By Ed Uehling
Pat Mulroy, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority
(SNWA) and the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) formally
submitted her resignation from both positions on December 19. The
Board of County Commissioners of Clark County (BCC), which also acts
as the Board of LVVWD, plans to pick a new General Manager during its
January 7, 2014 meeting.
While the selection only applies to LVVWD, which is a water purveyor
supplied by SNWA, the choice will undoubtedly impact a subsequent
selection by the SNWA Board. This is because (1) three of the seven
board members of SNWA are County Commissioners; (2) there exists an
historical imperative to continue the current structure whereby both
are lead by the same person; and (3) the two agencies are, de facto,
one agency. The SNWA appears to have been created as a means of
doubling (duplicating?) water revenues and simultaneously fulfilling
Pat Mulroy’s autocratic and imperious fantasies and her “edifice
complex.” She appears to fashion herself as a twenty-first century,
international, William Mulholland, builder (exactly one hundred years
ago) of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, destroyer of Owens Valley, River and
Lake, and subject of the movie, “Chinatown.”
Pat Mulroy, regarded as the most skillful bureaucrat/politician in
Nevada, housed her latest empire (SNWA) in the most upscale office
building in Las Vegas, and brought us a $3.5 billion debt, massive
increases in the cost of water (93 percent in the last decade alone),
and plans for unnecessarily spending tens of billions more.
The only two candidates publicly mentioned to date are Clark County
Commissioner Larry Brown, and Mulroy’s right-hand assistant, John
Entsminger. Brown would be a vast improvement over the secretive,
deceptive, bait-and-switch Mulroy-Entsminger administration. His
appointment would have the additional advantage of removing him from
the BCC, where he rubber-stamps without question nearly every
bureaucratic scheme to increase taxes, fees, fines, borrowings, and,
of course, water rates and public employee salaries.
Despite the pluses inherent in the selection of Brown, he, like
Entsminger, lacks the will to reconsider the unfair and bewildering
rate structure of SNWA and the incentive to tame these two spendthrift
agencies. Both candidates benefit financially and politically by
inaction. In the mold of their mentor, Ms. Mulroy, the one solution
for every problem, even self-created disasters, is to raise rates.
In an excellent Review-Journal column on 22 December 2013, John L.
Smith appeals for the commencement of transparency as job
qualification numero uno of the new General Manager.
That is a pipe dream with either of the named candidates. However, in
addition to promoting transparency, the new director must restructure
SNWA’s unfair and wasteful rate structure through which the poor
subsidize the rich, slash the $120,000 compensation per employee (the
highest of any utility in the nation?), and scuttle the absurd $15
billion pipeline, which would place raw water in the valley for a
minimum $8000 per acre-foot. That is $8000 more than SNWA pays for raw
water from Lake Mead, a fact that the SNWA propaganda machine ignores.
Also, the ability of SNWA to withdraw an unlimited amount of recycled
water from Lake Mead in the form of return-credits is carefully
omitted from SNWA’s PR materials—even though SNWA now withdraws more
return-credited water (260,000 acre-feet) than the allocated water its
customers consume/waste (220,000 acre-feet out of the total 300,000
acre-foot allocation of Colorado River water to Nevada). Treated water
is currently retailed by the purveyor agencies of SNWA at an average
price of $1300 per acre-foot after SNWA and LVVWD mark up the pumping
and treatment costs 1000 percent (from $130) to pay Wall Street and
their employees’ unsustainable salaries, pensions and benefits. Note,
the raw, wholesale, pre-treated cost of water from Central Nevada will
COST SNWA six times the marked-up retail price now charged to its
customers ($8000 vs. $1300)!
Perhaps the real purpose of the endless rate increases (8 in 10 years)
by SNWA is to narrow this gap to make the pipeline more palatable?
Since no one would chose to buy this water and since the modus
operandi of SNWA is to FORCE its customers to pay, this is doubtless
the logic behind the fanatic and costly ($50 million per year)
campaign to force the construction of the Central Nevada pipeline.
Neither candidate would have the stomach for dealing with any of the
above issues. Both are, in fact, being rewarded for NOT making reforms
or cutting budgets. Both are active participants in the
play-along-to-get-along “juice” culture of Clark County.
Fundamentally, Brown has shown himself to desire a comfortable,
conflict-free life of influence and power, and Entsminger is a 100
percent participant in the culture of lies, corruption and
extravagance that pervades both agencies.
It is doubtful anyone living in Southern Nevada possesses the will,
knowledge, or skill essential to wean these institutions into the real
world of serving, rather than milking, their customers. Ms. Mulroy
essentially converted a sacred resource, water, into salaries,
pensions, benefits, lucrative contracts, development schemes, and
back-room payoffs to Clark County’s huge herd of sacred cows. Before
her arrival, water rates, even though much lower than today’s, paid
all expenses AND capital improvements AND acted as an economic engine
of Southern Nevada. Now SNWA and LVVWD are drags on the economy and
we, water customers and citizens, are mere drones placed at the
service of Queen Mulroy, whose sycophants, including Entsminger and
Brown, do nothing more than protect and prop up her empire.
Entsminger should be appointed acting director at his current salary,
because he, like Mulroy, is verifiably unsuited to direct these
agencies toward customer or public service. Give him the additional
year now “needed” (according to SNWA) to finish the third straw
intake, a disaster-in-waiting, which he and Mulroy started.
This will give the Board time to conduct a nation-wide search for a
turn-around expert in utilities. That person must establish a new
culture and ethic in local government utilities. Unfortunately,
opening this door to reform of our water system leaves Mr. Brown in a
position to continue taxing, fining, and indebting us all. Half a loaf
is better than nothing at all.