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Mayor, council move to create DWP watchdog

8/12/2011, 8:13 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and two council members named their appointments today to a five-member residents committee that will help create a Department of Water and Power watchdog office.

The committee is charged with appointing the first executive director of the Office of Public Accountability, which will analyze DWP programs and rates and advocate on behalf of customers.

The appointees included a minority business advocate, a neighborhood council member and civic activist, a planner, an economist and an energy sector investment strategist.

"Although the LADWP's ability to continue to provide water and power while meeting the state and federal mandates requires a serious discussion on rate adjustments, any action to increase rates is premature until the Office of Public Accountability has been established and a ratepayer advocate has had an opportunity to fully analyze the proposal," Villaraigosa said.

DWP has proposed rates for the next three years that would increase bills by about 15 percent, or an additional $2.24 on the average monthly water bill and about $4.04 on the average monthly power bill.

On March 8, voters approved a charter amendment to set aside 0.25 percent of the DWP's budget in order to create an independent DWP watchdog office.

The council put the measure on the ballot after a fight with the DWP over rate hikes last year.

Villaraigosa selected John Murray, president of the Southern California Minority Business Council, and Jeff Jacobberger, a planner with Civic Enterprise Associates. Council President Eric Garcetti appointed Sandra Itkoff, vice president of energy investment firm Angeleno Group, and Rusty Millar, a Silver Lake Neighborhood Council member and energy and environmental activist.

"DWP's top priority must be its customers, the people and businesses of Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "I look forward to their recommendations."

Council President Pro Tem Jan Perry chose business consultant Elaine Gaspard, who has focused on economic development in minority communities.

"Elaine has a fine analytical mind that is well suited to the task of interviewing and finding the right person to represent the interests of the DWP ratepayer," Perry said.