The Los Angeles 'Oligarchy' and the governance of water and power networks: The making of a municipal utility based on market principles (1902-1930)

MacKillop, Fionn (2005) The Los Angeles 'Oligarchy' and the governance of water and power networks: The making of a municipal utility based on market principles (1902-1930). Flux: International Scientific Quarterly on Networks and Territories (60/61). pp. 23-34. ISSN 1154-2721


In a city where the social and political importance of business is paramount, water and then power were municipalized in the first decades of the twentieth century, with wide-ranging public support. The municipal department then proceeded to ensure universal access to these services, with great efficiency, contributing to the impressive growth of the City of Angels, where water and power provision are still under municipal control, despite recent challenges to this status. Yet, this does not mean that municipal control, particularly of power, went without controversies and challenges, nor does it imply that a form of 'municipal socialism' was introduced; in this article, we analyze how an original form of governance and funding of a municipal utility was crafted to accommodate powerful business interests, but also Progressive politicians and the rising technocracy in charge of municipal operations. Gradually, a balance was struck between differing agendas to ensure efficiency, as well as other social and political goals. We examine in particular how and why municipal control took plac e from the turn of the century, and the importance of the business 'oligarchy' in shaping the utility to serve its interests and reflect its ideology; we then see how other principles, already present from the onset, were progressively asserted and led to controversies around the municipal control of water and power, as well as its goals: simply enhancing business conditions, or serving wider policies and politics? We conclude by focusing on the 'hybrid' philosophy of the municipal utility, to underline its originality on the American scene and understand how it contributed to shape an 'imperial' Los Angeles with its grandeur and flaws.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 18866
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright Association Metropolis.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ Other
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ Other
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2011 12:02
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2013 00:36
Uncontrolled Keywords: energy planning; governance approach; historical geography; planning history; twentieth century; water management
Fields of Research (2008): 09 Engineering > 0905 Civil Engineering > 090505 Infrastructure Engineering and Asset Management
12 Built Environment and Design > 1205 Urban and Regional Planning > 120504 Land Use and Environmental Planning
16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160509 Public Administration
Fields of Research (2020): 40 ENGINEERING > 4005 Civil engineering > 400508 Infrastructure engineering and asset management
33 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 3304 Urban and regional planning > 330404 Land use and environmental planning
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440708 Public administration
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960999 Land and Water Management of Environments not elsewhere classified

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only