By Catherine Saillant
Moving quickly to assemble his own team, Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday asked the top managers of 35 city agencies and departments to reapply for their jobs.
Executives overseeing parks, libraries, airports and a host of other city-run services are being told they will have to demonstrate how their agencies will become more nimble, technologically savvy and responsive to Los Angeles residents or risk losing their jobs, Garcetti said at a City Hall news conference. Some managers probably won't be rehired, he said before heading into a private meeting with the department heads. The request fulfills a promise Garcetti made during the campaign and in his recent inaugural speech.
"You've got to be able to take on some of the entrenched culture and bureaucracy," Garcetti told reporters. "I want people to have a sense of excitement. If they don't have a sense of excitement about this place, they probably shouldn't be here."
Garcetti wants the department leaders to present him with numeric goals for their agencies during one-on-one interviews he will conduct over the next two months. Among the goals, he said, will be revitalizing the economy, making better use of technology, improving customer service and operating in a more environmentally sustainable manner, the mayor said.
"I want the people of L.A. to be able to assess my job performance, and people can't assess my job performance if I can't assess the people under me," he said. Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa instituted a metrics-based performance standard for managers, but Garcetti suggested his would be "more robust."
He said he doesn't have a "secret list" of managers he wants gone. But he repeated an earlier statement that he would look particularly hard at the leadership of the Department of Water and Power and the Fire Department. He also cited concerns about the Department of Recreation and Parks, and in the past he has voiced discontent with the city's library system and information technology operations.
Garcetti's office initially said that all 37 general managers would undergo scrutiny. But Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb later clarified that two executives, the chief legislative analyst and the head of the Ethics Commission, do not answer directly to the mayor.
Garcetti also cannot unilaterally hire or fire the city's police chief or its Housing Authority head, both of whom are appointed by commissions in consultation with the mayor. The City Council could reinstate any general manager by a two-thirds vote, Garcetti acknowledged.
Ron Nichols, executive director of the Department of Water and Power, has defended his record, citing advances in the use of renewable energy and the planned elimination of coal-fired energy. On Monday, he declined to comment. Fire Chief Brian Cummings could not be reached for comment.
John Mukri, the general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, said Garcetti's approach will create uncertainty, but that's a good thing.
"When the ship changes course, it causes a little bit of confusion," said Mukri, 63, who came to the city after a career in the Navy. "Some turn rapidly with the ship, some swim around in circles and some get lost."
"I'm not afraid," he said. "This is great for the citizens."
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