LA City Charter Section 231. Powers and Duties
The Mayor shall have the power and duty to exercise management authority over all departments, agencies and appointed offices of the City … appoint chief administrative officers of City departments and appointed offices, and the members of the boards of commissioners created by the Charter . . . appoint the members of standing commissions and boards created by ordinance that are advisory to or manage a department or appointed office, or perform regulatory functions … remove from office any chief administrative officer or commissioner
Throughout the history of Los Angeles, power has been narrowly held, business and civic institutions weak and community organizations fragmented and powerless.
Too much power concentrated in too few hands leads to corruption, which is why attempts at reform have inevitably failed.
Efforts to reform the City Charter, derailed in the 1990s by the narrow interests that controlled the political culture, tried to solve the problem caused by a weak mayor system by stripping the City Council of its role as the city’s governing body.
It gave the mayor the power to appoint top managers of nearly every department and nearly every member of civilian oversight commissions and to remove them at his or her pleasure. The only caveat was that mayoral appointments were subject to Council approval, something that has been given 99.99 percent of the time.
The goal was to make the mayor responsible and accountable for the performance of city departments.
Success of failure depended on the integrity of the mayor and on a balance of power among competing interests — a balance that was supposed to be obtained through the creation of a citywide system of Neighborhood Councils.
The NCs were only advisory, without authority of any sort beyond a bully pulpit. Their development into an effect counter-balance to the power of City Hall was sabotaged at every turn by the City Council, jealously protecting its fiefdom authority and by the passivity of the Hahn Administration.
Then along comes Antonio Villaraigosa with all his ambitions to be governor, even president, with all his conflicted loyalties and his over-reaching promises.
Day by day over the past six years we have seen how the absolute power over the bureaucracy and the watchdogs over the bureaucracy has reduced commissioners to ciphers and department managers to obedient servants of mayoral political power and ambitions.
It’s a question of integrity, of the commitment to public service, to solving the people’s problems, of balancing their competing values, interests and needs.
That has been lacking and the mayor is widely seen as a failure. The city is in a financial crisis, the interests of the few have been served at the expense of the many, promise after promise has been broken, the public trust betrayed.
Even more serious perhaps is what has happened inside the government itself, in the departments that provide the services and keep City Hall running.
Department heads and commissioners have increasingly faced the choice of being fired or knuckling under to the political demands of the mayor and his team.
A patronage system has evolved that undermines the whole point of Civil Service which is supposed to give independence and protection to the people who do the work and the managers who supervise them.
The goal of making all upper level department managers at will employees was to give the mayor the power to get rid of incompetents and mediocrities.
But that isn’t what has happened. Mayoral interference has led to the appointment of numerous managers based solely on their obedience to the mayor — not their skill or knowledge in providing leadership and solving problems.
And the goals of the mayor are all too often skewed to provide advantages to friends and contributors, to allies and special interests.With department heads coming and going with unprecedented frequency, speed and obedience to serving the mayor has become the norm.
What insulation there was from mid-level managers protected by Civil Service has been stripped by perversion of the promotion process and the Early Retirement Incentive Program that removed so many experienced and knowledgeable senior managers who served as a buffer against politicizing every level of city government.
This type of corruption is a virus that infects everyone, thwarts initiative, punishes creativity and demoralizes the work force.
This is why we need new blood in City Hall, people uncontaminated by this viral corruption and why we need to stand up now and hold them all accountable for the state of the city, before this sickness proves irreversible and fatal..