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L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa announces changes in his administration

Chief of staff Robin Kramer is leaving and being replaced by the city's anti-gang czar, the Rev. Jeff Carr. Also departing is the No. 2 policy advisor.

August 28, 2009|Phil Willon and David Zahniser

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday a shake-up of his administration, bidding farewell to two top advisors and elevating his anti-gang czar to chief of staff.

Villaraigosa announced the departure of Chief of Staff Robin Kramer, who has run the mayor's office since the start of his first term in 2005. Replacing her will be the Rev. Jeff Carr, who has won praise for his handling of the city's anti-gang program.

Kramer, who also worked for former Mayor Richard Riordan, said she informed Villaraigosa two months ago that she planned to leave. Also exiting is Dan Grunfeld, who spent the last two years as the mayor's No. 2 policy advisor. He now plans to work for a law firm in Los Angeles.

The mayor also brought on political advisor Jay Carson, a former spokesman for then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid and for the 2004 presidential campaign of Vermont's then-Gov. Howard Dean. Carson, appointed chief deputy mayor, has been working for Los Angeles billionaire Steve Bing, whose company hopes to develop a factory for the Italian rail car company AnsaldoBreda in downtown.

Villaraigosa said Carson would recuse himself on matters involving Carson's former employer. AnsaldoBreda has been lobbying for a renewal of its contract at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where the mayor controls four of 13 board seats.

Supporters of the mayor billed the shake-up as a way to invigorate Villaraigosa's office two months into his second term, allowing him to refocus on priorities such as transportation, job creation and the environment. Some have complained privately that the mayor has moved too slowly in addressing the budget crisis and on filling policy positions.

After a yearlong search, Villaraigosa selected a new budget advisor, picking Miguel Santana, a onetime chief of staff to L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina. The mayor is also searching for a new in-house lawyer and a new deputy mayor for public safety -- positions viewed as critical to finding a replacement for the departing police chief.

Meanwhile, city negotiators are near an impasse with the firefighter union. An effort to give early retirement to 2,400 workers -- slashing $200 million from the annual payroll -- has stalled amid questions about its cost.

Villaraigosa said the city's financial troubles -- including a $530-million budget shortfall -- call for "creative thinking" from his newly assembled policy team. "We need this kind of leadership right now because we're going to have to do more with less," he said.

City Hall insiders considered Kramer to be a grounding presence for a high-energy mayor said to be more comfortable focusing on political stagecraft than the details of city government.

Kramer said she was ready for a break after four years of working late nights and weekends.

She also voiced satisfaction with Villaraigosa's progress in expanding the size of the Los Angeles Police Department and reducing crime.

Villaraigosa, in turn, credited Kramer with laying the foundation for his biggest successes, particularly this week's vote by the school board to allow up to 250 schools to be turned over to charter operators or outside groups.

Kramer said she has no immediate career plans, saying only that she hoped to do a little gardening and continue her work as board chairwoman of Pitzer College in Claremont. Both Carr and Carson will take their new posts Sept. 18.

With the departure of Kramer and Grunfeld, Villaraigosa will have lost six senior officials in recent months, including two to positions in the Obama administration.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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