Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

After DWP union objects, City Council drops proposal to gain authority over the utility's pension plan

Members of the Los Angeles City Council scuttled a plan to seek power over the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s retirement benefits Tuesday after hundreds of the utility’s workers showed up to denounce the move.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks had called for a March 8 ballot measure that would ask voters to give the council more authority over the DWP’s retirement system, which operates independently from the rest of the city.

Councilman Paul Koretz panned that idea, saying he did not want to engage in a costly election-year fight with the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents DWP employees and had hundreds of members in the audience.

“This is as pointless a thing as I’ve seen on an agenda,” said Koretz, who was elected in 2009 after the union -- and one of its fellow locals -- spent nearly $40,000 on his behalf.

Brian D’Arcy, the head of the DWP employee union, said Parks’ proposal never should have reached the council agenda, saying it circumvented the public notice provision of the state’s open meetings law and was the result of a “dysfunctional” process.

"They're not moving our pension under council control," he said. "They did a pretty remarkable job of screwing the other two up."

The costs of the city's other two retirement systems -- one for public-safety employees and the other for non-DWP civilian workers -- are rising so quickly they could consume nearly one-third of the city's general fund budget by 2015 unless major changes are made. Worried about those costs, the council voted minutes later to draft a ballot measure that, if approved, would pare back retirement benefits for newly hired police officers and firefighters.

Parks withdrew his proposal for the DWP after his colleagues denounced the plan. But he said his proposal was designed to give the council the ability to reduce the size of benefits for newly hired DWP workers -- not manage the pension system’s day-to-day affairs.

Parks said the DWP's pension has its own woes, having suffered double-digit losses in the wake of the recession. He also said that the utility is giving benefits that are more generous than those provided to other civilian employees. “This pension system is in no better shape than the other two, and if we take no further action, it will be unsustainable,” he said.

Under the retirement formula provided by pension officials, a DWP employee who retires after 30 years with a salary of $100,000 will receive a $69,000 annual pension.

The council and the DWP’s pension board have been at odds in recent weeks over the 1,600 civilian employees who have transferred to the utility from other city departments. Many of those transfers were authorized by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council as part of an attempt to keep city workers from losing their jobs in departments hit hard by the budget crisis.

DWP officials have been complaining about the cost of those transfers. And they moved to suspend full retirement benefits for any new worker who comes to the utility from another city agency.

The council vetoed that measure two weeks ago, over the protests of Javier Romero, a member of the DWP’s retirement board.

Romero testified Tuesday against Parks’ proposal, drawing cheers from hundreds of his fellow workers. “This time I brought a few of my brothers and sisters,” he told the council, “so that they can see who is undermining their best interests.”

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: DWP employee Eric Bishop holds a sign outside City Hall, where hundreds of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employees gathered to protest a proposed ballot measure that would give the city's elected officials oversight of the utility's pension system. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (25)

An offer they couldn't refuse.


We don't have any politicians with the guts to reform pensions except Arnold. What a bunch of self serving pansies. It is going to take the rest of us to rise up and take control back from the union controlled politicians. So a bunch of these entitled workers show up with placards. What did you expect them to do?

Firstly, anyone earning $100K with the DWP would be hard pressed to earn $25K in the private sector. Secondly, anyone earning $100K with the DWP would not have a pension in the private sector. What is wrong with this picture?

Hello, municipal bankruptcy! Yes, please, the average taxpayer would love nothing better than to bankroll fat-cat unions for guaranteed lifetime cushy jobs.

This is just the beginning of future wars to come , Pension reform is going to have to be addressed sooner or later . And I mean City , County and State pensions are just breaking the bank at all levels . California either faces this head on or we will continue to slide into the pacific . Who ever wins the election will have to address this issue with all the vigor the French President did , And it will get ugly .

I would like to see more of the DWP IBEW campaign donations to the various city council members who voted against this issue. It was horrible to watch how weak our politicians were during the discussion. They go after LAPD pensions but back away from DWP as always to protect it. Shameful

Looks like Mayor V. is going to have to wash and shine his tin cup, for his next Obammy visit, in DC.

"More... More..," Mayor V. said to King Obammy!!

Paul Koretz - bought and paid for by the IBEW.

Watch out, L.A. City Residents. Your water and power bills are about to skyrocket to cover these pension programs.

How many of these workers got paid for their time lobbying City Council today?

The corruption continues...

Paul Koretz - bought and paid for by the IBEW.

Watch out, L.A. City Residents. Your water and power bills are about to skyrocket to cover these pension programs.

How many of these workers got paid for their time lobbying City Council today?

The corruption continues...

Friends grab a beer and take a swig. We are broke...

Imagine a ship that is beginning to sink. The ship's passengers are warned that everyone needs to throw one of their bags overboard in order to keep the ship from sinking. Most of the passengers do so, but one group of about 20% of the passengers bands together and collectively refuses to give up an luggage.

The ship begins sinking more and some of the passengers begin drowning. The 20%, who have close connections to the crew, move to the upper decks of the ship and refuse to move from there. Another round of bag tossing takes place, but the 20% still refuse to let go of any luggage.

The crew tells the 20% that they really need them to give up some baggage, which prompts a riotous clamor. The crew backs down and pretends to ignore the passengers in the lower decks that are beginning to drown in larger numbers.

The ship is California. The 20% are the unions and the passengers taking the bath are the rest of the private sector workers. And the crew represents our political "leaders" that don't have the courage or willpower to make the tough decisions needed to keep the ship from sinking.

Yes, how many pensions will Parks get? On the other hand, how many DWP workers like the DWP employee holding the sign and protesting on City time, got paid to protest? You bet that all of them did! Corruption, corruption, corruption! A million times infinity "Corruption"!

This is absolutely disgusting. State and local governments are broke, the economy is still sluggish, we've all had to cut back but somehow DWP employees should be exempt from any ill effects of the economy?




The issue today wasn't about modifying pension benefits. The issue was whether we (the DWP) want individuals (the Mayor and the City Council), who have done a poor job of guiding this City amid the economic crisis, control of our pension plan that is NOT in crisis.

Why would we want folks who can't manage their money to manage our own money. Make no mistake what Councilman Bernard Parks' true motivation was today: Get access to the hundred of millions of dollars in the DWP Retirement piggy bank and LOOT IT to bankroll the mounting debt that the mayor and the council have built.

The DWP has taken steps to alleviate the pain the rest of the City Departments are feeling. We've transferred about 100 million dollars to the City's General Fund this year alone. We've taken in over 1000 City employees that would have lost their jobs. We're paying for pensions for years of service accumulated at the City (not DWP) for these transfers. We forfeited our 3.25% Cost of Living Adjustment last year guaranteed by our former contract. And we agreed to a new conservative contract that should save money.

We're doing what we can. We, here at the DWP, believe in being part of the LA City family. But in response to the sinking ship analogy that was posted by 'Nathan' I offer this analogy instead:

Imagine the City and DWP as 2 brothers each with their own home. Each has responsibilities, expenses and income. One brother manages his household irresponsibly -- wasting money on maids, butlers, gardeners, chauffeurs and on projects that are unnecessary. The other brother manages his money carefully. When the spendthrift brother becomes insolvent and in danger of losing his home, his employees and his assets, what responsibility does the solvent brother have to give his brother money, hire his brother's employees, and dip into his own savings to pay for the careless brother's financial blunders? In my opinion, NONE. And yet the DWP is expected to clean up after the Mayor and the City Council.

Big Dinger,

While not opposing or endorsing your post, do you have data to support it?

Get ready for more stories about "water shortages" and withholding money from the city's general fund in exchange for doing anything the DWP desires. I wonder how long it would take to solve the illegal immigration problem if we could replace DWP workers with day laborers outside of Home Depot? Why should DWP workers be treated differently than private sector workers. Not to mention Villaraigosa's 1600 fake "job cuts' that just transferred bodies over to the DWP. Disgusting.

Unions like the IBEW are going to destroy our state. They're arrogant and selfish.

The new "bright green energy" will probably be how to live without electricity altogether.

Probably already happening around LA the way rates have increased in the past 2 years.

Surely will be increased more to cover the cost of the unions.

How powerful the LA unions are, but when people have to turn off the power and camp in their houses, that will be less revenue to DWP and rates will go up.

Ah well, we serve the civil servants, why fight it.

Fire them. There will be lines around the blocks of highly qualified people to replace them.

Our city government endorses a direct IV from our veins to their pension blood bank. We're getting weak from the blood loss.

If I recall correctly, Parks was getting well over 100k from his LAPD pension and I am sure he is getting a check for his current job. This guy is rolling in cash.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: