2/25/2002 LADWP reports on its community outreach program
On the agenda for the February 19 meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners was an interesting item: an "informational letter" to the Board documenting the progress of the "Northern District Community Outreach Plan." In November 2001 (shortly after LA Water and Power Commissioner Dominic Rubalcava boasted that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's [LADWP] budget for litigation was larger than Inyo County's entire annual budget) it was decided to initiate a community outreach program in the Owens Valley. The letter submitted to the February 19 meeting was a report documenting the progress of the new program.

The report's summary includes the observation that "Due to LADWP's long and controversial history in the Eastern Sierra, local public opinion of LADWP is mixed." This must have come as a real surprise to the LA Water Commissioners! The summary went on to conclude that "providing timely, accurate information on LADWP activities, along with focused outreach efforts, is expected to improve the public perception of LADWP."

If LADWP really wishes to improve the public's perception of it, it need only to start showing good faith in carrying out its obligations under the Long Term Inyo-LA Water Agreement and associated EIR and MOU. The fact that the Department is already a defendant in two lawsuits regarding its failure to comply with the Water Agreement should give the LA Water Commissioners a hint that LADWP's problems are not simply a matter of public perception. Familiarity with the aphorism "actions speak louder than words" would eliminate the need for the "community outreach" program entirely.

Some other noteworthy items from the informational letter:
1) A newsletter promoting the self-serving interpretation of the Drought Recovery Policy developed by LADWP's consultant Montgomery Watson Harza will be sent to all Owens Valley residences. LADWP newsletters regarding other subjects are also under consideration.
2) LADWP is considering creating an "Owens Valley Alliance group" to provide a forum for LADWP to "provide information about ongoing activities" and receive input regarding "...issues of importance, concerns and needs of Owens Valley residents." This is a particularly cynical strategy. LADWP knows that the Inyo-LA Technical Group and the Inyo County Water Commission are established forums with the same objectives that LADWP gives for its "Owens Valley Alliance". The intent seems to be to "divide and conquer" by creating a so-called "citizens group" it will confuse the public and provide a means to attempt to challenge the credibility of the existing forums.

The potential fly in LADWP's ointment, however, will come when it attempts to recruit members for its new organization. Does it seriously expect to find people knowledgeable about the Water Agreement who will donate their free time to serve on LADWP's committee? If not, how much will it pay people to be members?

What would be your price to become a dupe for LADWP? $1000? $10,000? $1,000,000? Would LADWP throw in health insurance as part of the deal? I hope readers will engage in some serious soul-searching on this question and make up your minds soon you never know when the recruiter for the Owens Valley Alliance will call!

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