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Business leaders concerned about LADWP's future

Local business leaders took their complaints about the utility department to Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti.
March 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles business leaders took their complaints about the city's Department of Water and Power straight to Mayor Eric Garcetti during a Tuesday meeting.

Garcetti wanted to show businesses the department is turning over a new leaf, especially with the appointment of the utility's new chief earlier this month.

Some business leaders voiced their concerns about the department's shaky history.

"It's been a very frustrating process for the last six months," said Renee Watkinson, who runs commercial office buildings at CRE Real Estate and spends more than $400,000 on monthly bills.

"The bills are complicated," Watkinson said. "They've added a lot of additional fees and tariffs without explanation."

The new head of the DWP Marcie Edwards said she wants to restore confidence in her department. She's been on the job less than a month.

"Part of the reasons that I am focusing on the billing and customer care issues first is, to me, that is a way of trying to regain a level of trust and credibility. So that's why that's a priority," Edwards said.

The mayor said even though the department is a monopoly, he wants to run it as a competitive business, cutting costs and boosting production. He has to deal with a tough union and admits it's an entrenched culture.

"I welcome them (the union) to this conversation each and every day. If we ever disagree on things, like the with joint training and joint safety institute, I'll stand my ground," Garcetti said.

Jack Humphreville, who follows the DWP closely, worries about rate increases in the next few years.

"Is the city going to do its part? Are they going to treat the DWP and the ratepayers as an ATM?" Humphreville asked.

Some business leaders said Tuesday's meeting was a good first step.

"What I heard today is they are focused on making the right changes to make the improvements and I feel confident they will," said Brad Gessner, senior vice president and general manager of AEG Facilities.


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