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Garcetti juggling Reserve duty, DWP salary negotiations

As the City Council tries to close a DWP deal it says would save ratepayers money, Mayor Garcetti must also pull Navy Reserve duty

August 19, 2013|By David Zahniser
  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti over the next few weeks must spend a portion of each workday away from City Hall, fulfilling Navy Reserve duty, while some council members are growing concerned about the fate of a DWP salary deal.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti over the next few weeks must spend a portion… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)

Amid his first big political battle as Los Angeles mayor, Navy Lt. Eric Garcetti will have to juggle summer duty as a military intelligence officer over the coming weeks.

Mayoral spokesman Yusef Robb said Monday that Garcetti has begun two weeks of training as a member of the Navy Reserve — a stint that will send him to a facility in the city of Bell and possibly other locations in Southern California during a portion of each workday.

The training comes as council members are growing increasingly vocal about wanting a salary deal with the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees by the end of the month. Several council members already have praised either the deal or its major components. But Garcetti has said he won't sign it without additional concessions on such issues as employee work rules.

Robb said Garcetti "won't miss entire workdays" and was at City Hall until noon Monday. Garcetti "will be able to fully perform his city duties during this time," Robb said, "including his pursuit of the best possible DWP contract for ratepayers."

"He will not be traveling," Robb said in an email. "He will be in contact with his office and in fact will also be attending meetings at City Hall like he was today."

Still, one critic of the proposed DWP contract said Garcetti should be in Los Angeles full time focusing on improving the salary deal and finding ways to eliminate costly and inefficient work rules at the city-owned utility.

"He needs to be here to work on the agreement," said Jack Humphreville, a member of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, a 36-member group reviewing the agreement. "Being mayor is not a part-time job."

Despite his training duties, Garcetti spent 45 minutes Monday night at City Hall talking to neighborhood council activists about the DWP deal, saying he still isn't satisfied with points dealing with salaries and work rules. "This city in the past has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity," he told the group. "And I want to make sure we don't do that."

While Garcetti was discussing the proposal and fielding questions from the audience, his office launched a petition drive called "Fix DWP!" asking residents to support him as he attempts to end "secret deals on costly work rules and perks."

The salary proposal would give no raises to DWP employees for three years, followed by a pay increase up to 4% in 2016. The agreement also calls for a reduction in pension benefits for future DWP workers.

Some council members are growing anxious that the deal will fall apart and allow a previously promised 2% raise to go into effect Oct. 1. The deal is supposed to save $415 million over four years, according to a city policy analyst. "We're getting to the point where we have to, at some point, close the deal," said Councilman Bob Blumenfield.

Garcetti has been seeking changes to the deal, including a reduction in the size of the proposed 2016 pay hike, Councilman Paul Krekorian said. Krekorian said he fears that if the city keeps pushing for concessions, the city could "go over the brink" — with the DWP union walking away and the city facing "labor instability" for three to four years.

"Is this the perfect agreement? Probably not. But I do think what is before us today … is one that unquestionably will save money for the ratepayers," he said.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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