Published by the Los Angeles Times
Written by David Zahniser
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday named four new members to the influential panel that oversees the Department of Water and Power, sweeping out all but one of the members who were chosen by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Garcetti nominated former U.S. Rep. Mel Levine, attorney William Funderburk, foundation director Michael Fleming and political consultant Jill Banks Barad to the DWP commission. The four will join Christina Noonan, who was appointed to the panel three years ago.
“These accomplished Angelenos will help me shake up the status quo at the DWP so we can save money for ratepayers," Garcetti said in a statement.
Barad, who lives in Sherman Oaks, promised to serve as "the voice of the ratepayer" as one of the DWP commission's five members. She has already waded into the politically charged debate over a proposed contract with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents most DWP employees.
With council leaders looking to hold a vote on the proposed agreement by Sept. 1, Barad said she fears that neighborhood councils, which typically do not meet in August, will miss the opportunity to weigh in on its merits.
"Neighborhood councils have not been notified of this in a timely fashion," said Barad, founder of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils. "It's like, 'Here we go again.' The city just dropped something on us and said you only have a couple of weeks to respond."
The proposed DWP contract offers three consecutive years of no raises and would hike the retirement age and reduce pension benefits for future DWP employees. The council's policy analyst said the agreement would save $4 billion over 30 years, once adjusted for inflation, and make it easier to persuade other unions to accept salary restraints.
Garcetti said Thursday he would not sign the agreement as currently proposed. He said he wants to see more progress on the DWP's work rules, including one that allows employees to receive higher wages when private contractors are hired by the utility. He filed the paperwork on Barad on Wednesday.
The City Council must confirm each nominee. Garcetti's new appointees will replace four Villaraigosa appointees on the commission: Thomas Sayles, Jonathan Parfrey, Richard Moss and Eric Holoman.
In addition to his law practice, Funderburk has served on a national board dealing with stormwater management. Fleming is executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation and teaches public policy courses at UCLA. Levine served as a member of Congress from 1983 until 1993 and as a member of the California Assembly from 1977 to 1982.
Barad, who has a firm that deals in public relations and political consulting, said she has been employed in recent years by the campaigns of Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) and the campaign of Jeff Ebenstein, who is seeking the San Fernando Valley Assembly seat recently vacated by Bob Blumenfield, now on the City Council himself.
Garcetti already has made a burst of new appointments this week, announcing his picks for the airport commission, the fire commission and the Board of Police Commissioners. He also nominated Tarzana resident Sylvia Patsaouras, a former airport commissioner under Villaraigosa and wife of former DWP commissioner Nick Patsaouras, to the five-member commission that oversees the Recreation and Parks Department, according to records filed with the city clerk.