From the Balcony: This doesn't hold water

I've been doing a lot of head scratching lately, trying to make heads or tails of some of things I find to be massive lapses of judgment around town.

First, what the heck is going on with Glendale Water & Power? They tell us over and over and over how we all must conserve water. They sweeten the notion by telling us that mandatory conservation will save us money. Then they come out and say they are losing money and have to raise rates.

What? You can't tell us we can save money by conserving water and then raise our water prices. At least not with a straight face, right? If you ask me, it feels like an enormous pile of … false advertising.

Attention, Glendale Water & Power: Stop talking about how customers can save money while you contemplate a rate increase. It's completely two-faced. It's naive at best and blatantly deceptive at worst!

And don't think I'm complaining on my behalf. I have a pool, so my summer water bill is crazy anyway. But why should anyone have to endure a backward economic model that relies on raising prices when demand goes down? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Think about it. What would happen if Damon's restaurant reduced the size of its Mai Tai, charged two bucks more and said, "It's not less cocktail, it's more sobriety!" They'd go out of business.

But I digress.

On the upside, the lack of common sense on the part of Glendale Water & Power got me to thinking about this attempt to find a brand statement for the city of Glendale.

I figured I'd lend a hand to the branding effort. Not for free, of course. If the city likes my proposed brand position, they can pay me for it. I know the value of intellectual property, and I'm not giving this away.

Glendale has a real untapped opportunity to brand itself as something unique. But in order to brand itself differently, it must first do things differently. If we put a premium on intelligence instead of condoning the inane, we can brand ourselves as:

Glendale — The smarter city.

Of course, for the brand to have validity, we must live up to it. How? Let's start with the City Council rejecting any GWP rate increase solely on the stupidity of the request itself. Let's declare that, "In Glendale, no utility company can promote conservation as a money-saving opportunity while simultaneously raising prices." Why? We're Glendale — The smarter city.

We could keep going and be smarter about the city's landscaping. No more grass medians. No more nonnative plants decorating public areas. Instead, we replace those plants with drought-tolerant alternatives. Why? We're Glendale — The smarter city.

But why stop there? We could be smarter about business development and smarter about education. Like any good brand, ours could be extended to every aspect of Glendale.

How about we subsidize the city's budget by fining common-sense violators? That would be smarter law enforcement. We start with a fine for texting drivers in Glendale. Research shows that texting and driving is as lethal as driving drunk, and drivers are 23 times more at risk of a "crash or near-crash event" when texting.

The smarter move would be to impose a real fine for driving without common sense — say $500 for each offense. I say we tap dumb for everything it's worth. We could use the money to subsidize smarter things like arts and education for our smarter children.

We could hire motorcycle patrol officers to focus solely on common-sense violators. Trust me. I see people texting and driving all the time. We could easily pay for the officer salaries and still have enough left over to buy our own NFL team. Oh wait. We're the smarter city. We should let L.A. foot the bill for that.

The money made from fining the dumb could be a real goldmine. Putting a premium on intelligence would give us a unique brand. Best of all, it's one we can actively build for ourselves.

Or we could just be like every other city and let utility companies like Glendale Water & Power get away with a rate increase because we conserved water intelligently. In that case, we couldn't really call ourselves the smarter city, could we?

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is senior manager of communications for DIRECTV and a copywriting professor at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. Gary may be reached at

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