DWP’s rate hikes hit a snag

first_img Nahai wins approval The call for the delay came even as the council named H. David Nahai, a real estate attorney and longtime environmental activist, to lead the utility and its more than 8,000 employees. Nahai was unanimously approved as the new DWP general manager with an annual salary of $304,000. Nahai, who served as president of the DWP board until recently, said he voted to support the rate hikes while he was on the commission. “It’s disappointing to us but we will certainly comply with the council’s edict,” Nahai said of the 60-day delay. He has said the DWP’s rates would still be lower than those of other utilities, even with the hikes. DWP officials have defended the need for the hikes and say high demand and staffing shortages have left the utility unable to keep up with replacing faulty and aging transformers, old poles and worn cable in a system mostly 40 years to 70 years old. But the proposed increases drew an outcry from a neighborhood council oversight panel, which questioned the high pay of DWP workers and what some said was a limited time to review the potential impact of the rate hikes. A Daily News review of salary data earlier this year showed that the average DWP worker makes $76,949 a year – or nearly 20percent more than the average civilian city worker. DWP salaries also are much higher than for private-sector workers even as the utility has come under fire for power problems – including a summer outage that left 60,000 Angelenos sweltering in record heat. Garcetti and Perry said Wednesday that they want to ensure that the neighborhood councils – which have a memorandum of understanding with the DWP to review all major policy issues – have all their questions answered. Listening to concerns Jack Humphreville, a member of the DWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, said he appreciates the proposed delay. “It shows they are listening to our concerns,” Humphreville said. “I think they realize that we are concerned that DWP bills will be going up by $1billion over the next 18 months and we want some accountability. “We want to know how the ratepayers’ money is being spent. There is the annual transfer to the general fund, which is $185million. The DWP pays for programs at schools, in parks and the zoo. They might be worthy, but are they the proper use of funds? These are questions we want answers to.” He said committee members also have raised questions about contributions by the utility’s union – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 – to local officials. “It seems to us that we should know who is influencing decisions,” Humphreville said. Garcetti and Perry said they want assurances from the utility that it will make progress on promised improvements to avoid massive blackouts like those over the previous two summers. Perry said she also wants information on the utility’s hiring program. And the delay request asks the DWP to list all of its power-reliability projects and develop a system to track and oversee infrastructure upgrades that would be funded by the rate increases. “Any time you hit ratepayers with increases, it causes people to get upset,” Councilman Dennis Zine said. “Then, when we say we need more money and we get raises, people start saying, `What are you doing down there?”‘ Soledad Garcia, another member of the Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, said she hopes the delay ultimately will result in the proposed hikes being rejected. “We hope they will see the wisdom of the oversight committee that the … increase is not necessary,” Garcia said. [email protected] 213-978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat Kings“What we want is a sense of transparency and to re-create trust in the Department of Water and Power,” council President Eric Garcetti said of the motion that will be considered by the full City Council next week. The call for a delay comes as Los Angeles city officials are asking voters in February to approve a 9percent telephone users tax that would generate an estimated $270million for the city. A 60-day delay on whether to implement DWP rate hikes would mean a decision is not made until after residents go to the polls to vote on the high-stakes telephone tax. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who chairs the council’s Energy and Environment Committee, said she has raised questions about DWP operations and has not been satisfied with the answers. “There are still outstanding issues with the current rate increase and restructuring,” Perry said. “By sending both of these issues back to the department, we are allowing them the time to fully respond to our questions and re-evaluate their current proposals.” Controversial DWP water and power rate hikes stalled Wednesday as Los Angeles city leaders demanded that the nation’s largest municipal utility answer a growing number of questions and better justify the need. Three City Council members called for at least a two-month delay so Department of Water and Power officials can provide more information about the proposed increases. Under the plan, electric rates would rise 9percent over three years and water rates would climb 6percent over two years. DWP officials unanimously approved the rate hikes in October, despite criticism that the massive utility has for years mismanaged its money and that its workers are among the highest paid in the city. last_img