A special committee trying to forge a single Los Angeles City Charter out of two competing proposals voted Thursday to approve a compromise on the most controversial issue of the debate--the question of whether the City Council should be allowed to review a mayor's decision to fire city general managers.
The committee's debate and vote, however, foreshadowed the real battle over that issue.
That will begin if the committee can agree on one compromise charter and then return it to the two commissions, one appointed and the other elected.
The appointed commission is considered likely to agree to the compromise over mayoral firing authority, but the elected commission is a much closer call.
The compromise would allow the mayor to fire department heads but permit anyone who was fired to appeal that decision to the City Council. The council would be able to overrule the mayor if the department head could muster a two-thirds majority.
Two of the five members representing the elected charter commission on the special committee, Chet Widom and Bill Weinberger, voted against the compromise.
Elected commission Chairman Erwin Chemerinsky voted for the compromise, but did not unequivocally say that he would support the compromise package if it comes back to his commission for approval.
Rather, he said he was backing this deal so that his commission would have the chance to compare its work with an alternative, compromise measure.
"If we reject it, it is killing any possibility of a unified charter," Chemerinsky said, adding that he believed the best chances for voters approving charter reform is if they are presented with one document to consider rather than one from each commission.
Before voting, the committee heard from Jerry Jeffe, legislative manager for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, who testified that his organization supported the compromise, calling it "fair and reasonable."
But the panel also took testimony from Theresa Patzakis, an assistant deputy mayor to Mayor Richard Riordan.
Quoting from James Madison, Patzakis noted that the first American Congress rejected giving Congress the authority to overrule the president on his decision to fire senior government officials.
She also noted that two dozen of America's largest cities give the mayor that power and that some see it as a bulwark against corruption, not a recipe for it, as opponents of the idea have argued.