By Rickey M. Gelb When it comes to common sense on the part of our municipal leaders, the lights are on, but no one’s at home. Or at least, so it seems. An article I read recently discussed the Department of Water and Power, the City of Los Angeles and conservation all at the same time. This is an oxymoron if there ever was one. The article’s author most likely doesn’t drive by city buildings at night and notice the lights are still burning. The City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water and Power are likely one of the largest consumers of the products they are selling and working feverishly to get us to conserve. Our local officials continue to implore us not to hose off our driveways, to water our yards less, to take fewer and faster showers, and to replace our toilets with those that use only one gallon of water. They constantly remind us that we live in a desert and that drought conditions are often made worse by dangerous levels of water consumption. I have proudly saved thousands of gallons of water, utilizing intelligent water practices in both my personal and professional life. But now believe it or not I’m being asked by the City’s Planning Department to more than double my proposed landscaping of a new construction project if I want to get any permits! Even before requesting this permit, I was substantially over my City- determined “tier one allotment,” so this new increase of thousands of gallons of water a day for my mandated future landscaping will be supplied from hundreds of other nearby conserving neighbors. This does not consider the additionally increased water bill I will be forced to pay due to the higher tier rate. So, let me get this straight: the City wants me to conserve water and at the same time demands I increase landscaping which will force me to use additional water. Maybe the City is being managed by smart business people who are trying to sell us cheap razors and copy machines so that they can overcharge us later for the blades and toner. Starting at home If our local officials really wanted to conserve water and power, why not start in their own departments? The DWP has hundreds of vehicles crowding our roadways daily to visit homes and business to read water and electric meters. Why not just replace all the existing rotary meters with a digital meter that can be connected to a central computer at the Water and Power billing department using telephone lines, cable, internet or some other similar means? This is not a new idea. Numerous municipalities and cable companies are successfully using this system. This approach would not cause a major layoff at the DWP, since many no-longer-needed meter readers could be trained to make the meter conversions. Others could be transferred to various city departments, with the overall employment level being kept even through normal attrition and retirements over the period of years necessary to complete the conversion. But think of the money saved in purchase and maintenance of vehicles, in cars and trucks taken off our crowded freeways and streets, and the improved city services in other areas that could be provided by these same employees. Over the long haul, this approach to gauging water and electric use would be an enormous financial savings for the city compared to the current system and would benefit our environmental efforts. Who knows, with all the savings, maybe our city leaders could find a way to move all utility lines underground. Not only would this be an environmentally friendly advance, it would save many injuries and lives from people, planes or autos from running into these unsightly power poles. Maybe the lights we need are those from the light bulbs going off above the heads of the city’s leadership with creative and innovative ideas to help solve the challenges we face. Wouldn’t that be nice? Rickey Gelb is Managing Partner of The Gelb Group, a Family of Companies.