Is Anyone at City Hall Serving the People of Los Angeles?

For purposes of this column, the people who are directly involved in City government are divided into four separate groups: politicians, bureaucrats, union leaders, and employees. Under the City Charter, the 50,000 (plus or minus a few thousand) individuals who, together, make up these groups are supposed to serve the people of Los Angeles.
But City government isn’t working exactly as expected. Thus, it may be useful to spend a few minutes focusing on each of the four groups to see what we can learn. First, let’s give credit where credit is due—every one of these 50,000 individuals is a taxpayer. In that way, they all help make City government work. But everyone in Los Angeles pays taxes. And these folks are paid to make government work!
Now, about those four groups: most of the 50,000 individuals are civil service employees. Unless things have changed dramatically since I was a City employee, most of them do whatever they’re asked to do. Like their counterparts in the private sector, they work up to, (and sometimes, down to) their supervisor’s expectations. Could they do more? Many of them say they could—and they’d welcome a challenge. City employees: they’re too valuable— and too expensive—to be under-utilized.
At the present time, the City recognizes and works with about 25 separate unions. I know only a few of the union leaders personally, and I regard them as reasonable individuals. They’ve been very effective in representing their members. It’s my view, however, that union leaders should do more to promote the participation of employees. They could, for example, encourage department heads to let employees help set performance standards for their own jobs. Such participation would benefit all Angelenos.
But what about the bureaucrats—do they really serve the people of Los Angeles? Do department heads see themselves as public servants? Or do they put loyalty to the Mayor ahead of duty to the public? My view is that bureaucrats make too much money to risk embarrassing the Mayor. They may recognize that the public interest is not served when civil service employees are hired on trait-based probationary ratings. But they wouldn’t even think about replacing such practices without the Mayor’s approval.
And that brings us to the politicians—the Mayor and the fifteen Councilmembers. Together, they are called “City Management.” Although they were sent to City Hall to serve the people of Los Angeles, they sometimes seem more committed to serving themselves.
The politicians have undermined the Rule of Law. They’ve violated the Charter and let department managers trample civil service rules.
The politicians have dismantled the City’s civil service system. They’ve stifled the Board of Civil Service Commissioners and usurped its powers.
The Mayor has mismanaged the City’s $4B workforce. The Council has refused to oversee the City’s personnel system—refused to investigate credible charges of waste and mismanagement.
The politicians have betrayed the people of Los Angeles. They’ve wasted public funds while squirreling money away in “special” funds under their own control!
Wake up, Angelenos! The politicians are wrecking your city government!