Scout Troop’s Christmas Tree Lot Gets a Shock From DWP Fee Hike

Christmas-tree-lot-unloading-DSC_0115In Mission Hills, it’s an annual December tradition: Boy Scout Troop 104 opens a Christmas tree lot on Devonshire Street, the troop’s one big fundraiser to pay for the upcoming year’s camping trips and other activities, like volunteer work with senior citizens and the police department.

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Local businesses are very supportive. Primestor, the company that owns the vacant lot just east of Sepulveda Blvd., donates the site. Andy Gump donates the fencing, portable toilets, a temporary power pole, overhead lights, and the labor to dig the holes for the posts from which the lights are suspended.

The parents of the scouts donate their time, a requirement of being in the troop. Everyone is assigned a schedule of mandatory three-hour shifts, and some put in extra hours. And, of course, the scouts volunteer at the tree lot, even the Cub Scouts.

Guess who doesn’t donate or volunteer.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Amanda Lovett, whose son Keith is a scout, is the treasurer of Troop 104. Every year for six years she has gone to the local DWP office and paid a $100 deposit, plus a $300 fee for connecting an overhead power line to the power pole that Andy Gump installed earlier, at no charge.

But this year, the DWP informed Amanda that the fee for connecting the temporary overhead line has been increased.

Guess how much.

It’s now $1,000.

LADWP’s newly hiked fee for “temporary overhead service of 200 amps or less” is posted on the utility’s website under “Construction Services.”

Of course, Boy Scout Troop 104 is not in the construction business. It’s a nonprofit that teaches kids the importance of service to others. This year the troop donated ten Christmas trees to MEND — Meet Each Need with Dignity — an organization in Pacoima that provides food, clothing and assistance to people living in poverty.

Keith showed a visitor a certificate of appreciation from MEND and talked about scouting’s emphasis on volunteer work. “Every Eagle Scout has to do an ‘Eagle project,’” he said, which involves a significant effort at “giving back” to the community.

None of that mattered to the DWP. The city-owned utility is an unregulated monopoly, merrily spending money and raising rates, and now taking the campfire marshmallows out of the mouths of Boy Scouts.

This month, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin released a new study of the DWP prepared by Navigant Consulting, Inc. It devotes a chapter to problems with the utility’s “governance structure,” reporting that while the DWP is overseen by the mayor, the City Council, the City Attorney and a five-member Board of Commissioners, “no single entity has enough insight into or authority over Department operations and finances to hold it fully accountable.”

A more plausible explanation is that they’re all in it together.

While you were busy getting ready for the holidays, you may have missed the Ratepayer Advocate, Fred Pickel, blessing the proposed five-year hike in water rates as “just and reasonable” a month after a consumer group called for him to be fired and Mayor Eric Garcetti responded by defending him during a radio interview.

You may have missed the Board of Commissioners voting to approve the water rate hikes, and Commission President Mel Levine declaring with relief that higher rates will protect the DWP’s bond rating. That signals Wall Street investors to keep loaning money to our city-owned utility, which already has more debt than its peers.

You may have missed reports earlier this year that LADWP salaries are as much as two and a half times the salaries of comparable jobs nationwide, and that most LADWP workers pay nothing for their health insurance.

You may have missed Mayor Garcetti and the City Council promising raises to city workers in 2017, vowing to hire 5,000 new employees, and throwing out the 2012 pension reforms that were supposed to achieve modest savings for taxpayers.

In Los Angeles, money grows on power poles.

Every year, LADWP transfers 8 percent of the power system’s gross revenues — hundreds of millions of dollars — to the city general fund, to be spent on expenses like salaries and pensions.

Next year, $56 of that money will have come from the extra $700 LADWP charged Boy Scout Troop 104 to run a wire from a nearby power pole to the Christmas tree lot.

Ebeneezer Scrooge would be impressed.

But the Grinch must be upset that he’s lost his job to a more experienced Christmas stealer.



  1. The Ratepayer Advocate is spouting the same nonsense as the California Public Utilities Commission when it takes the utility’s interests as the only ones to be considered, not the bona fide public interest.

    The city of Los Angeles continues its spiral into a dark abyss where it will join San Bernardino and Stockton for its financial transgressions. Thirty years ago, DWP, the Airport and the Port were relatively well-run operations (at least as good as any government can hope to operate) and contributed to the city without gouging ratepayers and customers. These three entities should be sold off to the highest bidder and the proceeds used to begin the process of paying off the crushing debt and pension load Angelenos suffer under and which suppress business formation and expansion.

  2. Why in the “fuque” are they transferring money to the City when billions are needed to update the water mains? First there was Detroit, then Stockton, then Vallejo then San Bernardino……..

  3. Troop 104 needs an “angel” that will donate the use of a suitable generator, and the required fuel, and tell the DWP to “pound sand”.

  4. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    If the troop plans to stay in the tree-lot business next year, would that same $1000 buy/rent 1 (or 2 ! ) generators and fuel (with a nose thumbing at DWP thrown in for free!), or does the DWP-City cabal require a “generator permit” or some other extortion, even if no DWP connection is involved? (or perhaps some solar contractor would lend some panels and batteries ?)

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