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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Councilman Fuentes Wants to Reform and Restructure DWP

LOS ANGELES – January 22, Councilmember Felipe Fuentes introduced a motion calling for a 2016 ballot measure to reform and restructure the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).

Councilmember Fuentes proposed creating a full-time, professional board to oversee the department; eliminating civil service at the utility; and placing a cap on the City Transfer. Such changes to the City Charter would require voter approval.

“As defined by the City Charter, DWP must report to a part-time board, City Council and Mayor. No single City entity is responsible for actively managing the utility. As a result, the utility, as it’s currently structured, is failing the ratepayer,” said Fuentes, chair of the Council’s Energy and Environment Committee. “The reforms, I proposed today, will provide the oversight and transparency necessary to ensure the department is accountable to its ratepayers while operating as efficiently as possible with ratepayer dollars.”

Councilmember Fuentes’ motion asks the City Attorney, in consultation with the City Administrative Officer, to prepare language for City Charter and Administrative Code amendments to implement the reforms.
Specifically, the proposals call for:

• Replacing the volunteer Board of Water and Power Commissioners with full-time, professional board members who can provide increased oversight and transparency;

• Reducing interference from the City Council and Mayor in Board decisions;

• Authorizing the Board to hire its own legal and analytical staff to provide independent analysis of utility operations;

• Eliminating civil service for DWP employees to improve hiring efficiency;

• Capping the annual City Transfer to keep more ratepayer funds at the utility.

Councilmember Fuentes’ proposal for a more autonomous Board closely mirrors the Department’s original governance structure under the 1925 City Charter. During that time, the Board had more authority to act without Council and Mayoral approval. In the following decades, charter amendments removed that independence and gave more control to the Council.

In recent years, several independent reports have called for the development of an alternative governance structure at DWP. Last month, Navigant Consulting recommended in its Industrial, Economic, and Administrate Survey of DWP that the City pursue governance change.

The proposal to eliminate civil service at DWP would preserve union representation and bargaining rights. At the same time, it would enable the Department to hire employees outside the civil service process, which often delays hiring qualified candidates.

The proposed cap on the annual City Transfer would set a limit on the dollar amount the DWP would transfer each year to the City, resulting in more funds remaining at DWP for investment in water and power infrastructure.

“This City Council has proven time and time again that it takes on big issues and doesn’t shirk its responsibilities,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson. “Today’s action sets the stage for an open and public conversation about how best to operate the department in the most efficient and transparent manner.”

“Soon the DWP will be presenting its case for a new rate increase to the City Council. It would be irresponsible of us to approve a rate increase without addressing the need for critical governance reform at the Department,” Fuentes said. “Also, it would be a disservice to the residents of this City who entrusted us with the authority to manage the services they need and deserve.”

The motion was seconded by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.

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