March 8 election: Can you trust the DWP's rate increases?
While Measure L (for libraries) may be closest to voters' hearts, it's Measures I and J that may be closest to our pocketbooks. Measure I would put a ratepayer advocate in place for the Department of Water and Power, meaning we'd have a third-party independently advising for or against rate increases based on L.A.'s needs. Measure J would force the DWP, which has been known for shady behavior, to work withthe City Council on budget plans. Both measures aim to ensure DWP accountability and transparency.
When L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti stopped by our office in January, he explained his impetus for Measures I and J. Here are snippets from the interview that helped the editorial board form its opinion for a yes on both measures.
"The problem is, the DWP seemed too remote. There wasn’t dependable independent information, and they weren’t abiding by the same rules that the rest of the city had to play by on ground budgeting in particular. Measure J […] says the budget should come in on time, the same time that the regular city budget occurs, and that it should be more detailed. It’s essentially just a summary that we’re given when it’s too late to do anything about it for our own fiscal year, and that was seen as a problem." [Read about last spring’s scandal here.] [...]
"I know for a lot of the advocacy community, the environmental community, the neighborhood councils -- they've always said, 'Can we get a real budget so that we can look through that?' I mean, the most basic part of government, which is to get documents, to look at them, and to make our own decisions hasn’t existed on the budget." [...]
"A lot of people say, 'Oh, you want a ratepayer advocate who is just going to argue for low rates no matter what.' We don’t want the lowest rates no matter what. We want the lowest rates given the priorities of building out our infrastructure, greening this utility; we know that it’s not going to be the cheapest power we have, we just don't trust when they do want to do these things that they actually are telling us the truth about how much they need."
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: DWP workers stand near a geyser created from a water main break in Van Nuys in November 2009. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times