Politics, government and public life for Southern California

4 new DWP commissioners confirmed by LA City Council

DWP Commissioners

Alice Walton/KPCC

L-R, William Funderburk, Mel Levine, Michael Fleming and Jill Banks Barad were unanimously confirmed to the Board of Water and Power Commissioners Wednesday.

Four new members of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners were unanimously confirmed Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council, whose members asked few tough questions on utility rates, renewable energy goals or labor practices. 

The DWP board is the first stop when the utility requests rate hikes. Its recommendations are then passed on to the city council.

DWP officials will release a plan for rate increases by the end of the year. Those rates will have to be reviewed by the new commissioners William Funderburk, Michael Fleming, Mel Levine and Jill Banks Barad, who were nominated by Mayor Eric Garcetti. (Christina Noonan, an appointee of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will remain on the panel.)

The new commissioners were sworn in just a month after intense negotiations between Los Angeles city officials and the union for DWP workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18. Hundreds of work rules that govern issues such as overtime and sick leave became a sticking point in those negotiations. While two councilmen on Wednesday mentioned the work rules as something the DWP will have to work on in the future, no one asked the appointees for their thoughts on how the work rules should be overhauled. 

"If we look back in the city, we've doubled or tripled trash fees," said Councilman Bernard Parks. "We've had five or six consecutive years of [increased] parking enforcement fines. The community is almost at the point particularly with water bills and power bills of saying we've priced ourselves out of business."

One commissioner, Levine, a former member of Congress, said he and his colleagues are still getting up to speed on the DWP's ongoing issues — especially rates.

"I have no doubt, receiving DWP bills myself every couple of months, and having to sit down occasionally after I receive them, that that's an issue that affects everybody in Los Angeles," Levine told KPCC. "I, along with the other millions and millions of ratepayers, [am] going to be obviously very sensitive about DWP rates."

New appointee Barad pledged to work with the DWP, the ratepayer advocate and the city council on all issues. 

"DWP touches every pocketbook in L.A. — business and the residents," Barad said. "In terms of transparency, you know that tends to be an overworked word now, but in this case it's appropriate. We must have transparency. We must be able to look inside DWP."

The four new commissioners were sworn in immediately following the city council's vote. 

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