When about 20 million gallons of water deluged parts of the UCLA campus Tuesday after a water main break in Westwood, readers took it as a cue to flood The Times with letters describing how the accident is a symptom of a larger civic ill.
What readers couldn't agree on was exactly what that sickness might be. Several pointed fingers at the L.A. Department of Water and Power's union, whose business manager refuses to let the city audit two ratepayer-funded nonprofits that have spent $40 million over the last decade. Others lamented our collective unwillingness to pay for badly overdue infrastructure improvements.
Those disagreements aside, the general belief among the more than three dozen letter writers is that L.A.'s infrastructure is ailing, and there's little hope for a cure.
Joann Duray of Playa del Rey says it's time for L.A.'s political leaders to make the city pay for repairs:
Los Angeles' infrastructure is failing; taxes must be increased to replace it faster.
This should not be a "political issue"; it should be a "practical issue." Why should the residents of L.A. be responsible for repairing the damage caused by pipe failures rather than having their taxes increased to pay to replace the aging infrastructure? How is it that, as evidenced by his comments in The Times, City Council President Herb Wesson doesn't understand that water rates must be increased to cover the costs?
It's better to pay upfront for new water lines rather than spending millions to mop up the damage caused by deterioration. The mayor and City Council ought to secure the funding that is needed to stop Los Angeles from further deterioration.
Santa Monica resident Philip Schwartz calls on the city to lean on the DWP union:
With regard to the DWP's apparent inability to finance the replacement of century-old infrastructure, and Councilman Paul Koretz's observation that, as The Times put it, "there was only so much more money that ratepayers — or the city — could pony up to replace pipes," allow me to suggest at least a down payment on the necessary work.
Why not have the City Council appropriate the roughly $40 million spent by the nonprofits overseen in part by DWP union boss Brian D'Arcy? I feel confident that these funds could be applied to this much more urgent use.
Perhaps spending this money on repairs would even engender a bit more trust in the DWP to do its job.
Venice resident Mark Ryavec, a former legislative analyst for Los Angeles, blames union-warped priorities:
Of course there are no funds to replace L.A.'s crumbling water infrastructure. DWP employees rent the City Council members with political donations and campaign help in exchange for much higher pay and benefits than other city workers receive. And then the union rips off millions of dollars for some Joint Training Institute.
The physical corruption of L.A.'s pipes was preceded by years of moral corruption of elected officials.