Brian Lederer, the mayor's nominee for Peopls's Counsel, received a hearty reception from City Council members and consumer advocates during a confirmation hearing last week before the Council's Public Services Committee.
If approved, Lederer will represent District residents in issues concerning gas, electric and telephone companies.
"We feel we have absolutely outstanding candidate in all aspects," said Martin K. Schaller, executive secretary to the mayor.
Schaller said Lederer had outdistanced 12 other candidates considered by the mayor. Council members Hilda Mason, John Wilson and Willie J. Hardy also expressed approval of Lederer's qualifications. Consumer advocate groups, such as D. C. Power, were on hand to lend support.
Lederer has extensive consumer advocacy experience involving utility companies. His predecessor, Annice M. Wagner, the District's first People's Counsel, resigned from the three-year, $42.423 post in March after she was appointed as a District superior court judge.
A native of Honolulu, Lederer has practiced law in his homestate, Arkansas, and the District. While in Arkansas he served as the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs in several utility rate hearings and transportation disputes. He came to the District in 1973 where he helped organize the National Consumer's Congress, an advocacy group, and worked with Ralph Nader's Citizen's Action Group.
During the hearing Lederer noted that electric bills in the city have more than doubled over the past seven years.
If confirmed. Lederer said his major priorities would be to help stabilize utility rates and generate more community input in the legal process. This could be done, he said, with the help of advisory neighborhood commission officials and the establishment of a consumer outreach office.
Lederer said he has filed an application with the Federal Energy Administration for $126.000 in funds to establish such an office.
The consumer office would allow citizens to express utility concerns through a citizen's review panel, he said, and an education program would inform consumers of their rights.
"Most people relate to their bills or service problems, but they don't know what to do about them," said Lederer. "They're not in a position to answer company authorities." Lederer said the education program could help develop the talent and expertise of the city's consumers to express their rights.
The attorney said he has no real estate holdings in the District, public utility stock or other holdings that might constitute a conflict of interest. Long interested in politics, Lederer said he has been involved in politics at all levels. He worked in the Carter campaign from the primary to the general election, and he's studied energy conservation and rate reform issues from a federal prospective.
A report of the confirmation hearing will now be presented to the entire Council.