Anyplace, USA / Los Angeles, California


Anyplace was a small American city. It was widely known for the “Deny, Delay, Do-Nothing” style of its leaders: Nobody, Everybody, Somebody, and Anybody.

One morning, a small hole appeared right in the middle of Anyplace. The hole was growing, but it was still small and the DDDN bunch did nothing.

While Nobody saw the hole as a real problem, Everybody thought Somebody would act to prevent the little hole from becoming a big problem. But no action was taken because “fixing holes” wasn’t part of Anybody’s position description.

During the night, that hole in the middle of Anyplace grew and grew. It grew so fast that by morning, downtown Anyplace had been swallowed up. And when the Disciples of DDDN did agree to act, Anyplace, USA, had completely disappeared.

Having led Anyplace to extinction, those lagging leaders moved to City Hall in Los Angeles. Indeed, at this very moment, they’re using their Deny, Delay, Do-Nothing style to mismanage 60 percent of the City’s budget — its workforce!

Taxpayers in Los Angeles give the Personnel Department’s Manager more than $200,000 a year to administer the civil service system. But she expects each City departments to administer its own affairs. The civil service system has been turned into a collection of independent agencies. It’s not administered by Anybody!

The good news: The Civil Service Commission is vested with the power and duty to make and enforce the rules and to oversee the system. But Somebody has stifled the Commission. It’s no longer allowed to do what the City Charter requires it to do. In effect, the civil service system has been dismantled!

Each City department is managed by an appointed Chief Administrative Officer, and Everyone with that title has full control of his/her department’s work. CAOs are authorized to hire, fire, suspend, and transfer employees. But they are legally required to take such actions subject to the civil service provisions of the Charter. Yet, they’re free to trample the rules that have historically defined Civil Service!

Finally, Nobody in Los Angeles controls all City agencies. But as the City’s Chief Executive Officer, the Mayor does have management authority over most of those agencies. And it’s his duty to make Civil Service work for all the people. With nothing more complicated than a backbone implant, Mayor Villaraigosa may yet find the courage to restore the civil service system Angelenos know and trust.

Contact Samuel Sperling at

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Trouble-Finder at City Hall

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