Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

LA water rates: Should a raise be delayed?

Angelenos, you can't say they didn't ask: LADWP officials hold their last big "community collaboration" session tonight - at the Hope Street HQ from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. City council's still the final word on if and when rates go up, but DWP seems to really want Angelenos to have first say - and that's now. 

DWP's been doing these sessions for a month now, and they're slick: power point presentations, group facilitators, breakdowns of a lot of water rate and power rate information. Even still, a scattering of voices is complaining this is all happening too fast. The latest addition is the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition30 or so of its members decided over the holiday weekend they want a delay. "LANCC cannot support any rate increases until the Ratepayers Advocate has reviewed and analyzed these rate increases and discussed the review and analysis with the Ratepayers and the public," their resolution reads in part.

Some community activists wanting a delay for higher rates are usual suspects: gadflies you'd recognize well if you went to DWP meetings. Jack Humphreville owns the Recycler classifieds and does DWP oversight for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council; he doesn't trust the DWP as far as he can throw it. He's floating the idea of approving rate increases for 1 year only to cover basic and strategic needs on both the water and power side. (The chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, councilwoman Jan Perry, has said she wouldn't support a rate hike before the establishment of the Office of Public Accountability.)

Humphreville and others want a delay even as they say that the OPA they're waiting for will be toothless and underfunded. Former Daily News editor Ron Kaye blames the council in general and Council President Eric Garcetti in particular for wrecking the idea of a ratepayer advocate. It's not entirely obvious to me why a delay would help under this logic: so that a weak toothless office has a chance to weigh in?

Environmental groups and renewable energy advocates aren't out there wanting a delay - though some key information isn't yet out from the DWP or city council that might illuminate those issues. Council members have asked for details about environmental and energy mandates, things like ending "once through cooling" at coastal power plants, cap and trade or other carbon reduction schemes, what the real impacts are of leaving Navajo coal behind earlier rather than later. Council hearings aren't scheduled till AFTER the public information sessions end.

Anyway, tonight's not the last session of this kind the DWP will hold: neighborhood councils themselves get a special workshop July 23, and there's a big finish wrap up on July 20 at Hope Street. Come August, it'll be city council's turn to start in with its questions.


("City of Angels" by Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo "Coach," on Flickr. Licensed via Creative Commons.)