How much power does the mayor of L.A. have?

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Just a few steps away from the L.A. mayor’s office in City Hall is the Los Angeles City Council chamber. There are 15 people on the City Council, and they have formidable powers that L.A. mayors have to face, such as the power to reject the mayor’s budget.

The next mayor of Los Angeles will get a salary of just over $232,000 a year, an expansive corner office on the third floor of City Hall, and the opportunity to live at Getty House, the official mayoral residence in L.A.’s posh Windsor Square neighborhood. The Tudor-style residence, by the way, comes with seven bathrooms… if you care about that sort of thing.

But what the next mayor of L.A. will probably really care about is how much raw political clout he or she will have to govern America’s second largest city and turn campaign ideas into real world political accomplishments.

But here’s the rub. Compared to other cities, like New York and Chicago, L.A. has long had what’s been known as a “weak mayor” system, with power distributed between the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and lots of different semi-independent municipal commissions and departments. The mayor might have been at the to of the city’s pyramid of power, but that didn’t mean he (and so far it’s been an all boys’ club) could do anything he wanted.

That changed, however, in 1999 when voters passed a city charter reform measure. Think of the city charter as L.A.’s municipal constitution, spelling out who has what power to do what in City Hall. That change to the charter  gave L.A.’s mayor more authority, especially when it came to the hiring and firing of personnel. Beyond that, the mayor plays the lead role in crafting the city’s multi-billion dollar annual budget. But that budget has to be passed with the approval of a  majority of the 15 member City Council. The Council can also override a mayoral veto.

Listen below to find  Los Angeles’ mayor can and can’t do. In it, we hear from someone who has already had the job, Jim Hahn, who was mayor of Los Angeles from 2001 to 2005.