Trouble in paradise

Posted on | September 16, 2009 | 2 Comments


LOS ANGELES awoke fractious today, at least in the press. Los Angeles Department of Water & Power bills are arriving and a North Hollywood couple using an average 748 gallons of water a day, five times the Los Angeles County norm (150 gallons per day, down from 181 a year ago) is so mad, they wrote a seven-page letter to Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.

For Lopez, the couple’s outrage was a jumping off point. Lopez himself is fantasizing about seeing Mayor Villaraigosa shot aloft by a geyser from one of the City’s seemingly endless water main breaks.

Moreover, he couldn’t help but notice that most generous benefactors of the mayor were recently caught out trying to flip a property for a Central Valley wind farm at the DWP’s (ie: public) expense.

Note: the property, Onyx Ranch in Kern County, also has water rights that are probably worth more than the site for windmills. Watch that space.

Lopez is smart to underscore the Onyx Ranch story.  As with the mayor’s long push on the Cadiz groundwater project, also owned by one of the mayor’s close friends and benefactors, Antonio Villaraigosa can’t seem to distinguish public funds from a cookie jar.

I say seem because even if the mayor isn’t guilty of what looks like rampant cronyism, then he’s repeatedly forgotten public service ethics rule No. 1: Appearance of impropriety is as serious as impropriety.

As mayor of the City of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa has power of appointment for key jobs at the DWP.  Growing embarrassment and anger within the department at Villaraigosa’s excesses may have led  to a whistleblower alerting the LA Times to the obscenity of the wind farm deal.

Note: Whoever did it, in or out of the department, you deserve a parade.

But what became clear yesterday during an interview with former DWP General Manager and now City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor S. David Freeman is a tougher line with the mayor’s good friends. According to Freeman, the DWP is dropping Cadiz from consideration for a water storage project for which it was, until last week, in the running.

Note: This is good news. We need profiteering friends of the mayor in our water supply like we need a tidal wave to hit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta.

Meanwhile, according to the Times report yesterday,  DWP General Manager David Nahai told the mayor’s buddies peddling the wind farm to get lost, while considering a law suit or eminent domain action.

So why is Steve Lopez directing the pile-on toward  DWP when the sleaze seems to be coming from the office of the mayor and his friends with money?

Note: While we’re piling on, does anyone know what the mayor’s water bill was since NBC reporters caught him breaking his own drought ordinances?

Ah, the leaks, with yet more sprouting yesterday.  Much of LA’s water distribution system dates back to Mulholland and the turn of the last century. It needs updating. Fixing the leaks could amount to a new water source in itself. But that will cost money.

Question: Could it be a product of 2-day-a week-watering, causing pressure surges? The plague of bursts these last three months coincide with the lawn watering ordinance.

Ah, the high bills. “We’re middle America,” protested one of the outraged readers who wrote Lopez complaining about the cost of her water. “We’re the backbone of this country and you wonder what’s happening.”

What’s happening, Mrs. Outraged in North Hollywood, is that you’re not “middle America.” You may be middle class, but you are in the arid West, where the cost of water in a place where it doesn’t occur naturally but has to be piped in from hundreds of miles away is finally catching up with us. It’s still so cheap the real cost is being paid on the back end, in taxes, bonds and now broad scale environmental collapse of our mountain watersheds, rivers, deltas and ocean.

For a supremely elegant essay on the subject from the On the public record blog, click here.

This post has been updated.


2 Responses to “Trouble in paradise”

  1. JT
    September 16th, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

    Just discovered your site. Yeah, the hypocrisy of our officials is pretty real.

  2. John Bass
    September 16th, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

    funny, to the point but comprehensive muckraking at its finest.

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