L.A. Votes: DWP pay drives debate in mayor’s race

Mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti in a televised debate last month.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power, whose primary union is the single biggest contributor to the mayoral race, is taking center stage in the contest with less than three weeks to go until election day.

The Times reported that employees at the city utility earned an average total pay of nearly $100,000 in 2011, more than 50% higher than the average total pay of all other city employees, and the union representing most of its workers filed a lawsuit to delay release of their members’ names and current salaries.

Mayoral rivals Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti called on the agency to make the information public, and blamed each other for the high pay, which included the utility general manager receiving $347,000, and mechanics who install and repair power lines averaging $153,000.


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The union representing most of the workers has donated nearly $1.5 million to an independent committee backing Greuel, prompting Garcetti to argue Thursday that she would be “a mayor in the pocket of the DWP union.” Greuel countered by highlighting Garcetti’s role in approving DWP pay hikes while he was the president of the City Council.

When Garcetti and Greuel served on the council together in 2005, both voted in favor of raises for DWP employees. In 2009, Garcetti also voted for raises. Greuel was city controller then and did not have a vote.

All this unfolded one day after an independent committee that has received much of its funding from the DWP union bought $500,000 in television time to air new ads supporting Greuel’s bid. The move came as Greuel, facing cash-flow pressure, reduced her own spending on television ads. The new 30-second spot shows footage of former President Bill Clinton stumping for Greuel in Los Angeles. The ad buy prompted Garcetti’s campaign to reiterate its claims that Greuel would be beholden to the city’s public-employee unions if elected mayor.

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Greuel’s boosters countered that notion Thursday by highlighting her support from the business community, saying it was proof of her independence from union influence. Basketball legend Magic Johnson joined business leaders from across the city to argue that Greuel’s resume and the broad coalition of support she has received from disparate, sometimes conflicting organizations, shows that she could bring all sides to the negotiating table.

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema


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