Mr. Feuer Goes to City Hall : Government: Los Angeles’ newest City Council member is sworn in, and his education in the perks, jargon and pitfalls of the job begins right away.

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Like Mr. Smith’s in the movie about Washington, Mike Feuer’s introduction to the weird world of City Hall politics began moments after he was sworn in Monday as the newest member of the Los Angeles City Council.

During a brief lesson on council protocol, Feuer learned the following:

* Unless he presses the ‘No’ button on a panel installed on his chamber desk, he will automatically be recorded as a ‘Yes’ vote.

* A speaker blares the council debates in the men’s room behind the council chambers so he won’t miss a beat even when nature calls.


* It’s best not to question other council members when they propose a new law that has yet to be reviewed by a council subcommittee.

The 37-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer took the lessons in stride as he looked around the high ceilings and marble pillars of the chambers.

“It’s pretty much the way I thought it would be,” said the former head of a legal services clinic who won a June runoff to fill the post left vacant when Zev Yaroslavsky resigned to join the county Board of Supervisors. Feuer will complete two years of Yaroslavsky’s unexpired term.

The district stretches from the Westside to the San Fernando Valley and includes Westwood, Brentwood, Wilshire, Sherman Oaks and parts of Van Nuys, North Hollywood and Studio City.

The first day’s activities ranged from learning the Byzantine rules of conducting business around the horseshoe-shaped council dais to the mundane tasks of assigning desks to his staff and finding good deli food for lunch.

Feuer was sworn in by City Clerk Elias Martinez in a quiet, staid ceremony attended by only a dozen observers, including his staff and a few City Hall officials.


A more elaborate ceremony that is expected to attract about 250 people is planned for Wednesday when most council members return from the long Fourth of July weekend. Feuer’s family and supporters are expected to participate.

Feuer decided on the informal ceremony on Monday so he could officially take office early and organize his staff.

He saw his first good omen when he saw his name on the electronic board that keeps track of the 15 council votes. “Good, good, they spelled my name right,” he said.

And he had his first laugh when he sat down at his new council seat, which formerly belonged to Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, and noticed a bumper sticker on the desk top that said: “Smash Lawyeurism.”’

“I think I’ll keep that,” he joked.

To help him keep the council procedures straight, Pat Healy, chief legislative assistant for the city clerk’s office, gave Feuer a binder that enumerates voting rules. Included was a dictionary of City Hall jargon to help him learn the language of bureaucrats.

Since his June 10 election, Feuer has been hiring a council staff, studying upcoming city issues and making public appearances in the district, he said. But many details remained, and Feuer spent a good part of his first day meeting with his staff and organizing his office.


“I’ve been eager to get started, but I’ve been also eager to be educated on the issues,” he said. “I think it’s very exciting.”

As excited as Feuer was, at least one other person in City Hall appeared just as thrilled about the day’s swearing-in ceremony: Avak Keotahian.

Keotahian is the legislative analyst who has temporarily watched over the district since Yaroslavsky resigned in December. He has had to respond to the calls from constituents complaining about potholes, cracked sidewalks, graffiti-marred buildings and other district problems.

“I’m the happiest man in City Hall,” Keotahian said.