By Steve La

Los Angeles voters will decide in March 2011 on a proposal to create a “ratepayer advocate” to represent Angelenos before the Department of Water and Power. The City Council voted overwhelmingly to send the charter reform measure to the voters for review, while approving another measure requiring the DWP to release its budget to City Council review much earlier in the year. Both measures seek to bring more transparency and accountability to the giant public utility.

“The ratepayer advocate and the early budget would restore integrity to the DWP,” said Council President Eric Garcetti.

Other council members echoed Garcetti's views.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Councilman Bill Rosendahl said, adding that hundreds of his constituents from his district are ready to provide input on the new ratepayer position.

Before the creation of the ratepayer advocate, there will be a citywide hearing to get community input on the proposed position, said President Pro Tempore Jan Perry.

In April, DWP refused to hand over $73.5 million dollar to the city, claiming it could not do so without negatively affecting its bond rating. At the same time, DWP was requesting a significant rate hike from the City Council. DWP relented and gave over the money, while accepting a much smaller rate increase than it wanted.

In June, City Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit asserting that DWP wasn't in as bad financial shape as it has claimed and could have transferred the money without raising electricity rates, which gave the drive for a ratepayer advocate momentum, culminating in today's vote.

LA Weekly