California is struggling with a drought forcing residents to cut back on everything from watering lawns to filling swimming pools.
Everyone is cutting back except the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who have exempted themselves from mandates to reduce water usage. Apparently, the majority of the five-member governing board are washing their government-issued take-home cars multiple times each week and the other two are washing their cars weekly. After Governor Jerry Brown ordered that urban water usage be cut by 25 percent, some of the supervisors actually increased their car washes.
In fairness, other local government officials have pledged to skip car washes for months or to reuse water.
A handful of government officials won't use enough water to solve the drought even if they washed their cars daily. But the message is one we get a lot nowadays: the ordinary rules don't apply to government officials. Rather than being mere public servants, many see themselves as being exempt from rules ordinary citizens must heed.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports:
“When government takes the initiative, it really says something about their leadership,” said Rachel Stich, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Waterkeeper, an environmental group that started a pledge drive for dirty cars. “If they’re going to be asking their residents to conserve water, everybody needs to be stepping up.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had his cars washed more frequently than any of the others, according to the documents obtained under the state public records law. In 2014, Ridley-Thomas had one of his Chrysler 300 Limited sedans washed an average of 2.7 times per week. After the mandate in April, workers washed it 3.1 times per week.
Two other supervisors — Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe — both wash their take-home SUVs about two times a week, and both increased the frequency of washes after Brown’s April mandate (he first declared a state of emergency in January 2014).
The two newest supervisors, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, wash about once a week, and both cut back slightly after the mandate.
Meanwhile, city officials in Long Beach, Santa Monica, Burbank, Malibu and San Gabriel have all pledged to stop washing their cars for two months, as part of the L.A. Waterkeeper drive. About 15,000 people in total have signed up for the “Dirty Car Pledge,” Stich said. Santa Monica, she said, uses recirculated water.
At Los Angeles City Hall, the Bureau of Sanitation and the Police Department have both reduced their washing, a spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said. Garcetti called for city agencies to consider converting washes to recirculated water. About a third of the city’s carwashes reuse water.
Apparently, the biggest water culprit of the board Ridley-Thomas is no stranger to criticism. LA Daily News reports that at the height of recession in 2009 he planned to drop $700,000 of public funds to renovate his county office. Several years later he had county workers renovate his home garage partly at taxpayer expense and nothing was done of it.
Rather than being mere public servants, many public employees or officials now see themselves as being exempt from rules ordinary citizens must follow.