Hoping to save millions of dollars on electric bills, the Hawthorne City Council voted Monday to join the Southern California Cities Consortium, a growing organization of South Bay cities that have banded together to flex their collective political and economic muscle.
The consortium, a loosely organized group of mayors and other city officials formed last fall by Culver City Mayor Albert Vera, has promised to fight for a 25% rate reduction in electric costs. The key, Vera said, is buying in bulk.
But electricity is only the beginning. The consortium, once established and registered in Sacramento, will begin lobbying for discounts on other items ranging from "power to peanuts," Vera said.
The chance to save money is an opportunity that the cash-strapped city cannot afford to pass up, said Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi.
Guidi, who has pressed the council to sign up since the consortium was created last fall, said cities working individually have little or no power to bargain with businesses and the federal government.
"If the cities don't band together . . . it will take another Boston Tea Party" to get Edison to lower its rates, said Guidi, who was joined in the 3-1 decision by councilwomen Ginny M. Lambert and Martha Bails. Councilman Steven Andersen was absent.
Councilwoman Betty J. Ainsworth cast the dissenting vote, saying she feared hidden or unforeseen costs that the city might have to pay later.
But Vera said Ainsworth's fears are unwarranted. Under the agreement, cities that belong to the group and choose to participate in buying bulk items will share in paying the administrative costs.
Hawthorne joins Carson, Lomita and Culver City in supporting the project and Vera says as many as 22 more cities from across Los Angeles may join.
The group's first target: Southern California Edison.
Under the group's plan for a 25% rate reduction for electricity users in each city, Hawthorne residents and businesses could save millions of dollars. Much of that money would be pumped back into city coffers and other projects, officials said.
Edison officials, however, have been fighting the proposal, saying rates are controlled by the California Public Utilities Commission. Joining the consortium, Edison manager Choca Lee Mathieu told the council, may be a futile effort since the Public Utilities Commission will release a deregulation plan later this month.
Office supplies, other utilities and replacing city vehicles may be the next items the group tries to buy in bulk. And Vera says hitting the biggest and costliest items will yield the most savings.