Saturday, April 4, 2015

Robert Fellner's Los Angeles Times Column On Excessive L.A. DWP Pay Is Having A Major Impact

Mod: Once in a while the good guys win. Something Tattler readers know is true because occasionally we do. Win, that is. It is only fitting. Robert Fellner's discovery of Sierra Madre's then California-leading $37,000 yearly per city employee health care plans played a pivotal role in the defeat by the voters of Measure UUT last April. The costs of those health care plans having since been halved. Robert is also the creator and project manager for the Transparent California website, something that is giving city halls indigestion all over the state. I received the following e-mail from him yesterday. Apparently since the publication of his expose' on LA's DWP in Monday's edition of the Los Angeles Times things have gotten kind of exciting.

Hi John: I just wanted to share with you an op-ed of mine that was published Monday by The Los Angeles Times which highlighted my findings on excessive DWP pay. Obviously a placement in the Times is a huge deal and has already made a big impact.

Outraged residents have been e-mailing us through the TransparentCalifornia.com site (link) to express their thanks for the op-ed, but shock and disgust at its findings. Local advocacy groups and insiders have told me the op-ed has created a Public Relations nightmare for the DWP, particularly because they were planning to roll out a proposed 5-8% rate hike a year, for each of the next 5 years!

Even residents outside of LA have reached out to share their experiences with excessive public pay in their area – a few may have even given me an idea or two for my next piece.

I’ve also done two talk radio shows – CBS LA and ABC LA – to help bring attention to this issue. This is what we always hoped Transparent California would accomplish; present people with the facts so that they can make informed decisions for themselves. Now California residents cannot be so easily hoodwinked by every rate or tax increase that is claimed to be absolutely necessary to keep government functioning when, in reality, most of it is going to pay packages that dwarf their own.

Until next time!

Sincerely,
Robert Fellner
Project Manager, Transparent California

(Mod: Tell the truth and you can make a difference. Give taxpayers a place to look that truth up for themselves and you might very well ignite a prairie fire. Here is the L.A. Times column.)

Los Angeles Times: DWP ratepayers may get soaked again
As detailed in a recent paper by TransparentCalifornia.com,  DWP employee pay is up to three times greater than that of its private-sector counterparts. The average full-time, year-round DWP employee made $114,941 in 2013. This is despite providing a level of service that in 2011 had it ranked the 13th most hated company in the nation in one survey.


Inflated pay at DWP is not new. The L.A. Times, Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Daily News have reported on it for years, the latter going so far as to include a prominent editor's note: “If you read only one story today, I hope it will be this one. The DWP's bloated salaries, poor management and soaring rates are the most glaring example of what's wrong with Los Angeles.” That was in 2007. As the Daily News reported then, 13% of the utility's 8,880 employees were paid at least $100,000. Now, 53% of its 10,299 employees are paid at least that amount.

DWP custodians made an average $55,691 in base pay in 2013, compared with the Los Angeles market average for janitors and cleaners of $26,810, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. DWP plumbers earned an average of $102,587, compared with the BLS average wage for Los Angeles plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters of $65,350. DWP security officers earned $65,778 — more than double the $26,640 BLS average for Los Angeles security guards.

Of course, living in the L.A. area on an annual income below $30,000 is difficult to impossible. But this is just another reason why imposing rate hikes on low-income workers to help fund pay packages up to triple their own should be addressed.

DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo, who received $232,000 total pay in 2013, responded to such pay discrepancies by saying the comparisons don't take into account all the factors that can lead to differences. In some past analyses, he may have had a point.

But the Transparent California study matched DWP employees by job title, responsibility and requirements with their Los Angeles-area counterparts as determined by the BLS.

Additionally, the study compared the value of benefit contributions, not just pay. DWP employees contribute 6% of their salaries to their pensions — about the same as the 6.2% that private-sector employees contribute to Social Security.

But that's where the pension similarities end. DWP employees receive pensions that are at least triple the value of what typical private-sector employees can expect from Social Security.

And if the widespread criticism of systemic billing errors, horrific customer service, overcharges and lack of accountability for millions of dollars in two controversial nonprofit trusts is any indication, DWP employees are not outperforming their private-sector counterparts to earn such inflated pay and pensions.

Reform is possible. In the public outcry that followed The Times' 2013 reports of the agency's unlimited sick-leave policy, DWP's operating contract was modified. This policy was reined in, but little was done to reform overall compensation.

Meanwhile, residents of Los Angeles face yet another rate hike, only a couple of years after an 11.1% increase in electricity rates. DWP officials have recently suggested that they plan to seek recurring rate hikes of at least 2% per year beginning this year to fix infrastructure. But CityWatch is reporting that Angelenos should expect rate hikes of 5% to 8% a year, for each of the next five years. Residents in January paid 20% more for electricity than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

These higher prices act as a regressive tax on the poor, who are forced to spend a proportionally larger share of their income on energy than their wealthy neighbors. With the growing concern about income inequality, policymakers should think twice before stacking the deck further against the poor through more rate increases.

Instead, the inflated pay of DWP employees should be brought into the same universe as comparable private-sector salaries to help pay for new department costs.

Robert Fellner is research director at TransparentCalifornia.com, a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute and California Policy Center.

Great stuff.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

35 comments:

  1. Congratulations to Mr. Fellner and the organizations he works with.

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  2. Shining the light of truth on these agencies is the only way to ferret out the pests and send them running. the way I see it there are a couple of options here. either the public sector employees can learn to live with less or they can continue down this path of largesse until the entire system collapses completely and then they will have zero.

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  3. An object lesson on why city hall in Sierra Madre has tried to raise utility taxes in Sierra Madre three times.

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  4. I think some of us didn't mind paying a little more if we were getting more, but, were not. Were paying more and feeling not only like were getting less but that those getting more want more and are actually against our way of life here. Preserving Sierra Madre seems like a one way struggle by us residents.

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    1. Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, or treated like a sucker. Sometimes it isn't so much about the money as it is the sense that you're being taken advantage of by people who have contempt for you.

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    2. In this case, it appears the only people getting more are the LADWP employees - a HELL OF A LOT more.

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    3. It is corruption on steroids. The LA County politicians accept campaign cash payouts from govt employee unions like the ones at the DWP, and in exchange they are given salaries and benefits that dwarf those of most taxpayers. Cook County has nothing on Los Angeles County.

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  5. In the minds of these public "servants" they believe that they deserve this level of compensation. after all, they provide stellar service for the community. (How's your water been latey?)

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  6. It's amazing that everyone put an outraged spotlight on the City Of Bell regarding their outrageous pay structure, but situations such as this in the L.A.D.W.P. just get glanced over but not called out. There are a LOT of excessive payouts going on in local and county municipalities that aren't put in the spotlight like they should be. One good example would be the city of Desert Hot Springs that, the last I heard a year ago, was nearing bankruptcy, but the cops were getting outrageous pay in excess of $160,000 per year. Absolutely DWARFING virtually the income level of virtually every resident in the city who was footing the bill for their salaries. Robert Fellner's crusade is EXACTLY what this state needs before it sinks like the Titanic, or more appropriately, Detroit. . .

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  7. Well said 8:53. I think a lot of people would agree with that statement.

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  8. I feel like decisions that effect our life have been made that didn't reflect what we paid for them.

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  9. In the last 30 or 40 years, public service has turned into a way to get rich.

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    1. Government and its associated unions figured out they could take the publics' money without any real political risk. You cannot take taxpayer capitulation out of this equation. People either vote against their own interests, or don;t even vote at all. The result is some of the worst corruption in the US.

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    2. It'll be interesting to see the larger trends going on here in historical perspective...or maybe horrifying.

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    3. Has anyone done a similar study of Pasadena's utilities?

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  10. People need retirement plans for when they get old. It is poor leadership that has not controlled these plans or at least demanded professional results or be replaced.

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    Replies
    1. That and the whole operation is run by crooks.

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  11. I am not educated in economics, but it seems like there was some kind of imitation in the public sector of the worst excesses in the private sector. Then the private sector had a severe correction, but the public did not. So the Greed is Good philosophy had to quiet down in one area but stayed strong in the other.

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  12. The corruption in Public Sector Union controlled jobs is endemic and system-wide. I applaud Mr.Fellner's expose,
    I doubt any amount of transparency will cause an epiphany of conscience and diligence by the Union or its members.
    Take our micro example of Sierra Madre 'government'. The City Manager and Director of Public Works are incompetent and obstructive - yet never sanctioned.Likewise their Unionised staff. The POA sue the City but shot an unarmed man in the back.No consequences.The City Employee has total job security regardless of incompetence,dishonesty or other failures.The litany of complaints is huge and disturbing.
    The cure? Starve them of money. And I really mean starve. Let the City go BK. and start afresh.I know,no chance of a proactive move like that. Instead, this Ponzi scheme of inflated salaries and benefits will eventually collapse but before it does,it will bleed the sucker taxpayer dry. unless the taxpayer snaps out of apathy, writes in the Tattler,goes to the Council meetings and lets their voice be heard

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  13. One problem we may be ignoring is that the city workers are just following orders and needed a better council voted in.

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    1. It was the current council that cut those $37,000 a year health benefits plans in half. Those plans were the most expensive in California. Something that was supported under Mayors Walsh, Moran, Buchanan and Runaway Joe. I certainly hope you are not talking about going back to the likes of those four profligate buffoons.

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  14. 10:28 people need pensions it's the leadership that is failing us. Corruption is when the city manager controls everything and people in charge of their departments can't make the decisions that are best for the community. If the city manager has that much power that is corruption.

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  15. This is a fine mess. Unions started because of the need to protect the working class from the corruption and abuse of the ruling class, then became as corrupt as the people they were trying to block. Inevitable?

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    1. Human beings don't seem to be able to do any better.
      Otherwise, socialism and communism would work.

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    2. If the new ruling class fixes toilets and parks cars for the DWP, then it is time for a revolution.

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  16. Transparent California is a tremendous resource. However, I'm not surprised that Arcadia Unified School District hasn't reported anything. The most secretive, incestuous district around. If they're so proud of the schools, they should report the pay and pensions. Most teachers retire north of $100,000 a year pension, while administrators getting much more. It's disgusting, but so Arcadia to keep residents in the dark. Move along, there's nothing to see.

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    1. I found their pensions here http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/2013/calstrs/?e=ARCADIA%20UNIFIED

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  17. Anyone that talks REVOLUTION is a scary person. We the people just need to vote in the right leaders and thats exactly what happened in SM's last election. NOW, support this council as they are supporting us and quit talking revolution, that would be our down fall.

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    1. Not that I advocate going to the barricades or anything, but LA County is rotten to the core. Very few people there vote because most everyone has given up. The thieves are having a picnic on the taxpayer dime.

      LA Times: L.A. dismal voter turnout: 8.6% as ballot count continues
      http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-another-dismal-voter-la-election-20150304-story.html

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    2. Agreed 12:25.

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  18. Apathy's the killer.

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  19. http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2014/07/26/leaked-video-desert-hot-springs-police/13202837/

    I had no idea that former wide-spot in the road between Palm Springs and the Morongo Valley grade had its own PD.

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    1. Desert Hot Springs is on financial death row.
      http://calwatchdog.com/2013/11/18/state-of-ca-worsened-desert-hot-springs-financial-problems/

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    2. That link by 3.18 to Desert Hot Springs shows how it could go for Sierra Madre if we dicker and dither with an inept City Attorney, weak Council and Senior City Management just feathering their own benefits) nests. But the cause ,as others have indicated is apathy -back to the '7 Deadly Sins ' sloth(electorate) and greed(City Employees)and pride(a Council that will not admit & confront the issues)

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