Saying he wants to streamline agendas, hold meetings in neighborhoods--perhaps even at night--and formulate a legislative blueprint to guide the whole process, Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro on Thursday announced committee assignments for the next two years.
The leadership of six standing committees changed hands, with most lawmakers getting posts they had requested.
The big loser is Councilman Nate Holden, the frequent butt of Ferraro's jokes, who was ousted from all three of his committees and given far lower-profile assignments. Councilman Hal Bernson, an ally of Ferraro, also seems to have lost ground in the sweepstakes, keeping the gavel on his beloved planning panel but landing as well on the personnel and information technology committees even though, as one staffer said, "he doesn't even know how to use a computer."
"It's important to balance talents where they can be helpful," Ferraro said diplomatically. Members "don't stay on the same committee forever. We change it around, get some new perspectives."
Unlike most of his colleagues, Holden said he had not made any requests for committee assignments. But Ferraro knew he wanted to keep his chairmanship of the transportation panel, Holden said.
"It's not where you serve, it's how you serve," said Holden, who will now chair the intergovernmental relations committee, which simply decides which bills to support or oppose in Sacramento and Washington. "I wanted to serve where I was, but that's how it goes. If he'd asked me, I would have told him. But he didn't ask me."
Councilman Richard Alarcon, who is an alternate on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board of directors, will take the helm of the transportation panel. He also replaces Holden on the powerful public safety committee and the environmental affairs committee.
"I'm very happy," Alarcon said.
In many cases, Ferraro's appointments will allow lawmakers to address the needs of their most important constituencies.
Newly elected member Cindy Miscikowski, whose district is dominated by Westside liberals, will chair the environmental committee. Jackie Goldberg, organized labor's best friend on the council, retains control of the personnel committee (though its other two liberal members, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Laura Chick, were replaced by Bernson, a conservative, and the maverick Holden).
Rita Walters, whose downtown district is among the city's poorest, will take over the public works panel, on which her constituents heavily rely. Councilman Mike Feuer is the new chairman of the arts, health and humanities committee, a post he sought so he could focus on libraries and parks, key concerns in his family-oriented district, which spans the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.
Ferraro launched the new legislative session with a broader call for reforms.
He asked lawmakers to submit immediately a list of goals and objectives in hopes of establishing a formal "legislative agenda" by mid-October.
"A lot of people mentioned to me that we shouldn't just let the mayor drive the agenda. We should have our own agenda," the council president said. "I just want their ideas and see if there are some areas we should move into."
To make meetings more accessible to the public, Ferraro also suggested rotating locations, meeting as often as once a month in the city's far-flung neighborhoods, perhaps in the evenings. Now, the council meets Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at City Hall, with a rare field trip to a neighborhood at an individual council member's request.
Ferraro said the agendas should be thinned by removing routine bureaucratic items, such as permits for events or small donations for charitable groups. In addition, he urged council members to make the committee process more deliberative and to reduce the number of proposals brought directly to the full body.
"Our work at the committee level demands the full participation of all members of the committee as we collaborate on the analysis and assessment of issues," he said in a press release.
Deputy Mayor Stephanie Bradfield, who has often complained that the council's agenda is overloaded with mundane items that should not require discussion by a legislative body, welcomed the proposal.
"Anything that anyone does in the city to make it more friendly to the people is wonderful," she said.
Here is the full roster of committee assignments:
* Arts, Health and Humanities: Mike Feuer (chairman), Nate Holden, Richard Alatorre
* Budget and Finance: Alatorre (chairman), Rita Walters, Mike Feuer
* Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources: Ruth Galanter (chairwoman), Rudy Svorinich, John Ferraro
* Community and Economic Development: Mike Hernandez (chairman), Jackie Goldberg, Mark Ridley-Thomas
* Environmental Quality and Waste Management: Cindy Miscikowski (chairwoman), Richard Alarcon, Galanter
* Government Efficiency: Joel Wachs (chairman), Ridley-Thomas, Laura Chick
* Housing and Community Redevelopment: Svorinich (chairman), Alatorre, Walters