Sun, Sep

DWP Reform:Fuentes Upstages Pickel


PERSPECTIVE--The Ratepayer Advocate is supposed to be in the vanguard of DWP reform efforts. Fred Pickel (photo) can’t even find the rear. To make matters worse, a proposal for substantial reforms is coming from an unlikely source – Felipe Fuentes, a councilmember whose motive to eschew reelection is the subject of speculation. 


Fuentes is proposing a ballot measure that would change the structure and practices of the DWP: replacing the volunteer Board of Commissioners, currently appointed by the mayor, with a full-time professional board comprised of industry experts; capping the surplus transfer to the city’s general fund, possibly making it a source for capital improvements and maintenance; and eliminating the civil service protections enjoyed by DWP employees. 

The new Board of Commissioners would have the power to hire and fire general managers as well as approve rate hikes. 

These are reforms Pickel should have been publicly advocating from day one. 

On the surface, this is all very good, but we need to know more about the selection process for board members and a clear definition of their powers versus the roles of the City Council and the mayor. 

It is possible that Pickel may have had some input in Fuentes’ proposed changes, but I doubt he was the driving force behind it. He is simply not an advocate for change. 

As always, the devil is in the details. For one thing, there is no mention of the utility tax, particularly as to whether it is applied to rate increases. 

If Fuentes’ measure truly creates a utility relatively free of political tampering, one where the board can get rid of under-performing GMs with the ability to hire new ones who can rid the management ranks of incompetents, and where independent analysis is the norm, then perhaps the position of Ratepayer Advocate can be eliminated … not that we ever had one. 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].)