Riordan Pledges Smooth Transition for Hahn

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan pledged Thursday to provide a smooth transition to the administration of his successor and longtime adversary, James K. Hahn, saying he "desperately" wanted the mayor-elect to succeed.

Riordan, who supported Hahn's rival Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor, promised to consult with the mayor-elect on major policy decisions during his final three weeks in office. On Thursday, the mayor and Hahn spoke by phone for the first time since the election on Tuesday.

"It was very high-class," Riordan said. "He was very cordial, and he was very much on top of the issues we talked about."

Riordan and Hahn plan to meet next week, but have not set a date.

On Thursday, Hahn announced that his advisor Bill Wardlaw will lead his transition team. Wardlaw, a longtime Riordan political strategist, helped the current mayor structure his administration in 1993, but eventually broke with Riordan to become Hahn's campaign chairman.

Hahn also named Tim McOsker, his chief deputy in the city attorney's office, as his new chief of staff.

Wardlaw said Hahn would collaborate with Riordan in the coming weeks.

"There are very important issues facing this city, and both of them share a deep love and commitment to Los Angeles," he said. "I see them working very, very closely in this transition so it's seamless for the citizens."

The handoff between the two administrations is bound to run more smoothly than in 1993, when outgoing Mayor Tom Bradley had minimal communication with his successor and Riordan's transition advisors had trouble extracting information they needed from City Hall.

In that case, the transition was even more difficult because Riordan was an outsider with few allies at City Hall. That's not likely to be an issue for Hahn, but the move to the mayor's office still involves a host of issues that are beyond the purview of the city attorney, the office Hahn has held for 16 years.

"I desperately want Mayor Hahn to succeed," Riordan said Thursday in an interview. "To me, it's part of my job."

Riordan said he would urge Hahn to keep a number of his staff members in place, though some may opt for jobs elsewhere.

Wardlaw said Hahn would be "open to a number of suggestions" from Riordan about who to keep on staff, but added that the mayor-elect would draw on his own experience in city office in making decisions.

"The advantage of this transition is that the mayor-elect is knowledgeable" Wardlaw said. "If he had the time, he would fill most of the commissions off the top of his head."

Hahn must hire scores of aides to work in the mayor's office. He also has the power to make roughly 300 appointments to city boards and commissions. He will focus first on naming members to the Police Commission and the boards that govern the harbor, airport and the Department of Water and Power, Wardlaw said.

In a few areas, Riordan must make important decisions before Hahn is sworn in on July 1. Riordan aides began consultations on those subjects with Hahn advisors on Thursday.

Among them is the city's release this month of a major report on the proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley from Los Angeles. Both Riordan and Hahn oppose Valley secession.

City officials drafting the report hope to make a strong enough case against secession to prevent a breakup proposal from going before voters on the November 2002 ballot. The report will lay out the city's objections to a study that found the Valley could sustain itself as an independent city if it breaks away from Los Angeles.

Riordan's chief of staff Kelly Martin said she sought guidance from Hahn's team on how the mayor-elect would like to handle the issue.

"This is a very important report," she said. "It lays the foundation for what's to come."

Another issue is management of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. MTA directors met Thursday in a closed-door session to reach agreement on a new chief executive to replace Julian Burke.

County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said MTA directors "are fairly close" to making a decision and did not want to delay the selection another month in order to give Hahn a role in the process.

"It would be devastating to wait for the new mayor," she said.

Hahn will have four seats to fill on the 13-member MTA board, giving him a dominant role at the agency. Burke said Hahn will need time to make his MTA appointments and "get acquainted with the agency."

"By that time, you may lose some of your candidates," she said.

MTA directors have been searching for a new chief executive for at least four months. The top candidate appears to be Roger Snoble, who has headed the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system since 1994. A spokesman for the Texas transit agency confirmed he was a contender for the job.

Other candidates include John Catoe, head of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus agency, and Jaime de la Vega, a top aide to Riordan and a former MTA board member, according to sources.

Also on Riordan's agenda before Hahn takes office are the politically charged negotiations over the city's sale of electric power to the state this summer to avert blackouts in other parts of California.

Gov. Gray Davis has suggested that Los Angeles and other cities with public utilities were overcharging the state. He has threatened to seize power from them if prices remain too high. The prospect that Riordan, a Republican, will challenge the Democratic governor's bid for reelection next year has added tension to the talks with Davis' power crisis advisors.

Over the last week, Riordan has promised to be "sensitive to the energy needs" of the rest of the state, but said the city cannot subsidize power consumption outside Los Angeles. Martin, his chief of staff, sought advice from the Hahn team Thursday on the city's negotiating position.

"It's important we work together on it," she said.

Martin and two other Riordan aides--Deputy Mayors Ann D'Amato and Gaye Williams--are overseeing the administration's transition efforts. Martin said she sent out a memo last week ordering city officials to cooperate with the incoming administration. She said she told them, "We were not going to steal V's or W's or H's from computers"--an allusion to the Clinton White House aides who reportedly plucked the W's from their keyboards before the inauguration of George W. Bush as president.

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Times staff writer Douglas P. Shuit contributed to this story.

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