Delivered on Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Good morning, before we open the Board meeting today, I wanted to say a few words about Hispanic Heritage Month and its importance, particularly to LADWP.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the history and countless contributions that Hispanics have made to the nation over the years. HHM is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations of several Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed an executive order to celebrate Hispanic Heritage every September 17th. President Ronald Reagan made it a month-long observance in 1988.
It has special significance for us because the City of Los Angeles was itself founded on September 4, 1781 by Spanish settlers of mixed heritage who journeyed more than one-thousand miles across the desert from present-day northern Mexico. Just like today, water was an important consideration for every day life. The first settlers named their newly established farming community “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciúncula” (Por-see-oon-coolah).
Over time this community would grow under the flags of Spain, Mexico and eventually the United States to become the large metropolitan city we know and love today.
The importance of Hispanic Heritage Month to LADWP is that our Hispanic employees have contributed to the development of the Department in one shape or another since the beginning, whether it was a zanjeros (zan-her-ros), the ditch tenders who maintained the city’s nascent water system of distribution ditches, or as elected leaders.
We owe our water rights to the practical vision and foresight of José Cristóbal Aguilar who served three terms as Mayor of Los Angeles as well as Chief Zanjero in the late 1800s . Mayor Aguilar vetoed a proposal by the city council to sell off the city’s water rights to raise money. Had he not vetoed it, L.A. would’ve lost control of its water rights, leading to serious problems in the future.
Another important figure is Reginaldo Francisco del Valle (Vah-yeh) who was the longest serving LADWP Commissioner in history, serving from March 1908 to July 1929.
Through his leadership, diplomacy and influence, peace was brought to a turbulent time in L.A. history, after the Los Angeles Aqueduct was dynamited by irate ranchers in the Owens Valley.
Today’s modern and diverse LADWP’s workforce is comprised of more than 11,000 employees. Of those, more than 35% identify as Hispanic . The largest representation of Hispanic employees is within skilled craft (46.2%) and service maintenance positions (53%).
And just as the many who came before us began building this city, our employees today continue to bear the torch and build a stronger LA by proudly contributing every single day to the reliability and resiliency of our city’s water and power service.
As we look to the future of achieving 100% renewable energy and expanding local, sustainable water supplies to reduce our reliance on imported water, it is importance that we embark on this journey together.
That is why we are recognizing the many diverse strengths within our organization and in our customer base.
Building a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce, and partnering with neighborhood councils and community-based organizations allows us to meet the needs of our employees as well as those of the communities we serve.
One of the strategies of the department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program is to engage and empower the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
Our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month promotes and sustains a sense of belonging and appreciation. Our Hispanic employees and customers definitely belong and they are definitely appreciated, they are part of us and we are proud to have them. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month, and with you I stand because Somos LADWP (We are LADWP).