Letter to the New Mayor of Los Angeles

Congratulations! You’ve dreamed The Impossible Dream! You’ve reached The Unreachable Star! You’ve been elected Mayor of the City of Los Angeles! And (can you believe it?) you now have four million constituents!

Some of your constituents will ask you to march into hell for a heavenly cause. Others will ask only that you fight for the right without question or pause.

But all your constituents will surely expect you to honor the Oath of Office you’ll take when you’re installed. That Oath is presented here in abbreviated form:

— “I do solemnly swear … that I will support … the Charter of the City of Los Angeles, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the Mayor’s Office according to the best of my ability.”

Angelenos should know their last three Mayors (Riordan, Hahn, and Villaraigosa) took this Oath. They took it even though they had no intention of supporting the civil service provisions of the Charter. One by one, the Mayors violated their Oath and, over a 20-year period, they subjected civil service to a radical make-over.

Had those Mayors put their “New Paradigm” on the ballot, it would surely have been defeated. The voters would have viewed it as an unauthorized power grab. They would have sensed that it was an effort to tear down the firewall specifically designed to limit politicians’ involvement in civil service.

But the Mayors’ anti-civil service plan was never put on the ballot. It was forced on the people of Los Angeles by self-serving officials who violated their oath, abused their powers, and wrecked the civil service system.

Curiously, the benefits claimed for the Mayors’ plan were never explained, never publicly debated. Is it possible the Mayors didn’t really believe that civil service works best when the Board of Civil Service Commissioners is in handcuffs? Or maybe they knew all along that it was wrong to change the Charter by stealth.

Well, that was then; this is now. And you are the Mayor of Los Angeles. You will surely be expected to clean up the mess your predecessors left behind. The mess you’ll face is this: the civil service system has been dismantled. The Board has been stifled. Civil service rules are not enforced. Personnel practices are not monitored. Mismanagement is ignored. Simply put, there’s no one in charge!

Mayor, Los Angeles needs a leader who’ll support the Charter, make civil service work for everyone, and restore confidence in City government. The voters have chosen you to be that leader. You have reached the unreachable star, and if you are true to your quest, you will make Los Angeles a better place for everyone.

Send your questions and comments to samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.

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