Thursday, July 15, 2010


On Tuesday I introduced a City Council motion that would put a Charter Amendment on the March 2011 ballot to create a DWP customer advocate's office. This independent watchdog would make sure the utility's rates were fair to the people of Los Angeles -- and enforce accountability, transparency and integrity at the DWP.

Among other revelations, a recent audit showed that the DWP misled us about its call earlier this year for a power rate hike of up to 28%. The City Council beat that increase back, but the dispute led to a drop in the city's credit rating. While the rating has since gone up as a result of the way the Council balanced the budget, it is inexcusable for the DWP to be anything less than 100% open and forthright with the people of Los Angeles. And it is outrageous that in this instance the taxpayers of Los Angeles were put at risk for millions of dollars in unnecessary interest payments.

I've been working on this advocate's office since last year. Recently, the DWP offered to create a "ratepayer advocate" within its own bureaucracy. While this may seem like a good first step, true reform cannot occur without true independence. The customer advocate's office spurred by my motion would be located outside of any political office and certainly outside of the DWP. By being created through the City Charter, the office's role and resources would have iron clad protections -- only the voters could make changes.

The city is right now developing a schedule of public meetings citywide where the public, DWP customers, the business community, Neighborhood Councils, and experts - will be asked to provide us with input on how best to develop this office. I believe that increasing transparency at DWP starts with an open, public process, and ends with the vote by the people. (Incidentally, to expedite this process and to save money, this election would be held on the March ballot when a municipal election is already being held.)

Stay tuned for more updates. DWP reform has been a priority for me, and with the help of an independent advocate and watchdog, we can ensure that the Department's customers and the people of Los Angeles come first.