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L.A. City Council fails to override Villaraigosa veto of DWP ballot measure

The Los Angeles City Council failed Wednesday to override Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s veto of a ballot measure that would have given council members the power to fire the leadership of the Department of Water and Power.

Seven council members voted to override Villaraigosa’s veto, three votes shy of the number needed to overturn it.  Eight lawmakers voted to uphold the veto.

The vote culminated a months-long battle about control of the embattled utility, which some council members view as an out-of-control agency.

The proposal — which had been drafted to be placed on the ballot for municipal elections in March — would have given the council the power to remove the top executive and the commissioners of the DWP, the nation’s largest municipally owned utility. Under current law, the mayor selects the DWP leadership subject to council approval, but the council has no authority to remove the mayoral appointees.

Already on the March 8 citywide ballot is a council-backed measure to create a ratepayer advocate to look out for the public’s interest.

During debate Wednesday, supporters of the plan to give the council authority to fire DWP leadership said the measure was needed to reform a giant agency that had lost the public trust and operated in a secretive manner.

The measure is needed “for us to represent the best interests of our constituents,”  said Councilwoman Jan Perry, adding that the council merited  “a seat at the table” with the DWP. Annual  electricity rate increases were likely in coming years to pay for a gradual shift away from coal to renewable energy sources such as wind and power, Perry noted.

But Council President Eric Garcetti said the measure would only cloud the issue of who is responsible for the DWP.

“I believe that accountability comes when you can blame one person for what’s gone wrong,” said Garcetti, who voted against overriding the mayoral veto.

The proposal was defeated one day after Villaraigosa, who has the sole power to fire the DWP’s top executive and five commissioners, selected Ron Nichols, a Seattle-based energy consultant, to run the agency. If approved by the council, Nichols would be the DWP’s sixth general manager since 2007.

Wednesday’s vote was only the latest in a series of reversals and mixed signals on the proposal from council members.

Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Herb Wesson voted against it last month but for it on Dec. 7. On Wednesday, they voted against it again.

Zine said Friday that he voted to send the measure to the ballot because “it was the right thing to do.” But on Wednesday, he withdrew his support, saying that council members had not done a good enough job scrutinizing Villaraigosa’s nominees to run the DWP.

“Many of us have shirked our responsibility by not vetting those commissioners and not reviewing those general managers,” said Zine, who heads the council’s personnel  committee.

Wesson said he only voted for the measure last week in a bid to give fellow councilmembers time to reach a compromise with Villaraigosa.

Councilman Greig Smith, who voted to override the veto, has repeatedly argued that Villaraigosa has destabilized the DWP, which has had a series of five general managers and four board presidents since 2006. “We’ve had a churning going on there and they’re always political people,” said Smith.

Councilman Paul Krekorian previously voted for the measure multiple times, and on Wednesday he described the DWP as an agency that had been “running amok.” But he nonetheless voted against overturning the mayoral veto, saying the goal was to “depoliticize” the DWP.

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell and David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

 
Comments () | Archives (6)

Thank You City Council members for showing not only Los Angeles but the entire Nation you have no leadership and no ethics by not voting and allowing the PEOPEZL you represent to decide. You have just sealed your fate for re election

Yet again, this city's weak elected representatives don't fail to show what cowards they are. Garcetti, who is planning to run for Mayor, backed away from exercising more authority over a horribly dysfunctional DWP. What about the debacle earlier this year makes him think that less control over DWP is better for constituents? Garcetti punted and he should consider punting his bid for mayor.

Zine, who is preparing to run for city controller, is no one day, yes the next day and then no again. Talk about idiotic, uninformed and just plain wishy-washy. Not the kind of qualities you'd want in a city auditor.

At least Perry held her ground and remained principally consistent. She is definitely someone who I could see as City Controller carefully watching over everything.

Corruption at its best.

All the ones that sided with the Pint Size Mayor thinks he can help them with their careers. We know the council members are working for themselves first, and big business.

What a freakin' joke. The DWP manages to get a surplus, so it can be used for operations and maintenence of current infrastructure. The City Council comes along and steals the money from the DWP coffers, the DWP cries poverty and rates go up. when rates go up, so does the sales tax revenue the City receives, and it starts all over, the next fiscal year.

Maybe it's about time the DWP became a co-operative, instead of a city entity, among the citizen customers?

Time to stop giving income and sliding fee breaks to illegal aliens. No papers? No water and power.

city hall crooks and liars


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