Teamwork: What a Concept

The campaign is over. You won. Congratulations. Now what?

In the past, newly elected Los Angeles City Council members were as scarce as on-time council meetings, and they trained on the job. This year, with term limits spawning an unprecedented number of newcomers, council President Ruth Galanter had the good sense to organize a formal orientation, the first in anyone's memory.

Three of the six incoming council members--Dennis Zine, Janice Hahn and Eric Garcetti--availed themselves of it. For three hours Tuesday afternoon, they cracked the code of City Hall acronyms and picked up tips on how to file a motion, hire staff, set up an office and handle constituent requests. They heard from different departments, including the city's Ethics Commission--a promising start--and left with homework in the form of thick briefing books.

We can hope that the 50% turnout doesn't portend anything about the new council. Councilman-elect Ed Reyes, a former council office chief of staff, sent aides. Councilwoman-elect Jan Perry, a former council aide, was out with a bad back. Councilman-elect Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor, also had a good excuse. He had followed Galanter's advice to take a vacation and was careful to schedule it to start the day after orientation. Then--blame it on the Lakers--Galanter changed the date. So in a sense Weiss got his first lesson, which is how unpredictable the council calendar can be.

Because the new members' education will be continuing, we asked some of the old hands what advice they had for this freshman class. They all said variations of the same things: You can't do everything at once. Pace yourself. Take time to get to know each other. Hire a good staff. (Take a vacation.) But the best was some unsolicited advice for the older hands. Councilman Alex Padilla, a newcomer two years ago, added a plea for longtime council members to share their experience and institutional memory. Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski cautioned old-timers to welcome new ideas and not insist on doing things the way they've always been done.

This is sound counsel for what could be a prickly melding of newcomers and veterans. If the good attitude persists, this City Council might actually work as a team. What a concept.

Now, could we start the meetings on time?

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