LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles City Council took steps on Tuesday toward placing several measures on the March 8 ballot that would make the Department of Water and Power more accountable to its ratepayers.
The council voted to draft a measure that would create an Office of Public Accountability with the function of a ratepayer advocate and/or inspector general to evaluate the need for proposed rate increases, and investigate complaints of fraud, abuse and waste.
The council also backed a proposed measure that would give it authority — by a two-thirds vote — to either fire the DWP general manager or DWP commission members, or overturn their removal by the mayor.
The City Attorney’s Office is expected to draft both measures overnight and submit them to the council for a first vote tomorrow.
A third measure — which would require the DWP to release its annual budget earlier than is currently allowed, and to guarantee the surplus revenue that must be remitted to city’s general fund — was unanimously approved today and is guaranteed a spot on the March 8 ballot.
The council dropped several other proposed reforms, including expanding the DWP commission to seven members; reducing the number of mayoral appointees on the commission; and shortening their terms.
Last-minute changes to the proposed powers of the Office of Public Accountability prompted Councilman Greig Smith to say the measure had been “gutted.”
But City Council President Eric Garcetti, who proposed the amendments, explained that he wanted to keep the measure “simple” and let the council pass ordinances to detail exactly what the ratepayer advocate and/or inspector general would be required to do.
“It is not my intent, nor is it the effect of this, to gut anything,” he said. “I will not be for something that guts reform at DWP. I have worked too many hours and with too strong of a core belief on what we are here to do to turn this into something that’s empty.”
Councilwoman Jan Perry said the head of the labor union at DWP — International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Business Manager Brian D’Arcy — appears to have persuaded some of her colleagues to back down on proposed changes to the DWP commission.
“I think that Brian holds a lot of influence and I think that there were a number of people on the floor today who obviously, I think, equivocated on the issue of governance because Brian was uncomfortable with that. And so we saw a lot of back and forth on the language (of the measure) in terms of what to leave in and what to leave out,” Perry said.
“But I think in the end, what we have is a good system of checks and balances because it puts some oversight responsibility back in the hands of the council,” she said.
Calls to the union were not immediately returned.
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