September 8, 1976
TO: Task Force on Charter Amendments
FROM: Burke Roche, Executive Secretary
SUBJECT: PROS AND CONS ON PROPOSITION A AND PROPOSITION B
The task force agreed to recommend that the commission support Proposition A. The task force was divided on Proposition B. Consequently, the report will not make a recommendation on Proposition B, but will outline the major pros and cons on the issue.
The principal question with Proposition A is whether the report should include 1) pros and cons with the task force recommendation based on the conclusion that the pros outweigh the cons or 2) an all out advocacy argument for the elected mayor structure.
The purpose of this report is to outline as objectively as possible the major advantages and disadvantages of both Propositions, with greater attention given to Proposition A. The presentation on Proposition A is purposely detailed in order to give the task force a thorough coverage of all aspects of the issue.
The basic axiom in organization planning is that while a proposed organization change may resolve certain existing problems, it invariably creates new ones. The hope is that the new problems which are created by the change are less severe than the old ones which the change was designed to resolve. The purpose of this report, therefore, is to outline the major advantages of the elected mayor concept with reference to the problems now existing in the County, which it should eliminate or diminish, and the corresponding disadvantages with reference to new problems it may be expected to create. Therefore, throughout the discussion the basis of comparison with both advantages and disadvantages will be the present County structure.
A second point should be noted. I think most people would agree that these particular advantages and disadvantages are not subject to a great deal of debate. What is debatable is the degree of weight one gives to each item in reaching a conclusion to support or oppose the elected mayor concept. For example, I do not think there is any question that an elected mayor would increase the visibility of County government and as a single individual would be more accountable to the people than a multiple executive like the Board of Supervisors.
This does not necessarily mean, however, that we would have better government. Elected executives in other urban counties very likely provide more visibility and are more accountable than the Board of Supervisors. But the executive in Baltimore County was Spiro Agnew, and his successor was Dale Anderson, who also was convicted of corruption.
With the understanding then that the weighting of the advantages and disadvantages is the key issue, we will review each of them.
Visibility - From the first campaign for an elected executive, the visibility and attention given to County government would be enhanced. The Mayor of Los Angeles County would immediately become the second most powerful political leader in the State - second only to the Governor.
We have stated in previous reports that the County for its size - the second largest local government in the United States and larger than over 40 state governments - is unquestionably the most invisible government agency in the country. One reason is that it has no single elected official with whom the people can identify. Thus, while the Supervisors exert a tremendous power and influence in their responsibility to provide a vast range of government services to the citizens of the County, very few of these citizens pay attention to the operation of this massive government or are aware of its effect upon their daily lives - except when the tax bills are received.
In contrast, Mayor Bradley is well known throughout this region, in fact the entire country. Most knowledgeable citizens could also name both the Mayor of San Francisco and the Mayor of San Diego. Most of these same citizens could not name their own Supervisor. and almost none all five Supervisors.
An elected mayor would immediately bring an identity and visibility to County government which it has never had before. Since a government agency operates without the need to make a profit or the requirement to operate in a competitive market, it is particularly important that it function under the constraint and control of what Don Vial has called "the fishbowl of democratic processes." Visibility is therefore extremely important in insuring that the citizens know how their government is operating and what programs arid policies it is pursuing. Without the constraint of a "watchdog public" there is grave danger of a government organization becoming sluggish and unresponsive, or worse, an organization influenced principally by special interests at the taxpayers expense.
Political Leadership - An elected County Mayor would unify and strengthen political leadership in the County. Because he is elected by all the people, an elected Mayor would be in a stronger position than are five separate Super- visors, elected by district, to provide effective political leadership. He could galvanize the community to support tax reform and expenditure control programs, which invariably generate concerted opposition from those special interests who see their advantages threatened by such reform. Also because he would operate from a broader political base and because of the power and prestige which would gravitate to the position, he would be in a stronger position to represent the interests of County government in its relationship with Federal , state and municipal governments. In these days of increasing Federal and state financing of local government, this is a fact the County can ill afford to ignore.
Government authorities also point out that the more diverse and heterogeneous the area and the constituency the more important the political leadership factor becomes. This correlation perhaps explains why the large cities with their heterogeneous populations predominantly use the elected mayor concept and why the smaller cities typically use the city manager concept. The seven largest cities in the country - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, and Baltimore - all use the elected mayor plan. Among the 13 largest cities in the country, only Dallas, with a population of 844,000, uses the council-city manager plan.
It is the large cities with their heterogeneous populations which have the most severe social and economic problems. Only strong and effective political leadership can exert the necessary power and influence to force agreement among the contending factions and crystallize public opinion in their communities to achieve needed social and economic reforms. Certainly Los Angeles County has a diverse and heterogeneous population and like other urban counties faces increasingly complex and controversial problems. Like the large cities it has a similar need for strong and effective political leadership.
Accountability - The responsibility for County government is now shared by five Supervisors, each of whom is responsible for a particular group of departments. No single Supervisor can be held accountable for the overall effectiveness of County government. For example, no single Supervisor was responsible for this year's budget; each recommended additions and deletions in their review of the budget proposed by the Chief Administrative Officer.
Since ancient times when man first began to analyze organizational principles, the validity of the principle of single executive authority and accountability has been tested time and time again. There are few or no instances of an army being commanded by five generals all sharing the same authority, a warship being commanded by five captains, or a corporation being directed by five presidents - and for good reason. Shared accountability almost always results in finger-pointing arid avoidance of accountability. As James Foy, Editorial Director of KNBC has put it, "The one job that doesn't exist in the County is one at the top. There's now no one person you can blame for a bad performance or commend for a good one."
A single chief executive elected by the people would be held solely accountable by them for the effective operation of County government. Because the electorate could hold the chief executive responsible for the effective operation of County government, the person elected to this position would be strongly motivated to control the cost of government and to manage it as efficiently as possible in order to insure his continuing in office. Any general discontent by the electorate - for example, over a large increase in the tax rate - would most certainly seriously endanger his chances for reelection. Unlike the present five Supervisors with their divided authority, the elected chief executive could not avoid single accountability for inefficient management and excessive costs.
This view is supported by William L. Massey, Executive Director of the Municipal League of Seattle and King County, a long established citizens' reform group.
"Our experience," Massey states, "with an elected county executive in King County has been exceptionally good so far. Since the charter went into effect in 1968 nearly every facet of county government has been improved. From my experience this has been the direct result of the county executive's authority to be able to organize arid operate as ie sees the need . . . If you want clear lines of responsibility, letting an individual executive rise or fall on his own merits, then an elected executive is the way to go."
Separation of Powers - The proposed amendment would assign the legislative function to the Board of Supervisors and the executive function to the elected Mayor. This separation of powers bas three principal advantages.
First, it would relieve the Board of Supervisors of the tremendous burden of attempting to act as both the legislature and the chief executive of an organization as large and complex as the County - an organization of 84,000 employees, 57 separate departments, and operating on a budget of $3.2 billion. The Board today is constantly being beset by problems and crises it did not anticipate. It simply cannot devote sufficient attention to the myriad operations of the County. As a consequence items on the agenda which should be acted on are continued week after week. Or again, because the organization is so massive, problems which should be acted on and resolved are not brought to the Board's attention. To often they are allowed to fester until eventually they erupt into full-blown crises and are reported on in headline news in the media.
Second, it is extremely difficult for five different individuals - each with different political priorities, interests, and opinions - to perform effectively the role of a single chief executive. Effective management requires constant review and direction of the organization. It requires long-range planning, systematic analysis of organizational needs, and daily decision making. Such a task is difficult for a single executive. It is close to impossible for five Supervisors whose authority is divided evenly and who can make decisions only by vote in a public meeting.
Third, it provides an effective check and balance between the two equal branches of the government. Competition is bound to develop between the two branches, and this can be healthy and productive. In this type of structure, the legislature not only legislates, but also sits as a critic arid observer of the chief executive. The executive in turn provides a check to the legislature, both as a public commentator on the legislature's actions and through the use of the veto.
In addition, the charter amendment establishes an audit function under the legislature called a General Accounting Office - similar to the General Accounting Office in the Federal Government and the Legislative Analyst in the State Legislature. Like these Federal and State functions, the General Accounting Office in the County will be responsible for auditing and reviewing the operations of the executive branch. It would operate independently of that branch, however, since the director would be appointed by and report to the Board of Supervisors. The record of accomplishment of both the General Accounting Office and the Legislative Analyst clearly demonstrates the value and the need for this type of independent audit function in any public organization.
Under the existing structure an audit function cannot operate independently of the executive, since the Board is both the chief executive and the legislature. This lack of an independent audit function may account in part for tie series of crises which have erupted lately in County government. An independent audit function whose responsibility it is to uncover such problems as they develop and to recommend appropriate means to resolve them before they erupt into full blown crises could be one of the most significant improvements that the separation of powers would bring to County government.
The disadvantages of the County Mayor concept can be classified under two categories: 1) those which are inherent in this type of structure in general, and 2) those which the proposed charter amendment contains as a specific legal instrument.
The provisions of the amendment were developed through a big series of meetings and conferences by the Board of Supervisors. The Board was assisted by the Public Commission on County Government which had recommended such an amendment in its report "To Serve Seven Million." The report was released in February, 1976, after a year long study by the twelve members of the commission and their professional staff.
The Election Process - The election process is not necessarily dedicated to electing a professionally competent manager, or even one with a high degree of honesty. Rather it tends to produce a person adept at politics and campaigning, but not necessarily qualified as an experienced manager.
It is no secret that shortly after a successful candidate takes office he immediately spends much time cementing his political base. Running an immense operation involving billions of dollars annually requires intense and complete concentration by the chief executive in handling the tremendous and diversified daily problems inherent in any vast enterprise of the County's size. Therefore, it is difficult for an executive who must continually mend or strengthen his political fences to concentrate and focus solely on the proper administration aid management of the County organization Consequently, with an elected chief executive the management function usually takes second place to politics.
This disadvantage may also apply to some extent to the present Board of Supervisors. They are also elected officials and as a consequence have their individual political interests. However, the concentration of authority under a single executive greatly intensifies the political stakes. As we have stated, the Mayor of Los Angeles County would immediately become the second most powerful political official in the State. To that extent the temptation of the Mayor to concentrate on his political fortunes to the detriment of efficient County operations would be substantially greater than is likely to occur under a five member Board of Supervisors.
Election Costs - The costs of a successful campaign for County Mayor would be high. The cost for supervisorial campaigns, as well as County-wide campaigns for the Sheriff, Assessor, and District Attorney, now run as high as $500,000. The cost of a campaign for Mayor would approach a million dollars or more.
Thus a successful candidate would be exposed to the influence of the special interests who contributed to his campaign. His office could become a powerful patronage stronghold, rather than one which concentrated solely on what was in the best interests of all taxpayers, in particular, an efficient aid' economical government.
It is true that these factors also apply to the five elected Supervisors. In this case, however, their dispersal of power carries an advantage in contrast to the centralized authority of an elected Mayor. The five Supervisors provide to a considerable extent a check and balance on each other. Any serious abuse of his power by one Supervisor is almost certain to be challenged by his fellow Supervisors. The members of the present Board of Supervisors, in particular, have shown little reluctance to challenge each other on matters affecting their individual districts and the County departments assigned to each of them, let alone on County-wide programs.
Potential Stalemate - Under a separation of powers structure, a potential threat of stalemate between the two separate and equal branches of government is always present. We have seen this happen most recently in the Federal government, with the Presidency held by one party and the Legislature controlled by the other. It has happened often in State government - most recently over funding for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. In this case the same party controlled both branches of government.
Consequently, we could expect similar stalemates between an elected Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The result would be charges and countercharges between the two branches and continual maneuvering to claim credit or fix blame. While this contest was going on, implementation of needed and vital County programs would be delayed or indefinitely stalled.
Such stalemates are impossible in the present Counžy structure, since the Board operates as both the chief executive and the legislature. Furthermore, while the Board at times may argue and debate a subject over a prolonged period, once a consensus is reached or the majority view is voted, the County can act with extreme rapidity. The Board need not wait for a separate and equal branch to implement the plan nor fear that the implementation may be half-hearted and piecemeal, if not circumvented. The Board need only to instruct the Chief Administrative Officer and the concerned County department heads to take action. That action will be taken.
This is perhaps the single most important advantage the present County structure has over the proposed County Mayor plan.
Patronage and Spoils - Under the proposed charter amendment the County Mayor appoints the head of each County department, except the elected officials the general accounting officer, and the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. Only limited restrictions are placed on his authority to appoint any person he chooses to these positions.
First, he is required to make the appointment from a list received from the Civil Service Commission certifying that the candidates meet the standards for the position. Since he appoints the members of the Civil Service Commission, this certification would appear to place few restrictions on his authority to appoint anyone he chooses.
Second, the Mayor's appointments require approval of the majority of the Board of Supervisors.
Finally, according to the terms of the amendment, he may discharge any person whom he has appointed with the restriction only that he state his reasons in writing.
Consequently, little restriction is placed upon the authority of the Mayor to appoint and discharge department heads.
A basic axiom in politics is that if there is a possibility of political pressure and influence, there indeed will be political pressure and influence. It is possible that beginning with the very first election, under the duress and competition of the campaign, the candidates for Mayor would begin to promise jobs in return for support and contributions. There are a number of people in the County who would be interested in who becomes County Road Commissioner, the Director of the Flood Control District, the Treasurer-Tax Collector, the Director of Facilities, or other key positions.
Once a Mayor is elected these pressures would continue whenever an opening occurred. Furthermore, since the Mayor would have almost unrestricted discharge authority, openings would occur whenever the Mayor decided to make a replacement. This decision could be made because an official was incompetent. It could also be made for purely political reasons.
The danger, then, is that without the requirement for open competitive examinations and without safeguards against arbitrary or politically influenced discharge, the top hierarchy of County management could become entirely politicized. One of the strongest elements of County government now is the professional caliber of its management. County managers with few exceptions are trained and experienced in their positions. Either they have been promoted through the ranks to their present position by means of the Civil Service competitive examination process or have been appointed from outside the County, again through competitive examination based upon merit.
It may be argued that the President of the United States, the governors of the various states, and many city mayors have similar unrestricted authority to appoint and discharge top level executives. The concept in these structures is that if the elected chief executive is to be held accountable, he should have authority to appoint his top policy makers. Otherwise, he is vulnerable to hidden, as well as overt intransigence and defiance of his policy decisions and orders. One may question, however, on the record of appointments to the Cabinet and other top level positions by Presidents and appointments to similar positions by governors and mayors, whether this element of these elected chief executive systems should be brought into County government.
There is no reason to believe that the wholesale replacement of 40 to 50 County Department heads each time a new mayor is elected will improve the professional competence and experience of County managers. Rather, it is more likely to destroy one of the strongest elements of the current County structure.
The County Mayor would also appoint the members of all boards, commissions and committees. As we noted, he would appoint the members of the Civil Service Commission and thus could exert strong influence on Civil Service policies and procedures. He could exert similar influence on the decisions of such boards and commissions as the Regional Planning Commission, the Assessment Appeals Boards, the Architectural Evaluation Board which screens and recommends architects for County buildings, and four boards concerned with building regulations and reviewing construction programs.
Thus the lack of effective safeguards on the authority of the mayor to appoint department heads and the members of boards, commissions, and committees creates a clear potential for the use of patronage and spoils by a politically motivated mayor.
Assistant Mayor - Counties with an elected chief executive which offer a model of this type of government typically establish a professional management position reporting directly to the elected county executive. Usually this position is called Chief Administrative Officer or County Administrative Officer. The charters of these counties delineate in detail the duties of this position. According to this concept the elected executive is the political leader who determines the major policies and programs, organizes community support for them, and acts as the major liaison with other governments. The administrative officer is the professional manager who directs and administers the policies and programs on a day-to-day basis. His duties are similar to those of an executive vice president or senior vice president of administration in a private firm.
As an example, the charter of King County, Washington, which includes the City of Seattle, states: "The County Executive shall appoint the County Administrative Officer who under the general supervision of the County Executive shall assist him, shall supervise administrative offices and shall perform such other duties as are delegated to him by the County Executive."
The 1973-74 Grand Jury, which recommended an elected County Mayor, stressed this concept Their final report commented, "The Grand Jury recommends that the County Charter be amended to provide for an election of a County Chief Executive Officer with a professionally trained administrator assigned to the executive office, with the powers arid duties of both offices delineated in the Charter amendment."
In contrast to this concept of a professional manager, the proposed amendment states only that "The County Mayor shall appoint, subject to confirmation of the Board of Supervisors, an Assistant County Mayor. (Sec. 10.22) The entire connotation is one of a political plum - the position which the successful candidate for Mayor would give to a top campaign aide.
It is surprising that this weakness in the amendment was allowed to stand, since the Public Commission, in its own report, warned of the need to protect the County's tradition of professional management. "We believe", the Commission stated, "that there is a means by which to insure that the rich tradition of professional administration in the County is maintained and protected from any excesses which could be induced by the elective status of the Executive...prudence dictates explicit provision that the Executive shall appoint, with the consent of a majority of the legislative body, a Principal Deputy for the administration of established professional qualifications and experience. (p. 61)
The provision for an Assistant Mayor also creates an uncertainty over the role and responsibilities which the present Chief Administrative Officer would assume. The amendment states only that "The positions assigned to the Chief Administrative Office of the County on the date the first County Mayor takes office shall be transferred to the office of the County Mayor as of that date." (Sec. lO~27)
As we have seen in counties with an elected executive, the Chief Administrative Officer or County Administrative Officer is usually a professional manager appointed by the Mayor as second-in-command to direct the major administrative functions of the county or, in some cases, all County departments
Under the proposed amendment, the Mayor will have an Assistant Mayor as second-in-command--very likely a political appointee. What role, then, will the Chief Administrative Officer play? The Charter amendment is silent on the responsibilities of both positions.
Limitation of Two Terms - The amendment limits the Mayor to two successive terms in office. This provision was apparently included to counteract the charge that the proposal would result in a Mayor. Daly type of political boss who could continue in office year after year. This perhaps was wise.
However, term term limitation makes the Mayor a lame duck in his second term. His capability to provide effective political leadership would be correspondingly weakened. In addition, he could be exposed to the temptation to "feather his nest" or maneuver and use his position in preparation for another public office, elected or appointed. None of these possibilities could be expected to benefit the operation of County government.
The limitation also weakens the accountability of the chief executive to the people. According to the advocates of the County Mayor plan single accountability is one of its strongest advantages. Unlike the present structure with accountability shared among five Supervisors, the electorate could hold the County Mayor solely responsible for the effective operation of County government. Since the electorate could hold the Mayor accountable, the person elected to the position would be strongly motivated to control the cost of government and to manage it as efficiently as possible in order to insure his or her continuing in office. Any general discontent by the electorate, as is now occur- ring over taxes, would F/lost certainly endanger his chances for reelection. Since, however, the Mayor can not run for a third term, this pressure to keep costs under tight control would lose much of its force during his second tern.
Personnel Costs - The amendment states that, "it is the firm intent of these amendments that the number of professional staff people assigned to the office of each supervisor be substantially reduced as executive authority is transferred from the Board of Supervisors to the County Mayor." (Sec. 6.l8)
The amendment, therefore, limits the non-civil service staff of the Mayor to seven deputies. In addition, it hints the professional staff of each supervisor, if the number of supervisors is five, to seven persons who may be civil service or non-civil service employees. If the voters approve Proposition B and increase the number of supervisors to nine, the professional staff of each supervisor will be reduced to five persons.
However, there are loopholes in these provisions. The Mayor's staff may be increased by an ordinance requiring a two-thirds vote of the Supervisors subject to veto by the Mayor - which is hardly likely. Similarly, the staffs of the Supervisors may be increased by a two-thirds vote of the Supervisors, subject to veto by the Mayor. In this case the Mayor's veto may have more significance.
These provisions for increase of staff personnel are probably necessary, since it is difficult to determine the exact staffing requirements of the various offices. To establish a set number in the charter, which could only be changed by a vote of the people, would result in an overly rigid restriction. Nevertheless, it should be recognized that the limitation on staffing is not strong.
Furthermore, there is another loophole with respect to the Mayor's staff. As we have seen, the amendment states that the positions now assigned to the Chief Administrative Office would be transferred to the office of the Mayor. These positions, with the exception of the Chief Administrative Officer would remain in civil service. There is no limitation on their number, and the Mayor is free to increase this part of his staff whenever he wishes.
The addition of a Mayor and Assistant Mayor positions will increase County personnel costs, but the increase is hardly significant. The real possibility of substantial cost increases lies in the potential for substantial staff increases in the Mayor's office and in the offices of the Supervisors. It is impossible, however to estimate what the increase, if any, might be.
As the task force concluded, since it is divided on the question of increasing the Board to nine members, the report will not make a recommendation on Proposition B. Following is a brief summary of the major advantages and disadvantages of the Proposition.
Representation - The purpose of a legislature is to be as representative as possible so that all segments of the population have a voice in the people's government. Each Supervisor now represents 1.5 million people. This is more than any elected legislator in California, except the two United States Senators. In contrast, a State Senator in California represents approximately 500,000 people, and a United States Congressman represents 525,000 people. Increasing the Board to nine members would reduce the constituencies of the Super- visors to approximately 666,000.
It would also increase the ability of the two principal minorities - the blacks and the Latin Americans - to elect representatives of their own race. As the report of the Public Commission on Los Angeles County Government states, Spanish-Americans now number more than 18% of the population, and blacks number 11%. The report concluded, "When sustained over decades, the failure of the structure to result in the election of a single member of these communities is, in itself, a powerful critical comment." (p. 23)
Cohesiveness and Community of Interest - The supervisorial districts now are so large and contain such heterogeneous populations that 110 Supervisor, however skilled, can effectively represent all elements of the population. The State Law (Government Code, Section 25001) provides that in establishing the Boundaries of supervisorial districts the Board of Supervisors "may give consideration to the following factors: (a) topography, (b) geography, (c) cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity and compactness of territory, and (d) community of interests of the district." Anyone who makes an objective examination of the five supervisorial districts as they presently exist must conclude that they do not meet these criteria. In particular they violate the principles of cohesiveness, compactness of territory and community of interests.
For example, the fourth supervisorial district stretches from Long Beach and Palos Verdes north along a narrow corridor all the way up tie coast to the Ventura County line. It contains such diverse areas as Compton, San Pedro, Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Monica and Malibu. The third supervisorial distrIct stretches from Westwood to East Los Angeles arid contains such diverse communities as Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Boyle Heights, Monterey Park and Cudahy.
Consequently, dividing the County into nine districts, following the criteria set forth in the Government Code, cannot help but improve the cohesive ness, compactness of territory, and community of interests in each district; Each district would be more homogeneous from whatever point of view one takes - ethnic, cultural or economic. Increasing the districts would thus substantially improve the chances of the voters in each supervisorial district to elect a Supervisor who represents their views and with whom they can identify. Finally, each Supervisor would have over 800,000 fewer people to represent and on the average, almost one-half less territory to cover. He would thus he in an improved position to know the people in his district and to work on the problems which they believe are important. The result is bound to be a more stable, effective and relevant government.
Cost - The principal disadvantage of increasing the size of the Board is the 1ikely increase in the cost. While the amendment proposes to reduce the staff of the Supervisors to five professional employees, the Supervisors can increase this number by a two-thirds vote, subject to veto by the Mayor.
The City Council of Los Angeles, with 13 councilmen, has an average staff of 14 employees. Thus, it is very likely that the staffs of the Supervisors would grow with a corresponding increase in cost.
Representation - it is extremely difficult to determine what is or is not an appropriate number of people for one Supervisor to represent. To match Orange County representation, for example, the Los Angeles Board would have to be increased over 23 members. When the population of a constituency approaches a million people, population ceases to be a practical criterion for determining representation. One person can not truly get closer to 666,000 people than he can to 1.5 million.
With respect to minority representation, the argument is often heard that only a Spanish-American can effectively represent Spanish-Americans, or black Americans because he has grown in the Barrio or the black neighborhood and understands the needs and feelings of his people. This argument, however, cuts both ways. If that is true, then only a white American can represent white Americans. This would mean that in the predominately white areas, no black or Spanish-American could effectively represent the interests of the district. Supervisor Hahn has effectively represented the interests of the blacks in his district, as shown by an overwhelming support for him in election after election. The question of race, therefore, should not be a factor, regardless of whether the Board of Supervisors has five members or nine.