The Department of Water and Power wanted to raise rates, supposedly to cover the higher costs of buying water, generating electricity, updating rapidly aging equipment and complying with new environmental regulations. Many Los Angeles residents believed that rates were really rising to cover increasingly extravagant utility employee salaries and benefits and flabby management overhead. Elected officials and DWP managers were in thrall to the union, and their word could not be trusted.
So ratepayers planned to get themselves an independent advocate to check into rate hike requests and tell us whether they are legitimate. Voters adopted Charter Amendment I in March — nine months ago — by an overwhelming 77.9%. So now we have an independent advocate mulling the latest rate hike request, right?
Wrong. The ballot measure was not, after all, put together by citizens. It was wrapped in a veneer of community demand but was crafted by members of the City Council to be certain that it met their goals: to shield them from accountability to both the public, which does not like rate increases, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which funds campaigns and does not like elected officials or anyone else tinkering in department affairs that the union has mastered. The result was predictable. The council has avoided approving rate hikes until the ratepayer advocate is in place, but has dragged its collective feet in setting up an appointment process and has yet to fully define the job. The ultimate loser: DWP customers, who will be stuck with even bigger bills if incremental hikes aren't approved now.