After initiating the dismissal of two controversial department heads, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley is planning more big changes in his administration as he intensifies preparations for a 1989 fifth-term bid.
With the mayor back at work in City Hall Monday after a city trade promotion trip to the Far East, aides and other sources gave an outline of his plans.
With polls showing rising public anger over traffic jams, the most important decision will be choosing a successor for the city's retiring traffic and transportation chief, Donald R. Howery, general manager of the Department of Transportation, a city agency that affects every pedestrian and motorist. It is the department that places stoplights, paints pedestrian crosswalks, designates one way streets, tows away vehicles and hands out parking tickets. It runs commuter bus lines, a downtown bus service and regulates taxicabs.
In addition, the mayor will pick a successor to Douglas Ford, who resigned as general manager of the Community Development Department to become a real estate and development executive with the accounting firm of Kenneth Leventhal & Co. And he hopes to be able to choose replacements for the two department heads he is trying to fire, Sylvia Cunliffe of General Services and Fred Croton of Cultural Affairs. The City Council must approve the firings.
Finally, administration sources said, the mayor is considering a major reorganization plan calling for breaking up into smaller units General Services, which runs computers, buys cars, guards, cleans and repairs buildings, purchases supplies and manages city-owned real estate, and Community Development, responsible for tasks ranging from promoting industry to caring for the homeless.
Clearly pleased with the administration's chance to replace so many department heads, Deputy Mayor Mike Gage said, "Bringing in new folks always has a beneficial effect."
The changes come as Bradley and his team are working hard to give an energetic image to an administration that has been in power since 1973.
Gage has been holding meetings and improving communications to improve staff efficiency and morale. Bradley is continuing the high-visibility, frequent-news-conference pace that he began before his Far Eastern trip. Today, for example, he is scheduled to join Councilwoman Ruth Galanter at a press conference on an equal opportunity hiring dispute at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall construction site. Monday he had a press conference on city sewage disposal problems. Before he left for the Far East, Bradley, usually reluctant to dump subordinates, initiated the dismissals of both Croton and Cunliffe.
On the down side, while a Los Angeles Times Poll in June showed that he was preferred over potential opponents, the survey also showed substantial disapproval of the mayor's position on several important issues. And a total of 45% of those polled showed the city was changing faster than the mayor, while only 31% said he had kept pace with new times.
Bradley supporters and critics inside and outside City Hall said in interviews that the mayor's best chance to improve the public's view of his administration will come in the selection of a general manager of the high-visibility Transportation Department. That is because of the municipal need to reduce traffic jams and the political sensitivity of the issue. When asked in The Times Poll whether they thought that Bradley or "some other mayor" could best solve Los Angeles traffic congestion, 36% said another mayor and 34% said Bradley.
Christopher L. Stewart, president of the Central City Assn., said the traffic issue is also important because of its relationship to the controversy over growth.
'The Most Important'
"Transportation is the most important (of the appointments) because it is tied in part and parcel with the growth issue, and I think the city really needs to demonstrate leadership."
In choosing a new transportation chief, Bradley will find himself torn between advocates of relatively unfettered development and those who favor more controls.
City Council members Zev Yaroslavsky and Ruth Galanter, both growth control advocates, said the new department chief should be free to advocate reducing the size of construction projects if they are found to increase traffic.
Howery advocated that position when the council considered a traffic plan for the Los Angeles International Airport-Venice corridor, but he was strongly criticized by the area council representative, Pat Russell, who was defeated later by Galanter. Howery's view was not accepted by the council.
"Howery was increasingly isolated on some of the land-use issues," said Yaroslavsky, who is planning to run against Bradley in 1989.
Galanter said the new department head should "take a look at unpopular and unconventional ways of mitigating traffic."
But Stewart, a spokesman for the business community, said the city needs someone who is for "consensus rather than (someone who) is combative."
Deputy Mayor Gage said that Bradley will look for someone "who knows the latest technology, who understands development and its implications for the traffic flow and who has creative, innovative approaches."
The choice, actually, is only partially the mayor's since department heads are part of Civil Service. The Personnel Department and the Civil Service Commission will chose the top six finishers in oral examinations and give that list to the mayor. Bradley will appoint the new general manager from that list, subject to council approval.
The same procedures will be used for the general managers of Cultural Affairs, General Services and Community Development.
Administration sources said Bradley is considering plans to break up the latter two departments into smaller agencies.
"They are the most unwieldy departments around," said one administration source. "It is not so much that they are big, it is just the diversity of what each department is supposed to oversee."