Wendy Greuel for L.A. city controller
The city controller candidate of our dreams is not running. Perhaps such a person doesn’t exist. The difficult job requires someone with sufficient knowledge of City Hall to be able to ferret out poor management of programs; enough backbone to stand up to the City Council, the mayor, the City Hall bureaucracy and other powers vested in the status quo; and the judgment to distinguish between systemic problems and the quotidian foul-up that’s good for an outraged headline but will never be repeated.
We’d be more than comfortable giving another term to Laura Chick, who as the first Los Angeles city controller with performance audit powers did a solid job of examining government and pursuing waste and foolish practices. But Chick is termed out, and voters must decide among Wendy Greuel, Nick Patsaouras and Kathleen “Suzy” Evans. The Times, with some trepidation, endorses Greuel.
Patsaouras has been instrumental in moving the region’s transportation plans forward, as attested to by the plaza at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority headquarters that bears his name. He went against the grain as a member of the board that oversees the Department of Water and Power, and played a constructive role in curbing some of the department’s unwise practices.
But broad vision and the snap of a bulldog commissioner aren’t necessarily the best traits for a controller, who must not merely uncover waste but do something about it. The controller must sometimes rely on persuasion to get results in City Hall, and must sometimes snub City Hall to make an appeal to the people.
We believe Greuel has within her the discernment to continue in Chick’s tradition. Her work on reforming the city’s business taxes was impressive. Her constituent service is peerless. But her ability to work within the system sometimes veers into a fear of alienating others in power and a willingness to take cheap shots at those she knows won’t retaliate.
We’re unimpressed, to say the least, with Greuel’s campaign commercial, in which she takes on a program at the Housing Department and rails against “the city” for its failure to track loans. As for the loans, she has been a member of the council’s oversight committee and bears as much responsibility as anyone. As for the department, she would do well to ensure that every city agency is as efficient and effective, and as good at resisting political pressure from council members who would rather the department offer special deals to favored developers than conduct business in an evenhanded, transparent fashion. The department should be her model, not her target.
We believe Greuel can be better than her campaign. We urge her to prove it.
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