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City Charter Amendment

January 22, 1995

I have to reply to the statements made in "Capable Captains Needed for Our Ship" (Commentary, Jan. 10), defending the proposed charter amendment going on the ballot in the city's April election. The change in the City Charter would remove the general managers of the City of Los Angeles from the Civil Service. In large part the argument is based on "a lifetime protection that makes it impossible to terminate them even when they are seriously unresponsive or incapable." Absolutely not true!

The article points out that all major cities in the nation "exempt their general managers from the Civil Service" and among others, New York, Boston and Dallas are mentioned. What's wrong with this viewpoint? Everything.

Fifty-seven years ago, Los Angeles was a city of corruption. Political puppets held the key positions in the city and everyone was for sale to the highest bidder. The citizenry finally said "enough" and threw them all out. Following this upheaval, back in 1938, general managers would be required to be hired on merit and fired only for cause after public charges were filed and public hearings held. That's the way it should be.

The proposed charter amendment will not be a step forward. On the contrary, it will take us back 57 years and back into the hands of cronyism, patronage, nepotism and corruption. Take a look at Boston, New York and Chicago today. Los Angeles has avoided major political scandals and remains the cleanest, most corruption-free major city in America because the general managers are Civil Service employees. Our city's general managers must not be political pawns who can be hired and fired on the whims of politicians.

Our large city departments have capable, bright "captains" who know how to steer their ships without back-seat political pilots telling them how and where to go. If these general managers fail, if they are unresponsive or incapable, the mutiny will come from the people, who will see them walk the plank, and not the whims and passions of an elected official looking for control.

NATE HOLDEN

Councilman, Tenth District

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