Behind the scenes in the Los Angeles mayor's suite, Team Riordan, an energetic, largely untested crew, is taking shape under an impatient businessman who tosses off ideas like a popcorn machine and a powerful troika of advisers dubbed the Three Bills.
As Richard Riordan's summer honeymoon fades and the appetite for meaningful mayoral action grows, attention is turning to the nascent organization charged with advancing the new mayor's ambitious agenda.
The Riordan squad, after seven relatively quiet weeks of organizing, will confront its first major challenges in the coming weeks as the mayor unveils a potentially contentious budget balancing scheme, begins clarifying plans for a rapid buildup of the Los Angeles Police Department and confronts the threat of an Indian Summer strike by city power workers.
"We're all waiting for that first football to be put on the field," said one veteran City Hall aide who has been watching the team take shape.
Though he promised quick, dramatic action, Riordan has yet to advance a significant policy initiative or legislative package. "It's taken a while to start," said a source. "They're trying to blend together different personalities who've never worked together before. That just doesn't happen overnight."
Indeed, the mayor's staff, made up mostly of newcomers to City Hall, finds itself struggling with turf issues, steep learning curves, long hours and what one deputy mayor called an "astronomical" amount of paperwork, according to dozens of interviews with Riordan aides, advisers and other observers.
Overcoming those hurdles will be particularly important to this mayor, a restless former venture capitalist with a penchant for delegation and little tolerance for the tedious plodding of governance.
"Dick always did best with the big picture . . . the tough issues at the end of the line (rather) than the nitty-gritty of detail," said Deputy Mayor Michael Keeley, an attorney who worked with Riordan for 12 years in private practice.
Riordan has helped set a dizzying pace for his staff. He scoops up ideas wherever he goes, whenever he picks up the phone, and laterals them to staff. On matters ranging from a stalled bikeway project to a strategy to massively overhaul the city minority contracting guidelines, aides say Riordan pops into their offices, rings them up at home or buttonholes them in the hallway to see what can be done.
"There's no doubt he has more ideas per unit of time than any other person," said longtime Riordan adviser William Ouchi, now a special consultant to the mayor.
The 63-year-old Riordan acknowledges his impatience and a tendency to "burn up" those working around him, but he expressed confidence that his team is up to the task. He says he is applying proven business theories that encourage "management by wandering" and executives who are "not problem solvers, but problem finders."
"I'm going to run the city well," he said in an interview.
Initially, his team has won general praise for openness, eagerness and aptitude. "They are involved. They are more visible than the Bradley people were," said Cindy Miscikowski, chief deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude.
But interviews and observations show Riordan's aides have not yet broken through a difficult period of adjustment. Straining under six- and seven-day weeks, they are still hiring support staffs, juggling orientation briefings with city managers and community leaders, dealing with arcane day-to-day administrative matters and trying to package major initiatives to fulfill Riordan's three main goals--more police, more jobs and less red tape.
"I'm feeling it," said Deputy Mayor Jadine Nielsen, who is in charge of legislative and administrative matters, as she waved over two large desks covered with reports, memos and Post-it Notes. "Look at all the paper."
"This is a tough beast to control," said one source familiar with the workings of the office. "The number of problems that exist grow each day rather than diminish."
Part of the problem is the entire structure of the mayor's office has changed and responsibility for various functions is still being sorted out. In fact, no official organizational chart has been released yet.
Still, a clear two-tiered hierarchy of authority and influence has emerged.
At the top is the triumvirate of the Three Bills--Chief of Staff William McCarley, management expert Ouchi and Riordan's close business and political confidante, William Wardlaw.
Drawn into all major decisions, they form a powerful technical, philosophical and political brain trust for Riordan. Even the floor plan of the mayor's inner sanctum reflects their standing.
Tucked in a small office on one side of the mayor is Ouchi, a UCLA professor on leave from teaching duties, as well as an author and longtime Riordan sounding board. As special consultant, he is leading several broad reviews to streamline government, put more police on the streets and improve the city's business climate.