Saturday, November 08, 2008

CityWatchLA - Welcome Sign Comes Down at Board Meetings

CityWatch, Nov 7, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 90

DWP Watch
By Stephen Box

This past Tuesday I traveled to the DWP Commission meeting in order to request a repeal of the ban on cyclists during the DWP's Griffith Park Festival of Lights. This was my 4th visit to the Commission this year in an effort to lift the ban and this is my third year of fighting to lift the prohibition. (I've also gone to the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee, Councilman LaBonge, San Antonio and the Parks, Rec and Open Space Committee, all in an effort to sway the DWP)

I arrived late to find a thinly populated room with Commissioner Forescee Hogan-Rowles chairing the Commission, Commissioner Lee Kanon Alpert to her left and Commissioner Wally Knox to her right.

The Commission Chambers, traditionally a full house, was thinly populated and those in attendance seemed distracted and bored with a couple most certainly taking a nap.

I tried to sign in for public comment but my opportunity had passed so I attempted to turn in a speaker card for the last item on the agenda, only to be informed that they heard that item at the beginning of the session because of the large number of people who turned out to speak. I asked how many people turned out and was told seven. That included Councilmembers Garcetti and LaBonge.

With little to do but watch, I settled in and was immediately struck by the new tone and demeanor of the proceedings.

A couple of contracts come up for approval which prompted DWP GM David Nahai to address the issue of conflict of interest and DWP Chief Operating Officer Raman Raj's relationship with DWP vendors. Nahai began an overview of the process to ensure that all contracts were executed openly and transparently and in accord with the DWP's ethics policies, only to be cut off by Commissioner Alpert who said "I know Mr. Raj, I've had conversations with Mr. Raj and I've experienced his commitment to an ethical style of operation. I don't need to hear any more, Mr. Nahai. I trust Mr. Raj and I trust you."

Commissioner Knox leaned into the microphone and offered his endorsement saying "I echo Commissioner Alpert's comments."

Chair Hogan-Rowles beamed, the speaker who was preparing to speak was relieved, the issue was put to rest and the Commission voted unanimously to approve the contracts.

Long gone were the days of the (Commissioner Nick) Patsauoras-Nahai tension. Days when one could show up a half hour late and still make public comment. The DWP Commission had morphed into a mutual admiration club with checks and balances and oversight replaced by a new love fest environment. All that was missing was a round of Kumbaya and some Graham Crackers and milk.

The meeting adjourned and the room cleared, quickly.

I found myself standing in Commission Chambers with Nahai and Knox and so I took the opportunity to present my case for the repeal of the ban on cyclists in Griffith Park during the DWP's Festival of Lights.

Mr. Nahai made eye contact, listened, nodded and seemed to be interested. Knox paused for a moment, looked at Mr. Nahai and dismissed me with the simple comment "Cyclists have been given concessions and access to the Festival. They're allowed in on Bike Night." He then nodded, turned and left the room. Apparently he thinks that cyclists should celebrate the holidays on Nov 25th. He's wrong.

Since I had the opportunity I charged ahead and pointed out that a DWP ban on cyclists violated State Law (CVC 21 - Uniformity Code which precludes municipalities from restricting cyclists unless expressly permitted) Griffith Park Charter (transportation “kept within the reach of the most modest means.”) and simple logic. (who on earth can defend a ban on cyclists in an urban wilderness environment, all in an effort to make way for more automobiles who will then spend 90 minutes in a traffic jam)

Nahai responded that stakeholders had responded favorably to the DWP's "Bike Night" access plan. I pointed out that there were no stakeholders in favor of the "Bike Night Preview" on November 25th and that, in fact, I had the support of the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee in lifting the ban. I pointed out that the significant stakeholder attitude was one of opposition to an auto-centric Festival.

I stated clearly that the DWP's ban on cyclists was simply indefensible and asked him to lift it. To his credit he never wavered but simply acknowledged my argument and promised to investigate. I thanked him and turned for the door. As I crossed the room, he called out, "By the way, I admire and respect your tenacity."

The ball is now in Nahai's court. Here's hoping the holidays are happy for everybody in Los Angeles, including the cyclists.

(Stephen Box is an important cyclist advocate in Los Angeles and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

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