Mayor Eric Garcetti just sold out Los Angeles by pushing through the Delta Tunnels. Two of his five appointees to the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the giant water wholesaler for the region, voted yes on diverting water from the Sacramento River under the San Francisco Bay Delta to the South, helping to ensure an overwhelming majority vote.
Up until the very last minute, Garcetti waffled on taking a position on the massive multi-billion-dollar boondoggle—a few billion of which the pro-utility ratepayer advocate at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power considers “affordable” for Angelenos when the metro area ranks the fifth poorest in the nation.
Then, Garcetti thought of a brilliant way to look like he was against the Twin Tunnels that will bring no additional water to Los Angeles while selling out ratepayers who elected him.
He told a gathering at the Sacramento Press Club just before the MWD vote that he supported the construction of just one massive tunnel, not two. He said that he was taking the “Jerry Brown approach,” i.e. taking the correct policy decision, not the expedient one.
In fact, he took the expedient decision, not the correct one, if what he’s really after is securing Jerry Brown’s loyalty in case Garcetti decides to run for higher office. That Garcetti might run is the scuttlebutt in Sacramento, with the mayor telling media at the Press Club yesterday that polls on the race for governor make it “crystal clear that it’s open.”
Governor Brown, whose Twin Tunnels project is his baby, had spent the previous week lobbying many of the 38 representatives of the agencies that belong to the MWD. That could not have been lost on Garcetti. Few have the heart to say no to a hand that could help feed them, and the same can be said for Garcetti’s relationship to corporations with an intense interest in the Twin Tunnels.
Last year, Stewart Resnick, owner of The Wonderful Company with Lynda Resnick, donated $100,000 to a Garcetti-backed effort to expand public transit, Measure M. The Wonderful Company uses more water than all of Los Angeles to make POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Fiji Water, Wonderful Almonds, Wonderful Pistachios, and other agricultural products, according to Mother Jones. The couple has donated $4,450 over the years to Garcetti’s campaigns for city council and for mayor.
Bechtel Corporation, the giant engineering firm, contributed $100,000 to the Mayor’s Fund via The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. According to its website, the foundation has also donated $11 million to the Public Policy Institute of California, which has churned out pro-tunnel studies.
Goldman Sachs, which made a financing presentation to the Westlands Water District before that district pulled out of the Delta Tunnels project, contributed $400,000 to the Mayor’s Fund. Kathleen Brown, the Governor’s sister, worked for Goldman Sachs for a nearly a decade, and also sits on the board of the Mayor’s Fund. Garcetti has amassed $32 million in behested donations to the Mayor’s Fund and other favored causes.
According to Southern California Public Radio, the amount Garcetti has raised in behested donations is twice what Jerry Brown has commanded, and more than 40 times what Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom has collected in the same period.
No wonder Garcetti is shaking the corporate Pom-Poms for Wonderful and other potential campaign donors who will benefit off any tunnel far more than Angelenos ever will.
Garcetti is tunneling into the connections he will need to move on, while Los Angeles will have to dig itself out of a hole that will swallow up the financial resources needed to wean Los Angeles off of Delta water via recycling, conservation, and other programs that Garcetti so ardently claims to back.