LADWP Infrastructure Investments Deserve Our Support

By Gary Toebben, President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Angelenos in every corner of the City at one point or another have been impacted by a broken water main or electricity blackout. These incidents are the most visible signs of our aging water and power systems and the necessity of maintaining the infrastructure in the 465 square-mile area served by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP).

The business community has a long history of recognizing that improvements to and maintenance of our utility infrastructure is key to the health of our economy and has supported rate increases that dedicate funds to this use.

L.A. City Council’s Energy & Environment Committee is considering the LADWP’s request for five-year rate increases. Eighty percent of this expenditure plan, as laid out by the LADWP and confirmed in reports by the Rate Payer Advocate, meets the priorities the Chamber Board has set as vital to our support. That includes money to replace the City’s aging power and water infrastructure, diversifying water and power supplies and improving customer service. The approximately twenty percent of this rate increase, which would automatically be transferred to the City’s General Fund, does not meet that criteria.

The Chamber strongly believes every dollar of this rate increases should go towards desperately needed infrastructure improvements. The City Council should waive the transfer to the City’s General Fund of approximately 20 percent of this rate increase. This action would be a powerful statement to L.A. residents and the business community that our elected officials are 100 percent focused on accelerating the upgrades to our utilities and diversifying our water and power supplies.

There is also a LADWP governance reform proposal being discussed by the City Council. That proposal would place a ballot measure before ratepayers to professionalize the Board of Commissioners and alter hiring practices. While the Chamber strongly believes in governance reform at LADWP, our infrastructure cannot wait while we study and debate. The Chamber urges the Council to take action on the rate increases as soon as possible, while continuing its discussion on reform.

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