Mayoral candidate Mitchell Schwartz released a three-point plan Friday to overhaul the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
“From overbilling to poor service, nearly every Los Angeles resident can agree that dealing with the DWP is one of the most frustrating parts of living here,” Schwartz said. “With rising rates and a severe drought, ratepayers deserve an agency that will work for us, not against us. As someone who has worked for the DWP in the past, I know the problems they have and I know how to fix them.”
Schwartz is a longtime political operative who ran then-Gov. Bill Clinton’s primary campaign in New Hampshire in 1992 and then-candidate Barack Obama’s California campaign in 2008. He also served as communications director at the U.S. State Department during Clinton’s first term and worked with the LADWP on the Green Power Programs from 1999-2003.
The first part of Schwartz’s proposal calls for an elected Board of Commissioners to oversee the LADWP. Currently, the LADWP is overseen by part- time commissioners who are volunteers appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Schwartz said his plan is modeled on one used by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
The second part calls for a Citizens Oversight Committee to appoint a ratepayer advocate. The LADWP’s current ratepayer advocate, Frederick Pickel, who heads the Office of Public Accountability, was chosen by a panel appointed by the mayor and City Council.
Schwartz’s plan would create a volunteer committee selected by local neighborhood councils to pick the ratepayer advocate and oversee the office’s budget. He said the idea is modeled after the Citizens Utility Boards in Oregon, Minnesota and other states.
The third part of the plan is a call for transparency.
“The DWP has a long track record of avoiding accountability and transparency. For instance, they often drag out for months routine requests for information by the public. I will demand a rapid response to public requests for information,” Schwartz said.
Bill Carrick, Garcetti’s campaign manager, said he had not seen Schwartz’s plan and could not comment.
Eleven people, including Schwartz, have filed to run for mayor against Garcetti in the upcoming March city election, although many are political unknowns who have raised little or no money. Schwartz has raised the second most to date, with $255,270, although he is well behind Garcetti, who has raised $2,250,730.
The LADWP has been the subject of much debate in recent years, and the union that represents most of its workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, spent heavily to try to defeat Garcetti during his 2013 election.
In November, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted preliminary approval to a class-action settlement expected to result in at least $67.5 million refunded to Department of Water and Power customers who were inaccurately billed following a glitch-filled upgrade of the utility’s billing system.
— City News Service