Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s decision to veto a proposed ballot measure that would have granted the City Council the authority to remove the head of the Department of Water and Power is not a serious detriment to other reforms for the public utility, one Mar Vista resident said.
Chuck Ray said the mayor’s actions would not affect other DWP reform initiatives that will appear on the March election slate next year.
“I did not consider it the strongest part of the ballot measure,” Ray told The Argonaut. “I’m sorry that he did it, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”
The council appeared to have the necessary votes to override a Villaraigosa veto by securing 10 votes on Dec. 15, but three members changed their votes at the last minute.
Villaraigosa was facing a Dec. 30 veto deadline that would not have allowed him to annul the council’s recommendation.
Allowing the council to remove the DWP executive director or other commissioners was slated to be one of a series of reform measures that will appear on the March municipal ballot next year. The council passed several items that have been approved for next year’s Nov. 16 election, including the creation of a new Office of Accountability, which would act as a watchdog for the public with respect to utility rates and also include an executive director. Currently, the mayor has sole authority to appoint and remove commissioners.
“I was very disappointed with the mayor’s actions,” said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, one of Villaraigosa’s allies on the council. “There is broad consensus that the ability to appoint the executive director of the DWP should go through the elected officials, and I thought the mayor overstepped his bounds with his veto.”
Rosendahl was one of the seven members who voted to override Villaraigosa’s veto of the proposed ballot initiative.
DWP reform has been a highly charged topic of conversation since the summer, when the council and the utility’s board of commissioners squared off after DWP officials requested a raise in electricity rates. After the council balked, DWP refused to transfer $73.5 million to the city’s general fund. When the council acquiesced to a smaller raise, the public utility transferred the money.
An audit by City Controller Wendy Greuel found that the DWP would not be hampered financially if it were not allowed to raise electricity rates, as its representatives had claimed would be the case. Greuel called the utility’s refusal to transfer the city the $73.5 million during a time that the city was facing a $212 million shortfall tantamount to extortion.
“This audit is clear; there needs to be greater transparency at the DWP. The insulated culture and the lack of accountability in the department must change,” the report states. “The DWP has lost the trust of the public through this debacle and it will require dramatic steps over the coming months and years to rebuild the confidence of the ratepayers.”
A Villaraigosa spokeswoman said the mayor “looks forward to working with the city council to install stable leadership and a rational plan for renewable energy at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.”