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This November, Los Angeles voters will be faced with a deceptive charter amendment, RRR. Rather than solve the many problems at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), the measure would weaken public oversight over crucial decisions that impact our bills, service and the future of our public utility.

DWP Reform

Progressives Should Vote NO on Charter Amendment RRR, the Runaway Ratepayer Rip Off—Brenna Norton

RRR centralizes power in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. It takes power away from our democratically elected City Council and gives it to the unelected board of commissioners.

RRR centralizes power in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. It takes power away from our democratically elected City Council and gives it to the unelected board of commissioners.

If the public has learned anything about DWP over the last several years, it’s that decision making without proper oversight often results in missing and wasted resources. For instance, the utility still won’t account for $40 million in lost funds supposedly spent on training and safety. In addition, ratepayers have footed the bill for millions of dollars in legal fees due to years of overbilling, a problem that continues to this day.

In a sly clause inserted with little public scrutiny, Charter Amendment RRR allows the unelected commissioners to sign multi- million dollar long-term private contracts without City Council approval. There is ample evidence that such contracts often force unjustified rate hikes, worsen service and lead to water sewage spills and other environmental harms.

In 2008, Santa Paula California privatized a $65 million water reclamation plant. The City’s former finance director John Quinn called it “a terrible deal” and said that until the city refinanced the project with bonds it would pay “premium prices to fund their profits.” Shouldn’t our elected officials have final decision-making power on these multi-million dollar private contracts?

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Worse, under RRR, the City Council will in some cases lose the ability veto a contract entirely. This dangerous language would directly undermine our Councilmembers’ ability to ensure public dollars are being spent wisely and not wasted on sweetheart deals with private interests.

In addition, Measure RRR removes all City Council oversight over power contracts up to 30 years in length.

Communities like Porter Ranch and the surrounding neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley still suffer from the lasting health effects of the largest gas storage blowout in U.S. history. Families in South L.A. see soaring rates of asthma and other respiratory problems from urban drilling in the midst of residential neighborhoods. In order to make the necessary transition to 100 percent renewable energy to benefit all of L.A.’s communities, public oversight and involvement in power contracts signed by DWP is essential.

The solution to DWP’s problems must come from stronger, streamlined oversight by the Mayor and the City Council. Our elected officials must force the department to work better by demanding financial transparency and honesty, holding management accountable, and ensuring ratepayer dollars are truly used to support crucial needs such as infrastructure replacement, renewable energy, and increasing our local water supply.

That’s why more and more of Los Angeles’ neighborhood, consumer, and environmental organizations including Consumer Watchdog and Food & Water Watch are opposing RRR. Let’s take back our public utility—not put it on a path to privatization. Vote No on RRR.

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Brenna Norton
Food & Water Watch