Under current “arrangements,” each of the City’s 15 Council Members is authorized to employ 18 Council Aides. That means the people of Los Angeles are now taxed well over 16.5 million dollars to pay the combined salary of 270 Aides.
Unfortunately, the people haven’t been given a whole lot of information about those 270 Aides. Do the people know, for example, that Council Aides are exempt employees? Do they know that Aides are not required to meet established education/ experience standards? Do they know that Aides are not subject to background checks? Do the people know that Aides are appointed by individual Council Members — that Members are free to hire whomever they want?
Letting 15 Council Members put 270 exempt employees on the City payroll is a really big deal for politicians. But if the people who pay the bills at City Hall knew more about this “arrangement,” they would surely demand its elimination.
Sadly, the role Council Aides are expected to play continues to be a well-guarded secret. Presumably, they provide various kinds of services to the residents of a given Council District. Naturally, they do it on behalf of the Council Member who appointed them. That helps the incumbent win voter approval and stay in power. But it simultaneously puts prospective challengers at an enormous disadvantage.
Moreover, beyond providing service to incumbents’ constituents, Aides have been known to get involved in political campaigns. It was recently reported that an Aide, while on the City payroll, was caught mailing campaign literature to all the registered voters in the District.
And who knows what the other 17 Aides were doing — at taxpayer expense — to help that incumbent get re-elected?
This arrangement must not continue. Letting politicians put their friends on the City payroll opens the door to nepotism, kick-backs and other forms of fraud and corruption. It must be stopped. And here’s how it could be done. First, the Council Aide classification must be eliminated. It should be replaced with a new class, called Neighborhood Aide. Current Council Aides should be invited to file a Civil Service application for a Neighborhood Aide examination. Names of the top 100 candidates should be placed on an Eligible List. Each of the 90-some active Neighborhood Councils should be authorized to hire one entrance-level employee in the new, Neighborhood Aide class. And Los Angeles residents should be advised that requests for constituent services, which had previously been directed to the incumbent Councilman, must now be directed to their Neighborhood Council.
If each of the active Neighborhood Councils hired one Aide, Constituent services — rendered on behalf of the City — would be improved. A gross inequity would be eliminated, and the taxpayers of Los Angeles would save a bundle!
But by far the most beneficial impact of the change I’m proposing is that the City Council may, finally, be persuaded to discharge its Charter-mandated duty: to oversee all the functions of City government. That would be a giant step forward!
Contact Samuel Sperling at email@example.com.