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Quiet Transition Seen for Top Post on L.A. Council

Alex Padilla, who is running for the state Senate, endorses Eric Garcetti to succeed him.

November 22, 2005|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla endorsed Councilman Eric Garcetti on Monday to take over as head of the council Jan. 1 so that Padilla can devote more attention to his campaign for state Senate.

At a joint news conference, the council members also questioned Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposal to take control of the city's school district by acquiring the power to appoint board members who are currently elected.

"You can change that," Padilla said, "but if you don't change anything underneath that organizational chart at the school district, that doesn't solve education."

Padilla and Garcetti said that a vote on the presidency would be scheduled for Nov. 29 to allow newly elected council members Jose Huizar and Herb Wesson to participate. They could be sworn in on Nov. 28, if the county certifies the election results by that day.

Garcetti lined up the eight votes needed to become council president without Padilla's support, sources said. The endorsement, however, sets a timetable for a peaceful transition and heads off a potentially nasty coup.

Padilla praised Garcetti on Monday, saying, "I think he will do a great job."

The council president runs council meetings, makes appointments to council committees and represents the council in meetings with other government leaders.

Garcetti believes the council president can help set direction by taking the consensus reached in the council and promoting it.

"We are at a critical point in the city's history," Garcetti said. "Los Angeles is in the process of rebuilding itself from the ground up. Schools, traffic, crime, employment are all issues that demand stable leadership but also the ability of the City Council to get the people's business done."

Although Garcetti did not endorse Villaraigosa for mayor, the councilman said he could collaborate with the mayor to solve the city's problems.

"Since he's been in office, I've been able to work very well with him," Garcetti said, noting that he and the mayor support a major housing initiative.

Padilla said one assurance he received from Garcetti is that he would be independent, saying that he promised to be "someone who, when it's right, will work very, very closely with the mayor, but also someone who, when it's appropriate," will "also be willing to stand up to the mayor."

Padilla endorsed Villaraigosa, but there has been friction between them.

On Monday, Padilla said he was not sure if the mayor's proposal for control of the school board is, alone, the solution to the district's problems.

"The council as a collective recognizes that the issues are deeper than just the elected versus appointed board members," Padilla said.

He also said the council may want confirmation powers over any mayoral appointments to the school board.

Padilla and Councilman-elect Jose Huizar have appointed a commission to come up with possible school reforms, and the council president said he hoped that Villaraigosa would accept an invitation to present his ideas to the panel in early December.

Padilla suggested that one solution might be to expand the seven-member school board.

"I think the voters would agree the districts are way too big," Padilla said, adding that the size of each district affects "access to your elected officials and responsiveness from your elected officials."

Garcetti said he does not have a position yet on whether the mayor should be able to appoint school board members, but said his research so far shows that mayor-appointed boards are a "mixed bag."

"Some cities where there is mayoral control ... the schools have improved. In other places, it's been the opposite," he said, adding that he wants to see what the reform commission recommends.

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