New L.A. Mayor Riordan Promises to be Accessible, Govern in Consensus Style
LOS ANGELES — WHEN he won a narrow, 8-point victory over opponent Michael Woo in the June 11 runoff election here, Republican Mayor-elect Richard Riordan acknowledged openly that he had lots of learning to do. The well-known political activist and businessman is a former appointee to two city commissions but had never held elected office.
To prepare for taking over City Hall today (Bradley reflects, Page 2.), Mr. Riordan spent the interim two weeks jetting across the state and nation at a pace that has even critics impressed:
* To the State House in Sacramento, where fellow Republican Gov. Pete Wilson detailed the state budget crunch, new initiatives on crime, and his plans to abolish state mandates to cities, except those relating to public safety.
"They bonded," says Mr. Wilson's press spokesman, Franz Wisner. "They came out united in plans to assist law enforcement. The mayor[-elect] explained afterward that only now did he have a full comprehension of how severe and complex the state's fiscal problems are."
* To Washington to jog with President Clinton and hobnob with about 50 elected officials he hopes will free up federal funds to help his city.
"The good news is that I felt I pulled down the veil of mystery surrounding Washington, D.C." Riordan told reporters. "For instance, in Washington, rather than knowing the most popular congressman, you have to find a congressman on a committee that is involved in the issues you are interested in...."
* To Indianapolis to study privatization - a term he used to get elected by promising the leasing of such public entities as Los Angeles International Airport to fund more police. The capital city of Indiana has been a pioneer in the use of private contracting.
"We will have a panel similar to [theirs]," he said of the Service, Efficiency, and Lower Taxes for Indianapolis Commission. "A very important ingredient in my administration will be public-private partnerships."
* To Philadelphia, where Riordan made the rounds at City Hall with the city's mayor, Edward Rendell, listening to tips on how to break large problems down into manageable ones, and how to delegate. He watched Mr. Rendell handle phone calls, constituents, and stacks of messages before he mocked to TV cameras: "Is this what my life is going to be like?"
One suggestion from Rendell and Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith was to enlist corporate executives to help turn Los Angeles around. Rendell also offered the advice of never failing to return reporters' calls. He added that being mayor would be an "invigorating," "stimulating," experience, "but also the most frustrating thing" Riordan ever does.
"Riordan has captured everyone's imagination with his whirlwind of glad handing," said one City Hall official on condition of anonymity. "But as of today, the fun stops and the work starts." Back in Los Angeles, Riordan says his first priority is to plot out each day, allowing time to meet with constituents and those who call with complaints. He says his whirlwind tour has convinced him that he needs a staff of experienced deputy mayors.
At a press conference held last week, he promised a style of sharing power in a "consensus administration." And he expressed dismay over the public "tweaking" of officials by those of opposition parties. "It seems to me to be a kind of game-playing that doesn't get very far," he said.
Besides laying out a schedule intended to pace himself - rising at 4:30 a.m. and working until 10 p.m. - Riordan says he plans to continue traveling while in office to keep informed about innovations in other cities. Next stops: Phoenix, Chicago, and Houston.
"I think the message Riordan wants to send to his staff now is [to] avoid all the slips and gaffes of the Clinton administration," says Joe Cerrell, a political analyst. "He is going to sit them down over coffee and Danish and say: `Whatever we do, let's not do what the president has done. Let's learn from those mistakes.' "