L.A.'s mayor is all wet when it comes to reforming the water and power department

Los Angeles — Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, presumably after deep soul-searching, suddenly decided Tuesday afternoon to make a stand for good government — his LA Clean Sweep membership card is in the mail.

The gift-taking absentee mayor got religion just hours after Department of Water and Power (DWP) Commission President Lee Kanon Alpert abruptly resigned, saying he needed to spend more time with his family and his law practice, and the City Council voted 10-1 to put a Charter amendment on the March 8 ballot giving themselves the power to remove DWP commissioners and general managers.

Why they need this authority is hard to understand since they rubber stamp every mayoral commission appointee in what amounts to a no-question-asked-lovefest and the mayor dumps general managers every six months or so. Nonetheless, they made this measure the 11th to go on the March ballot just a couple of weeks after deadlocking 7-7 on it. Only vulnerable Councilman Jose Huizar voted against it and for good reason. He’s counting on the mayor, who represented CD14 before him and put him on the LA school board previously, coming up with all the money he needs to fend off labor mediator Tony Butka and businessman Rudy Martinez, while staying as far away from the Eastside as he has for most of the last six years.

“I am disapproving the proposed ballot language inasmuch as it seems to reform the governance of one city department before we have had an opportunity to take a comprehensive assessment of all city departments,” the mayor wrote in his brief veto message. Mayoral spokesman, Matt Szabo, explained the mayor whose 28 percent power rate hike was rejected last spring now `believes that what the ratepayers truly need — more transparency in how their rates are determined — was accomplished by the council’s action to place on the ballot” a measure to create the Office of Public Accountability and Rate Payer Advocate.’

You can take Szabo’s word to the bank on what the mayor actually believes about this or any other city issue. The 10 votes for the measure is enough to override his veto so it will be amusing to watch Tom LaBonge, who is as vulnerable to defeat in March as Huizar, and other Council members stand up to the heat from the mayor’s pressure. There are a lot of reason the mayor can’t find a qualified utility executive to run the DWP — total loss of credibility, total management disarray, total confusion on what its policies are, total obscurity of its finances, total control of the utility by union bully Brian D’Arcy. That’s why one person after another has turned down the job and the threat of becoming the Council’s political football only adds to the negatives.

But take the mayor at his word, something only fools would do given his long string of broken promises. He wants to see a comprehensive review of the entire commission system, which he has totally corrupted by reducing honorable people to nothing but stooges for his failed policies even as the vast army of deputies he has browbeat general managers into submission. Still, it’s good to know someone, presumably Austin Beutner, the first deputy mayor and interim DWP GM, was capable of dragging him away from his yoga lessons and party duties to sign the veto message.