City Hall Reboots

Hosted by

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

When your computer become sluggish and glitches start to pop up, it's usually time to reboot. Give it a fresh start in hopes that fixes the slowdown, and you don't have something more seriously wrong.

Like a malicious virus.

That's what Mayor Villaraigosa did this week at City Hall. He essentially rebooted his faltering administration. And just in time. His actual record and his public image have both been unimpressive recently, and this feels like a stab at turning things around.

The restart appears to have been spurred by the desire of Robin Kramer, the mayor's chief of staff, to have a private life again.

She signed on with the new mayor-elect soon after his stunning election in 2005. Kramer helped whip together an administration, and has been trying to keep things on track ever since.

The Times today called Kramer the city's leading grown up and the levelest head in Los Angeles politics. She had been the chief of staff to Mayor Riordan in the 90's, and had overseen billionaire Eli Broad's foundation.

Her decision to join Team Villaraigosa had gone a long way to reassure skittish Establishment types, perhaps even Broad included, that the labor organizer-turned-hyper-ambitious politician would be OK in the corner office at City Hall.

One can imagine Kramer rolling her eyes at some of the ways Villaraigosa chose to use his time in office. Most notably the affair that broke up his marriage and, more recently, the public dating and out-of-city travel with a second local brunette newscaster.

This week, when Channel 4 peeked over the fence and caught his sprinkler running on a banned night, Villaraigosa even managed to become the second top administration advocate of water conservation to get caught violating the spirit of his own enviro ethic.

Small, but dumb.

In the four years that Villaraigosa and Kramer have been a team, the most public achievements have been to find the money and political will to enlarge the LAPD and to get more people talking about fixing L.A's schools.

Neither effort has gone smoothly or been a clear win for the mayor, but a lot people could not imagine it going even this well without Kramer being there.

And it only gets tougher from here. As police chief, Bill Bratton also helped fix problems for the mayor. But he's leaving in October.

The fire chief has already left – a new one was nominated this morning –- and Kramer's number two is also leaving.

Villaraigosa faces other obstacles -- a top official under investigation for rape, a massive budget deficit and high expectations for better transit. All while he hopes to salvage his own political image and maybe get back in the game for a higher job.

To get there, Villaraigosa has gone off the board to pick a new team. His new chief of staff is Rev. Jeff Carr, the city's gang czar and a former social activist in Washington D.C. Villaraigosa has been promoting Carr's success with a parks program called Summer Night Lights. Now Carr gets to keep the whole office running.

Going even further beyond the usual City Hall circles, Villaraigosa also brought in Jay Carson, a former spokesman for the Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean presidential campaigns.

Carson has been treated as something of a wunderkind by the national political media, and most recently was here working for billionaire Steve Bing – including on that controversial effort to put up a factory near downtown to build rail cars the MTA says it doesn't want.

It all has the feel of a big gamble – sort of like when you restart your computer and cringe a little as it reboots, hoping the system comes up better not worse.

A lot of us will be watching to see how this one turns out.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.