Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson says neither he nor other elected officials are to blame for the troubles of the Department of Water and Power.
“Now, I’m an elected official and I would say without pause don’t blame the shortcomings on us,” Wesson said. “Maybe we had something to do with it. But the way the department is set up now, it is set up to fail.”
The council president offered his views Wednesday on the controversial leadership of the municipal utility at a luncheon of the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, organized by public affairs consultant Emma Schafer, who also compiles the web site Emma’s Memos.
The audience of mostly city hall lobbyists and other insiders who filled the upstairs dining room at the Palm restaurant downtown has a deep interest in the big public utility, as do their clients. They, like the general public, are unhappy with the way the department muddles through everything from maintaining water pipes to handling routine consumer complaints. But they didn’t come away with any inside information about how Mayor Eric Garcetti and the council will fix the department. All Wesson would say is “we have to have a serious conversation about how do we make this department work more efficiently.”
City hall is slowly trying to agree on a DWP shakeup. The mayor said any change should continue his power to hire and fire board members and the department general manager. City Councilman Felipe Fuentes has his own proposal, supported by Wesson. It would create a new full time board to run the department, replacing the present board, which is appointed by the mayor, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Peter Jamison. Fuentes heads the council’s Energy Environmental Committee.
All these players have a lot of power and it’s hard to take Wesson seriously when he asks us not to blame elected officials. As veteran city hall observer Jack Humphreville wrote in CityWatch, “ These reforms are Management 101 that should have been implemented years ago instead of continuing to kick the can down the road.”