05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

DWP Rate Hikes: The Battle Gets Heated

In a rebuke to Mayor Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to review his proposal to raise DWP rates. The LA Times reports:

On a 15-0 vote, the council asserted jurisdiction over the Department of Water and Power board's decision to approve the first of four increases over the next year to help pay for renewable energy and other expenditures.

Several council members said they were especially disturbed by Villaraigosa's warning, sent to them in writing the night before the vote, that a failure to let the rate hikes stand would cause the DWP to renege on its plan to provide $73 million to the city's strained general fund, which pays for basic services such as public safety and parks.

(WATCH Mayor Villaraigosa discuss his proposal on Bloomberg earlier today)

This has become a particularly contentious issue in recent days, especially as the Mayor shifts focus from the hikes a s a Green initiative, to one essential for the city's economic survival. The LA Weekly weighs in:

Funny, because Mayor V. has been saying for months that the word bankruptcy is not in his vocabulary -- that it's not going to happen under his watch. Of course, he did not tie his DWP rate increases to the city's budget problems -- which would make the hikes look like indirect taxes -- until Tuesday.

Regardless of the Mayor's change in tone, his initiative has still received the endorsement of heavy-hitter environmentalists like Al Gore and the Sierra Club. In a blog post for the HuffPost LA, Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club writes:

By supporting the Mayor's proposed investments in clean energy now, members of the Los Angeles City Council can demonstrate the foresight to protect their constituents from drastic and avoidable rate increases in the future--especially those low-income families that could be devastated by such a hardship. This proposal addresses concerns about increasing rates in the midst of tough economic times by incentivizing energy efficiency programs, which allows families to manage the bottom line of their DWP bills as rates are marginally increased.