Looking beyond the June election, an influential group of academics and community leaders is compiling a proposed blueprint for the first 100 days of Los Angeles' next mayoral administration.
The group was founded by a supporter of candidate Richard Riordan, and a number of its members are political conservatives. However, others on the panel support Michael Woo or are undecided, and the group's stated purpose is to remain above the political fray.
Called the Study Group on the First 100 Days, the group thus far has met twice behind the scenes to grapple with improving the city's neighborhoods, increasing public safety, boosting the economy, reforming government's structure and addressing the city's budget shortfall.
As the group looks beyond the campaign, other organizations have arranged for at least three debates before the June 8 election, it was learned Monday. The debates will be May 11 at Stephen Wise Temple in West Los Angeles, May 26 on KABC radio and June 5 on KTTV Channel 11, according to officials in both campaigns.
The debates may help address what some see as a dearth of substantive discussion in the campaign. Improving the caliber of the discourse is among the top priorities of the Study Group on the First 100 Days.
"In L.A. there's too little attention on policy," said one member, David Abel, a Woo backer who publishes an urban planning newsletter and heads the Abel & Associates consulting firm. "If we could lift the discussion with some thoughtful position papers and spend a little less time on the horse race, I think the city would benefit."
Robert Poole, president of the Reason Foundation, whose research backs parts of the Riordan mayoral agenda, added: "We're trying to produce an initial agenda separate from the partisan stuff. These days, campaigns are about marketing and creating an image. Often campaigns can't afford to address the real issues and cope with the grim realities. Trying to govern is different from trying to get elected."
Although still in its infancy, the group has divided into committees and expanded to more than a dozen members--including its founder, UCLA management professor Bill Ouchi; attorney Gil Rey, who was chief of staff for the Christopher Commission; Virgil Roberts, president of Solar Records, and UCLA political scientist James Q. Wilson.
"It's way too soon to say whether this group will come up with something useful that the candidates will not already have thought of," said member Jane Pisano, dean of USC's School of Public Administration and a former president of L.A. 2000. "We'll see. I was impressed that a group of people cared enough to talk about what they might do."
City Council President John Ferraro is the only elected official invited to join, but he has not yet made a commitment because he sees a potential conflict with his council job. Ferraro said he expects other such groups to form and encourages their advice in reforming the system. City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie is acting as an adviser, providing the group with data.
Ouchi--a Riordan backer who has been active in similar efforts such as the Coalition of 100 and LEARN--said he views the group as a brain trust to advise the next mayor. "I don't want to appear clandestine but at the same time I don't want to draw attention to us," he said.
Ouchi said the group may help the next mayor by advocating some politically unpopular positions--such as budget cuts and government restructuring that some groups might oppose.
"If an independent group of citizens takes a position on some of the hard issues, maybe the public will give that more credibility," Ouchi said. "Inevitably, the new mayor is going to have to take some steps that are going to make people unhappy."
One recommendation the group probably will call for, according to Ouchi, is an independent management audit of City Hall, something like the Christopher Commission's study of the Los Angeles Police Department after the beating of Rodney G. King.
Countering any perceptions that the group is a clique of powerbrokers trying to influence the process, some members said the recommendations are intended to be just one interpretation and not any official view.
"People can issue reports all over this city," said Abel. "We're just adding to the pot. I see nothing wrong with a group of people contributing to the debate. I'd like to see 10 of these groups."
Riordan welcomed the group's advice, saying "The next mayor will not be able to solve all the problems of Los Angeles himself."
Woo's spokesman, Garry South, said the group's impact has yet to be seen. "The proof will be in the pudding as to what they come up with," he said. "If it is a group to push Dick Riordan's philosophy as to how to manage government, it will speak for itself."
Additional members include Paul Curcio, president of the Urban Innovations Group; attorney Fran Rabinowitz; developer Nelson Rising; Reason Foundation Vice President Lynn Scarlett, and UCLA architecture dean Richard Weinstein. Dan Garcia, a senior vice president at Warner Bros., and attorney Vilma Martinez have not confirmed their participation.
Meanwhile, the campaign on Monday continued with its volley of charges and countercharges:
* Woo accused Riordan of hiding his support from the religious right.
Mike Dolan, Riordan's field director in the primary campaign who recently defected to the Woo camp, claimed that Sara DiVito Hardman, California director of the Christian Coalition, is a close adviser to Riordan.
"I believe Richard Riordan should demonstrate that he is tough enough to come clean with the voters about the involvement of these far-right religious zealots in his campaign," Woo said in a written statement.
Hardman could not be reached. Ralph Reed, national director of the Virginia-based Christian Coalition founded by former presidential candidate Pat Robertson, said the organization is not involved in any campaign but distributed nonpartisan, issue-oriented voter guides to churches during the primary.
During the primary, a woman distributed the guides outside Riordan's campaign headquarters but a campaign aide told her she could not do so inside.
Riordan campaign officials refused to comment on the involvement of the Christian Coalition or any of its leaders in the campaign.
* Riordan at a news conference touted his business expertise while branding Woo a "policy wonk" with no managerial experience in the private sector. He said his investments in more than 100 companies have produced tens of thousands of jobs. Asked about a Woo TV ad that accuses Riordan of doing away with 10,000 jobs, Riordan said that in his rejuvenation of Mattel, the company closed a Los Angeles factory that sent 250 jobs to Mexico but, "at the same time, we saved over 1,500 jobs."
Times staff writers Richard Simon and Frank Clifford contributed to this story.