Citizens Fight Back Against L.A. Department Of Water And Power
City Council President Eric Garcetti has been leading the push to create an independent watchdog agency that will monitor DWP and help increase transparency. In a series of meetings around the city – the most recent was Tuesday night in Mar Vista – Garcetti has been soliciting opinions from residents as to what duties the potential agency would have and what its makeup would be.
“I had the skeleton of this plan worked up beforehand,” Garcetti said. “Coming to these meetings and hearing people’s experiences and passionate opinions has helped develop it along so much.”
At the meeting in Mar Vista, speakers ranging from local council members to concerned citizens voiced concern over DWP’s recent rate hikes, the use of unsustainable energy sources, and the defiant attitude the utility has had toward its customers. A polite though spirited applause bookended each speaker’s pleas to Garecetti to finally do something to alter the status quo.
Although people were unanimous that action had to be taken, there were different opinions about what, exactly, a monitoring agency would look like.
Under the current plan, an amendment to the city charter that is proposed for the March 2011 ballot would create an independent agency outside of any political office. The agency could advocate for customers, scrutinize any DWP request for a rate increase, and monitor the types of power plants being used to generate power. Some, however, believe that an agency isn’t enough.
“The people who are appointed to the agency will only have an obligation to the appointer,” said Noel Weiss of Marina del Rey who would rather have a directly elected official in an ombudsman role. “Making it a public choice would give the official a political leg to advocate directly for the customers.”
The push for an independent agency is not a new movement in Los Angeles. Garcetti himself first proposed the idea two years ago, but complaints about DWP’s practices has fueled the public’s recent interest.
DWP is the largest municipal utility in the country, and the proposed watchdog agency would likewise be the largest of its kind.
Reach reporter Tom Dotan here.