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Ron Kaye: Glendale's decision, L.A's problem

August 17, 2013|By Ron Kaye | By Ron Kaye

This is a tale of two cities — yours and mine, each with its own water and power utility companies.

In your city, base rates for electricity did not go up for six years until the City Council narrowly approved a plan last week to raise rates by nearly 29% compounded over five years amid warnings that the utility could go broke by 2017.

In my city, rates soared more than 50% during that same period of time with near unanimous votes of City Council every time in the face of warnings the utility could go broke without the money. Hefty increases are planned for the next five years as well.

In your city, Glendale Water & Power employees worked without a contract for two years, suffered the indignity of having their wages unilaterally cut by the city in June, and faced a significant reduction in the number of workers.


In my city, utility workers have gotten huge pay raises year after year — up to 6% for five years and as much as 4% more recently, even as many other city workers were getting nothing and having to pay more for pensions and health care. In addition, as many as 1,400 city workers were transferred to the L.A. Department of Water and Power to protect their jobs when the city’s General Fund was running out of money.

You live in Glendale, which has a long history of fiscal responsibility.

I live in Los Angeles, which has a long history of fiscal irresponsibility.

Lucky you, unlucky me!

“Our employees haven’t had cost-of-living increases since 2008. We have shared the increase in medical 50-50,” City Manager Scott Ochoa told the Council during last week’s debate on rate hikes.

“When you consider that our employees pay a greater share of their own employment than anybody in this region, and possibly anybody in the state, it will ultimately have an impact when raises are being given at different levels on three sides of us,” Ochoa said.

“It’s a situation where if we can’t afford it, we can’t give it,” he added, “and if we can’t give it, we’re telling our employees just not to ask for it. The council expressed its leadership on the subject by imposing on IBEW. And that has had its reverberations, not even in Glendale, but throughout the region still today.”

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