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Controller Urges More Women on City Boards

June 04, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

City Controller Laura Chick, who once called Los Angeles City Hall "the most sexist, good-old-boys work environment I've ever been in," said Thursday that Mayor James K. Hahn has not appointed enough women to the city's most powerful citizen commissions.

Only four of the 17 commissioners who oversee the semi-independent agencies that run the city's airport, harbor and Department of Water and Power are women.

To help remedy that situation, Chick said she plans to gather the resumes of qualified women for Hahn's consideration later this summer.

"It's time to have the commissions reflect the city of L.A.," she said.

Hahn, through a spokeswoman, responded that he is "committed to ensuring that Los Angeles' workforce and commissioners reflect the diversity of the city." Spokeswoman Shannon Murphy noted that four of Hahn's seven deputy mayors are women, as are more than 40% of his appointments to more than 40 commissions.

Chick, who toyed earlier this year with running against Hahn and is close to mayoral challenger Bob Hertzberg, concedes that's true. But she believes that Hahn needs to do a better job of naming women to high-profile panels. She added that the mayor also needs to seek more geographic and ethnic diversity among commissioners.

"I'm going to give him an opportunity," said Chick, the first woman elected to citywide office. She promised that if Hahn, who appoints most of the city's 300 commissioners, doesn't take her up on it, "I will be extremely vocal."

On Thursday evening, she laid out trays of carrot sticks and other snacks and convened more than 70 women to talk about ways to promote women in city politics.

"We are potentially better change agents," she told them.

Chick said the environment at City Hall has improved in the nine years since she was a councilwoman, and recommended that her male colleagues take "gender sensitivity training." But she said there's still a long way to go.

"The rules that run the game today are rules that were created by guys," she said. "There weren't a whole lot of powerful women at the table all those earlier years."

Several other women in city government applauded Chick's initiative, and many said they too feel that they have encountered sexism.

"I often felt I was dismissed," said former Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who retired last year. "There is still an assumption that a woman coming onto council will want to be concerned with women's issues, as opposed to city issues."

Current Councilwomen Wendy Greuel, Cindy Miscikowski and Jan Perry agreed that more women should be encouraged to sit on commissions and run for office. The only other woman elected to city office, Councilwoman Janice Hahn -- the mayor's sister -- could not be reached.

"In a city like this, it's kind of astonishing" that there has only ever been one woman elected to citywide office, Perry said, referring to Chick.

Department of Water and Power Commissioner Annie Cho said, "I think we could always do more to recruit more women and make sure we are all inclusive of diverse districts throughout the city."

Others added, however, that they think Hahn has done a commendable job of promoting women and minorities to serve on city commissions.

"I feel that the commissions I've served on do reflect the makeup of the city," said Silvia Saucedo, an attorney raised in the Rampart area who was named to the Police Commission at age 27. Now, at 30, she is on the DWP commission. "My case is a perfect example of how the mayor wants to diversify, in terms of age, gender and ethnic makeup."

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