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L.A. council lets electricity rate hike stand

April 27, 2010 |  2:14 pm

A divided Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to let a planned 4.8% hike in electricity rates go into effect on July 1, despite complaints from some members that they did not understand the proposal when it was approved two weeks ago.

The council voted 9-5 to conduct another review of the planned rate hike -- one vote shy of the amount needed to take jurisdiction over a decision by the Department of Water and Power.

The vote came after a handful of council members complained that they thought the increase would only be in place for three months. DWP officials said the increase would be permanent.

“There was very little discussion, if any, of this being a permanent rate hike,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents part of the Westside.

The rate hike was approved earlier this month after a grueling standoff between the council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointees at the DWP. During that dispute, the DWP threatened to withhold $73.5 million from the city’s cash-strapped budget unless its proposed rate hike went through.
Tuesday was the council’s last day to assert jurisdiction on the 4.8% increase. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who opposed the increase when it came up two weeks ago, had sought to have the council take control of the proposal again.

Five council members voted against Perry’s request: Tony Cardenas, Richard Alarcon. Janice Hahn, Herb Wesson and Eric Garcetti. Cardenas said he knew all along that the increase, which is smaller than one initially proposed by Villaraigosa, would permanently increase the size of a surcharge on electric rates from 5.09 cents per kilowatt-hour to 5.69 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who voted against the increase two weeks ago, was absent. He walked into the council chamber shortly after Tuesday’s rate hike vote, prompting Councilman Dennis Zine to request that the matter be reconsidered.

No one on the prevailing side agreed to do so. Even if they had, the vote would not have changed, because other council members opposed to the rate hike had already left the room.

After the vote, Parks said he had not planned to attend Tuesday's meeting, choosing instead to attend the funeral of former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and two meetings in his South Los Angeles district. Parks said he did not understand that the council was considering a proposal to assert jurisdiction over the DWP’s rate hike and would have moved more quickly had he known.

“I did not have any idea that there was a voting issue,” he said. “If I’d known it earlier, I would have come here earlier.”
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall