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L.A. trickle-down theory

Our mayor tells us to conserve water, but when it comes to his yard, well, those gophers were thirsty.

August 13, 2007

Darn those gophers. They are the reason, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, that his irrigation system gushed instead of dripped and made his water usage soar far above comparable homeowners' in his former Mount Washington neighborhood. The little critters allegedly chewed into the drip system and made the mayor, who has called for a 10% reduction in water usage during this time of drought, look like a water hog, according to a Times story Friday.

In the case of Councilman Tony Cardenas, the culprits were his Labradors, who chewed off his sprinkler heads. "My dog," he might as well have said, "ate my Xeriscape."

Angelenos may understand the plight of their elected officials who call for saving water while using more of it than their neighbors. Other residents also have gophers and Labradors -- and large families and Jacuzzis -- and have trouble reaching the reduction goals.

But everyone should try. It's just that using less water is a bit more painful and a lot more galling when politicians who ought to be setting an example instead do the opposite.

The official water-guzzling discovered by reporter Duke Helfand came before Villaraigosa issued his call for the 10% cut, so by now perhaps our leaders have chased away their gophers and trained their dogs and are cutting their use -- not by a tenth of their previous waterlogged ways, but down to 90% of the average for their neighborhoods. Maybe they can get pointers from Controller Laura Chick, or council members Eric Garcetti, Bernard C. Parks, Jack Weiss, Ed Reyes and Janice Hahn, all of whom are water-thrifty.

But what about Councilman Dennis Zine, who wants to keep his front lawn lush to set an example for the neighbors? Councilman, that's the wrong example. Lawns, especially in the hotter San Fernando Valley district you represent, need too much water. Check with the Department of Water and Power for attractive alternatives.

And what can you say about City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo? Not only does he use twice as much water as his neighbors, but he had his water shut off for nonpayment. First comes the bill (every two months), then 19 days later the delinquency notice, then after that the shut-off warning, then another five days to pay. And the city's elected lawyer still couldn't scrape the payment together? Maybe it's a good thing. The same sloppy habits that got him in trouble over car insurance and his wife's business taxes may this time have saved a few gallons for the rest of us.

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