LA/EAA workers) received 20 percent more than the average worker and then they received a 15 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA), their per capita income would increase to $39,855 totaling $637,675,200.

If we subtract that amount from the total Los Angeles County income ($293,381,930,758 - $637,675,200 = $292,744,255,558) and then divide that by the number of other (non-DWP/EAA) citizens, the adjusted per capita income has been reduced by $17 to $29,505.

Essentially what that means is that these little raises without any off-setting productivity increase or cost savings, cost each and every citizen in the County of Los Angeles about $17 (about three lunches). And frankly, as long as we have the high numbers in poverty and low numbers in education, I think the Mayor has made a big mistake.

We would have faired much better for us to each give $6 amounting to
$59,530,434 to the schools and to the Goodwill. Can you imagine how much $60 million could help? You'll notice that is only $12. $1 will go to the parking meter, $1 to the pan handler, and the rest will be lost in city administration and fees.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A New Vision -- Self Service

Antonio Villaraigosa gave 10,000 or so employees at DWP a really great pay raise, a minimum of 17.9 to a maximum of 31 percent, over the next five years. Villaraigosa had to know the pay raise exacerbated an already huge disparity between DWP employees and other city employees.

It is hard to believe that Mayor Villaraigosa having come up the hard way would foster and support the inequality of city workers. It is also hard to believe that Mayor Villaraigosa would not know the financial situation of the city having been a Los Angeles insider and councilmember for so long. It is especially hard to believe that Mayor Villaraigosa would think that he could give one group of city workers a sweetheart deal without considering that he would have to provide the same equal treatment to all his union brothers and sisters. One for all, all for one, and all that.

If he were concerned about the finances of Los Angeles, he would have concluded that an across the board increase in labor cost would have to be balanced by an equal across the board decrease in operating expenses such as infrastructure maintenance or long term development, or an increase in taxes or city revenue such as trash collection, business fees, lot cleaning, etc., which also amounts to a tax.

Moreover, Villaraigosa would have known that the Los Angeles infrastructure is in bad shape, potholes and such, foregoing infrastructure maintenance is not a viable option. Consequently, increasing revenues or tax would be preferred over decreasing operating costs. Villaraigosa realizes increasing city costs will cause more businesses and employers like Nissan to leave this area for other lower-cost business-friendly cities. And, those relocated businesses will transfer their prized technical and craft employees and layoff the rest – increasing the numbers of unemployed. In any case, it would result in a net loss in the number of highly skilled workers required by manufacturers and big employers. It also reduces the number of citizens that can buy high priced homes (causing prices to fall) and that pay taxes to support our schools and communities (speeding the decline of our communities).

It is surprising that Villaraigosa can visit so many places, meet so many people on the bus and private jets, and not realize that when he satisfies the short-term greed of his union brothers that he robs each one of us of the vision he promised to all the citizens of Los Angeles. And the inevitable city deficits result in the destabilization of the jobs and pensions that all city workers depend.

The possible bankruptcy of General Motors, the layoff of 30,000 workers, and the closing of 10 factories is a clear example of what happens to strong companies that neglect customers for self-serving management and union endeavors.

It is very clear to us at Civil Action Press that city managers need to be held accountable for their actions. Union leaders are not accountable to the citizens of Los Angeles and consequently they should not be running Los Angeles government as they have been permitted to do under Hahn and Villaraigosa.

In the next few days, Villaraigosa will demonstrate again who he serves. You should take notice. Tell him that driving up the wages of a few thousand at the expense of the millions that live and work here is not fair or right.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Civil Action Press Ponders Civil Action

A poorly administered city and costly ineffective city services contribute to the underlying costs of every single citizen. It is about time we started holding administrators responsible for their decisions and actions.

Many citizens, business owners, builders, employers, vendors, and employees have become frustrated because it seems this city's managers just don't care about running city services in a manner that best serves the public.

Civil Action Press believes the citizens of Los Angeles could use an advocate for improved city services, accountability, and reform. Too many businesses and employers are leaving Los Angeles.

Consequently, we would like to assess both the need and the possibilities for launching such a service.

If you are a citizen, business owner, vendor, etc., with a complaint, improvement, an issue (especially waste fraud, and/or abuse), or you have suffered retaliation as a result of making a report or complaint about city services,

Or, if you are an attorney wanting to use your talents to bring about city reform and accountability and are not afraid of the City Attorney's Office,

Or, if you are frustrated on one of those neighborhood councils...

Or, if you would like to donate to the cause...

Please email us at civilactionpress@yahoo.com.

This is a call for action. If there is enough of a response we will be considering giving new meaning to Civil Action Press.

What Is In Center Stage?

There were a couple of comments made in the November 15, 2005 DWP Board meeting that give the impression that this new Board might be just what the doctor ordered. If so, we are most thankful. For those of us who are more experienced with the means and methods of politics, we remain cautious, vigilant, and perhaps too tolerant.

Department of Water and Power Board seems to have two goals: one, move the DWP as quickly as possible to green power and two, to get a handle on contracting. Both goals are aimed at symptoms and don’t get to the root cause. Emphasizing a few statements and reading between the lines, we would venture to say the Board has chosen not to identify the root cause because it might implicate one of the most influential political organizations in Los Angeles, the City Attorneys Office, and their relationship with the DWP. Logically, one looking for a root cause would ask, “Why isn’t the DWP green?” and “Why have the contracts run amok?” In both cases, the answer would lead to leadership, decision makers, and systemic mis-management. One such comment was from Commissioner Nick Patsaouras. By the way, we at Civil Action Press are really getting to enjoy him.

Let us preface with… the meetings are long and grueling. And, the brain can only assimilate what the butt can endure. So, the facts might be a bit hazy but the Commissioners are clearly tripping over the heart of the matter.

The Department apparently invested some millions in a research and development firm, which developed exchangeable off-peak rechargeable battery packs for electric vehicles and are in the process of presenting their achievements to the world. Apparently, the new Board knows nothing about the investment or the subsequently developed products and they have been unable to discuss it because the DWP is in litigation with the firm. Like many of the employees, vendors and whistleblowers at DWP, the firm’s representatives are communicating with the Board in two-minute sound bites via channels normally reserved for public comments. To say that communication is rather guarded at the DWP grossly understates the problem. Board President Mary Nichols suggested discussing the matter in closed session. By insisting on transparency, Nichols could save a bundle wasted in litigation. Patsaouras made a comment referring to too many attorneys. Patsaouras’ comment hit pay dirt.

At meetings, City Attorneys frequently outnumber DWP management. At the Board meeting Assistant General Manager and former Chief Deputy City Attorney, Thomas Hokinson sat to the left of General Manager Ron Deaton and to his right sat Assistant General Manager Hal Lindsey, also an attorney. At a preceding Commerce, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee meeting, Chief Administrative Officer, Robert Rosanski was surrounded by City Attorneys Cecil Marr, Daniel Lowenthal, and Assistant General Manager Hal Lindsey. What the Department severely lacks in leadership, it makes up for in litigious might.

Attorneys are not a good sign. Attorneys are defenders and advocates. They should never be mistaken for judges. It would be a conflict of interest. Ask any divorcé, their presence clearly says to the citizens of Los Angeles we are in an adversarial position, we are not going to be amicable, and the costs are going to be high.

Recall the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Rampart scandals. The situation was bad before and with the help of the City Attorneys Office, the situation has been institutionalized. In 2001, Rocky Delgadillo was quoted in the Metropolitan News,

“Mr. Hokinson’s combination of talent, experience and familiarity with the City Attorney’s Office will help us hit the ground running, and tackle critical issues such as improving our children’s education, reducing the city’s liability expenditures, ensuring the highest level of public safety, reforming the Los Angeles Police Department, and improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Delgadillo said in a statement. “Hokinson headed the Los Angeles City Attorneys Office Liabilities Division, and has been the city’s point man on reducing lawsuits against the LAPD. He took a lead role in cutting LAPD-related payouts in 1993, in the wake of the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots. But city liabilities have since soared—especially those stemming from suits against the LAPD. Hokinson helped craft multimillion-dollar settlements last year in lawsuits stemming from the Rampart police corruption scandal. Although the move drew public criticism, inside City Hall, Hokinson is credited with keeping the city’s payout in the Rampart scandal to a minimum.”

In retrospect, the City Attorney’s Office has grown to be one of the biggest law firms in the State and its main function has become to contain, squelch, tie-up, and retaliate against anything and everything that threatens or questions the status quo. The status quo we are talking about here is mismanagement and lack of accountability. After 35 years, Hokinson says he is ready to retire (good riddance). His accomplishments are the prerequisites to the problems that have become the culture at LAPD, DWP, and the pinnacle of City achievement – unabashed lack of accountability. Lack of accountability will remain a pox upon this city. To this day, LAPD still is understaffed in comparison to New York and Chicago Police Departments for good reason – No accountability. We citizens pay the price of not holding our city managers and their cronies accountable.

Did the City Attorneys Office go after the city managers that authored, requisitioned, and approved Fleischman-Hillard contract expenditures? No. Instead, they identified and went after the resultant symptoms (Fleischman-Hillard) rather than the root causers.

Does the City Attorneys Office bend the rules to protect its friends? Yes. It seems there is no concern for public opinion.

When the City Attorneys Office was investigated, what happens to those investigators? In the case of Dan Carvin, a retired Federal Investigator who was hired to investigate City corruption, he was fired, tied up in litigation, and the City paid $490,000 to settle and the facts of what he was after remain buried from the public in the City Attorneys Office. It seems Laura Chick has relegated her investigations to the periphery, parking lot skimming at $800 a pop.

The Owens Valley Lake is another billion dollar boondoggle tied up in litigation. Patsaouras asks simple questions. Each management response is carefully couched and delivered in closed session with the City Attorneys carefully positioned in every other seat. The crux of the matter is that the management at DWP and the purely advocate roll of the City Attorneys Office has become a barbed-wire no-man’s land for the truth and a costly liability for the citizens of Los Angeles.

Patsaouras’ comments seem to reflect that DWP management and the City Attorneys Office have clearly insulated the Board. DWP employees have made every effort to tell management about systemic mismanagement problems and issues brewing at Owens Lake. Until the Board removes these managers, they will have to be content to steer the organization from a trailer hitched to the back of the organization based upon information they receive from the media. The Board would not be talking about Owens Lake or CH2MHill, if it were not for a rightfully concerned handful of dedicated civil servants and Jeffrey Anderson at LA Weekly. What is wrong with this picture?

Is this just a continuation of the Hahn administration? True to form, executive level management sent employees working in the Owens Valley letters with their checks advising employees to forward media requests to the Public Relations. So rather than holding management accountable and establishing an obviously needed flow of information on projects and operations, is the Board further insulating itself and condoning more of the same policies that have caused the problem in the first place?


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The New Water and Power Board

Mary D. Nichols, President
H. David Nahai, Vice-President
Nick Patsaouras, Commissioner
Edith Ramirez, Commissioner
Forescee Hogan-Rowles, Commissioner

If first impressions count, we were extremely impressed. When this Board starts counting the pennies on the DWP contracts, they will soon realize that increased contract expenditures are a result of mismanagement. Nick Patsaouras (A+) we are absolutely ecstatic. H. David Hahai (A) we are so very impressed.

Mary D. Nichols (B+) There is no need to hold back Nick and David. The expenses are soon to exceed revenues. This is long long long overdue. A well run company means long safe retirements and a healthy competitive organization. It took a little warming up but Edith Ramirez and Forescee Hogan-Rowles got into the question mode, too.

Man, what a wonderful change! It seems this Board wants to serve in the best interest of the citizens. We remain hopeful. We're not jumping to conclusions just yet. Not until we see some action anyway.

Now about the management-orchestrated bullying and mobbing? It took some guts to throw that wet blanket.