Looking beyond the June election, an influential group of academics and community leaders is compiling a proposed blueprint for the first 100 days of Los Angeles' next mayoral administration.
The group was founded by a supporter of candidate Richard Riordan, and a number of its members are political conservatives. However, others on the panel support Michael Woo or are undecided, and the group's stated purpose is to remain above the political fray.
Called the Study Group on the First 100 Days, the group has met twice behind the scenes to grapple with improving the city's neighborhoods, increasing public safety, boosting the economy, reforming government's structure and addressing the city's budget shortfall.
"In L.A. there's too little attention on policy," said David Abel, a Woo backer who publishes an urban planning newsletter and heads the Abel & Associates consulting firm. "If we could lift the discussion with some thoughtful position papers and spend a little less time on the horse race, I think the city would benefit."
Robert Poole, president of the Reason Foundation, whose research backs parts of the Riordan mayoral agenda, added: "We're trying to produce an initial agenda separate from the partisan stuff. These days, campaigns are about marketing and creating an image. Often campaigns can't afford to address the real issues and cope with the grim realities. Trying to govern is different from trying to get elected."
Although still in its infancy, the group has divided into committees and expanded to more than a dozen members--including its founder, UCLA management professor Bill Ouchi; attorney Gil Rey, who was chief of staff for the Christopher Commission; Virgil Roberts, president of Solar Records, and UCLA political scientist James Q. Wilson.
"It's way too soon to say whether this group will come up with something useful that the candidates will not already have thought of," said member Jane Pisano, dean of USC's School of Public Administration and a former president of L.A. 2000. "We'll see. I was impressed that a group of people cared enough to talk about what they might do."
City Council President John Ferraro is the only elected official invited to join but he has not yet made a commitment because he sees a potential conflict with his council job. He said he expects other such groups to form and he encourages their advice on reforming the system. City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie is acting as an adviser, providing the group with data.
Ouchi--a Riordan backer who has been active in similar efforts such as the Coalition of 100 and LEARN--said he views the group as a brain trust to advise the next mayor. "I don't want to appear clandestine but at the same time I don't want to draw attention to us," he said.
Ouchi said the group may help the next mayor by advocating some politically unpopular positions--such as budget cuts and government restructuring that some groups might oppose.
"If an independent group of citizens takes a position on some of the hard issues, maybe the public will give that more credibility," Ouchi said. "Inevitably, the new mayor is going to have to take some steps that are going to make people unhappy."
One action the group probably will call for, Ouchi said, is an independent management audit of City Hall, something like the Christopher Commission's study of the Los Angeles Police Department after the beating of Rodney G. King.
Countering any perceptions that the group is merely a clique of powerbrokers trying to influence the process, some members said the recommendations are intended to be just one interpretation and not any official view.
"People can issue reports all over this city," Abel said. "We're just adding to the pot. I see nothing wrong with a group of people contributing to the debate. I'd like to see 10 of these groups."
Riordan welcomed the group's advice, saying, "The next mayor will not be able to solve all the problems of Los Angeles himself."
Woo's spokesman, Garry South, said the group's impact has yet to be seen. "The proof will be in the pudding as to what they come up with," he said. "If it is a group to push Dick Riordan's philosophy as to how to manage government, it will speak for itself."