Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Five Kings Crown A Sovereign!

The Five Kings Crown a Sovereign!

But is it good for Neighborhood Councils

By Brady Westwater

In two words - hell, yes. Champaign corks popped all over town when the puff of white smoke appeared at the top of the County Hall of Administration Building. For not only is William T. Fujioka, the newly anointed CEO of the County of Los Angeles, good for NCs – but the hiring of the former City of Los Angeles Administrative Officer (and a former LA County administrator, too) by the supervisors is great news for everyone – and particularly the supervisors themselves.

Bill Fujioka replaces the all but irreplaceable David E. Janssen who held the post until recently, Janssen lacked the powers of a real executive officer since the supervisors had the legal authority to act as his co-administrators. So each department head ended up reporting to David Janssen – and five other bosses.

So you wonder why things are so screwed up at the County?

Not many mammals have made it up the evolutionary food chain with six heads and six brains running a single body. So, in desperation, even the legendary five kings - or at least four of them as Antonovich opposed the change, agreed to give up some of their administrative authority to the new Chief Executive Officer.

Their reality check began when their first choice flatly turned down their advances. Then, even after number two accepted a ring, once he saw the marriage bed, he fled down the 405, leaving the supervisors at the altar to watch their run away bride vanish behind the Orange curtain.

The irony is – the five supervisors aren’t a bad group. They can play well together – even though they can have spirited debates. The problem was an archaic system that left both everyone – and no one - accountable. No system with a 21 billion dollar budget and 100,000 employees can work with six captains trying to steer the ship of state.

The good news is that they now have a consummate professional administrator – and not a politician. He knows how to make the trains run but he’s not interested in taking credit for keeping them on their tracks.

He is also not an ideologue looking to push a particular political or a social agenda, nor is he anyone who will be running for reelection and needs to pander to short term interests. He is also intensely loyal to the people and agencies he has served. In those ways, he is a better alternative than an elected county wide Mayor.

To give an idea of the respect the supes have for him – his interview chair wasn’t even cold before they unanimously hired him. I can even picture the Homer Simpson moment when they collectively smacked themselves on their foreheads and uttered – duh – why didn’t we think of him first.

As for NCs – Fujioka is someone many of us have long worked with and he has always been there to answer questions, give guidance and work with NCs. But he is also a person who respects professionalism and expects a level of professionalism from those he deals with, which on occasion may have ruffled the odd feather or two.

But he is also professional enough to look for long term solutions rather than getting hung up on personalities and past histories.

More importantly, he is uniquely qualified to help negotiate the many differences between the city and the county on endless contentious political issues. He can also help resolve stalemates between the City and the County such as the scandalous ten years that have lapsed since the Civic Center Authority last met.

He is also the perfect person to help solve many of the critical issues problems facing our communities, particularly regarding issues that fall primarily under the County’s purview. As a person with ten years of experience in the County health system and a strong commitment to keeping King Hospital open in South Los Angeles, he is both strong and knowledgeable enough to demand the necessary changes to rebuild the hospital while protecting the current patients from some of the people who now work in that hospital.

He also knows the problems of not only the homeless of Skid Row – but also homeless who inhabit every community in Los Angeles from San Pedro to Northridge. He also knows well the many other social problems that the County has jurisdiction over throughout the City of Los Angeles.

In other words, he is a person we not only can, but must do business with.

That only leaves one question - how do we retrofit David Janssen? If Bill goes over to the County – it is only fair that the city get David in trade.

(Brady Westwater is a downtown community activist. He is also a writer and frequent contributor to CityWatch.)

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