The new year arrives full of possibilities, as always. What's needed to get off to a good start in 1997 is rejection of the empty status quo of political infighting, bureaucratic glue and narrow self-interest. Here are some developments we'd like to see.
* At the Top: A quick resolution of the potentially divisive battle over the tenure of LAPD Chief Willie Williams. The chief came to Los Angeles with the task of restoring public acceptance of the Police Department, and he has largely done that. But his time in office has not been without controversy. Now he has declared he wants another term. Williams should fully consider all his options before committing to a "fight at any cost" decision.
The Los Angeles Unified School District needs a new, burnout-resistant superintendent who can boost overall achievement and speed up the transition from English-as-a-second- language classes to mainstream classes. We hope he or she will be able to fence successfully with the school board and stick around long enough to unpack the luggage.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority would benefit from a new and smaller board that is free as much as possible from parochialism, politics and patronage. Also needed: a strong and independent-minded chief executive officer with a new construction manager who would spend more time preventing MTA mistakes than explaining them.
* Audits, Fixes and Reviews: From Washington, another round of welfare reform to fix the new federal law. Grandparents should be rewarded, not punished, for raising their poor grandchildren. Food stamps and Social Security disability payments should be restored for legal immigrants.
At the White House, President Clinton should try to preserve federal funding for scientific research and development, fulfill his 1992 campaign promise to get the United States out of the business of reprocessing nuclear fuel and ensure that other countries safely dispose of spent fuel that can be made into bombs.
In Sacramento, Gov. Pete Wilson should stop preventing scientists from assessing the potential environmental risks posed by dumping nuclear waste in Ward Valley.
Los Angeles County should seek strong follow-up and expansion of audits of county departments. To start with the Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office was a step in the right direction. It's time that Los Angeles County residents have a closer look at how their tax dollars are spent. And another year cannot pass without the full operation of the Twin Towers jail, now scheduled for partial use.
In Orange County, officials should work harder to restore public trust. Despite an improved economy and a growing sense of optimism following the county bankruptcy, only one-quarter of respondents to an annual poll said county government was doing a good job.
In Los Angeles City Hall, how about ending the chest-thumping tantrums and forging instead some real cooperation between the mayor and the City Council on charter reform?
Some clear thinking from all levels of government is needed on the problems of living conditions for the "almost homeless," ranging from abusive and neglectful board-and-care homes to the dangers faced by poor families living in garages and other unauthorized dwellings.
* Good Government, Services, Planning: From the national government, vast improvements in the federal computer infrastructure for everything from air traffic safety and security technology to tracking of unpaid tax bills and better record-keeping by the Social Security Administration.
Clinton should make good on his promise to make two years of college education "just as universal" as high school education is today.
The White House and the Congress ought to take nonpartisan steps toward true Social Security and Medicare reform. And there should be federal natural disaster insurance.
In Sacramento, greater cooperation is necessary between our Republican governor and the Democratic leaders of the Legislature. We need welfare reform that keeps painful cuts to a minimum and continued efforts to improve public education, with smaller class sizes and more pragmatic learning programs. And how about some sensible fiscal relief for beleaguered local governments?
And more from the Legislature: pursuit of long-term campaign finance and constitutional reform. The governor could play a role here, and also in settlement of California's long-term water problems.
From the office of state Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush there should be a decision that benefits consumers. What a rare bird sighting that would be.
In Orange County, we hope for progress toward a workable solution on the proposed airport at El Toro. The fight has divided northern Orange County from the southern part. Here's a suggestion: a plan that is realistic and sensitive to needs of homeowners near the site.