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Don’t Fight City Hall, Learn to Make it Work

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I read with great interest “Prof Has Some Lessons for City Hall” (July 5) by columnist James Flanigan about Bill Ouchi, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s departing chief of staff. I strongly differ with some of Dr. Ouchi’s “lessons.” I offer these lessons in return for Dr. Ouchi:

Lesson 1: The city structure is complex, and it requires time to understand. Mr. Flanigan is right when he says that the chief of staff job in the nation’s second-largest city is not a place for inexperienced people.

Even after two years, Dr. Ouchi didn’t seem to get it. For example, the 50,000 business permits that the city issues each year do not require City Council approval; they are ministerial items handled by the city departments. Dr. Ouchi’s inaccurate description on so basic a fact is embarrassing, and it paints a distorted picture of a council micro-managing the city.

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Lesson 2: City government is a democracy. Dr. Ouchi implies that city government would be fine if a benevolent dictator was given all the power to run things. Sorry, professor, but the voters of the city have approved the City Charter, and they elect people they like to serve as their council members.

Power is shared through laid-down lines of authority. We are not arrogant. If anyone is arrogant, it is Dr. Ouchi, who implicitly is saying that he and the mayor’s office know more than the voting public and their duly elected representatives about how the city should be run.

Lesson 3: City Hall is a practical theater, not an academic institution. Dr. Ouchi didn’t understand the ins and outs of government and the bottom-line necessity of making sure the government is running at the end of every day.

Therefore, contrary to his description, every vote on the council floor requires consensus--a majority vote or more. Life in City Hall is collegial; it requires constant interpersonal interaction, meetings and weekly resolution.

Dr. Ouchi is a bright man with many talents, but managing within the halls of city government was not one of them.

MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS

Councilman, 8th District

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