May 7, 2004 - From the April, 2002 issue

Hahn Chief Of Staff Tim McOsker Offers Insight Into Mayor Hahn's Priorities & Office Staff

An elected official's mission-no matter how visionary-means nothing if it can't be implemented. Because of that, the staff surrounding our local electeds is incredibly important. If they are on different pages, out for personal glory or simply not in-touch with an administration the entire mission of an office can be compromised. To give our readers insight into the importance of putting together a dedicated staff, MIR recently talked to L.A. Mayor Hahn Chief of Staff Tim McOsker who talks about "Team Hahn" its progress and its benchmarks for success.

Tim, please start by describing the job of Chief of Staff to the Mayor of the City of LA. You have previously expressed that being the Chief of Staff to the City Attorney was the best job in the world, so is this new responsibility even better?

Because I enjoyed being Chief of Staff to the City Attorney so much, I would have to characterize the position of Chief of Staff to the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles as the second best job in city government.

But seriously, this is a tremendously challenging and rewarding job. And as we work through the issues facing Los Angeles I'm finding that-given the issues that have arisen over the last 9 months- the Chief of Staff to the Mayor might be the most tremendous opportunity in local government nationwide.

Of course when one looks back on the last several months it would be inaccurate to say that the events of 9/11 were exciting or rewarding. However, because of those events we are faced-for the first time in the history of local government-with a situation where the security and safety of the U.S. now resides at the local level. That challenge affords local government an enormous responsibility.

There's been so little media coverage of the L.A. Mayor's team, it would be instructive for you to describe and share how the Hahn office has been organized. Mike Keeley, who did this for Mayor Riordan, has been quoted as saying that it takes at least 6 months for people to find the bathroom. We're now in the 9th month. Give us a sense of your team and how its functioning.

After the Mayor asked me to be his Chief of Staff, we sat down and went over the potential major issues facing this administration. Those issues have shaped his staffing choices.

Public safety is a tremendously important issue for the Mayor. And we have a Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Roberta Yang, who works with the police department, the fire department, animal regulation and emergency preparedness.

Another important issue-particularly during this first part of the Hahn administration-is the issue of neighborhoods and communities. To help make that issue a priority, this City has a Deputy Mayor for Neighborhoods and Constituent Services-Doane Liu. He is out in the community, organizing constituent service centers throughout the city so that we can address community concerns directly.

The Mayor also has deputy mayors assigned to special projects such as the Valley, the harbor and the airport.

Let's focus on the Mayor's senior staff, its strengths and weaknesses. L.A.'s new City Attorney has hired, by all accounts, a top-notch senior staff that has apparently impressed both constituents and the press. The Mayor-who has 20 years of experience in City Hall-has not been given as high a mark for his team. Given the criticism, take this opportunity as Chief of Staff to react and respond?

The Mayor has surrounded himself with a very talented group of people. They are people with whom he has a great deal of familiarity-either from the City Attorney's Office, working in the community, or from his campaign-and who have substantive knowledge in the areas where he's assigned them.

As an example, let's look at the issues surrounding secession. To deal with those issues, Mayor Hahn immediately focused on constituent services. He set up the largest constituent services function ever implemented through the Mayor's Office, put individuals out into the community, focused on the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and has shown great progress in addressing the issues of service and quality of life in neighborhoods.

This Mayor is about getting the job done. He is not about creating a flash with marquee names of staffers. Because of that, we've created a staff structure that will serve to implement the vision of the Mayor of Los Angeles, not merely create constituencies around individual Deputy Mayors. And while he may not do it with the same flash of some other politicians, Mayor Hahn is an individual who has a reputation for getting the job done.

The LAEDC held an Economic Summit immediately following 9/11. Their 90-day report was recently issued with the Mayor adding his accomplishments to the list presented. Balanced against some successes, some in the business community were critical of the city's handling of LAX; others with the level of infrastructure investment. Some are concerned with the inexperience of Troy Edwards, your Deputy Mayor over such critical city proprietary departments as Harbor, DWP and Airports. Could you comment? Is the Mayor's Office appropriately staffed to guide the city and its proprietary departments through the challenges of our post-9/11 world?

The Mayor has moved in a very clear direction with regard to his vision for the future of the airport. In fact, he's had a great deal of success within the LAWA system-he has appointed a commission that is extraordinarily talented, he has put in place a commission president with tremendous experience and he has met his campaign commitment of stressing the importance of meeting L.A.'s air traffic demands in a regional manner.

At the core of all that progress is a deputy mayor who has shown tremendous commitment to working with the commission, the community and the LAWA staff both in terms of a regional approach to air traffic and the specific issue of Mayor Hahn's LAX modernization plan-what we've dubbed, "The Fifth Alternative." The Mayor is very pleased with the progress we've made at LAX.


Let's turn then other challenges. What are the Mayor's current priorities? Are you still supportive of the Riordan Business Team approach to business retention and attraction? What impact is a rising crime rate having on your agenda and on management's attention?

Again the constituent service function is a major priority within the Mayor's Office. We have a staff of approx. 47 constituent service employees and we are in the process of opening 6 offices citywide to work directly with the Council Offices, the Neighborhood Councils and the community.

The Business Team is also working in the Valley to integrate with Valley businesses and address the issues that secessionists cite as reasons to breakaway from the City. We want to make sure that the businesses in the Valley know exactly what services are available to them.

Additionally, because we've noticed an increase in crime, we have staffed a number of our policy analysts on public safety issues particularly regarding recruitment, retention and the spike in gang crime. And we will be rolling those proposals out in the near future.

Obviously the secession issue will dominate City Hall's agenda for the next 6 months. What can we expect in the way of leadership from the Mayor? How will the Mayor's "One City" campaign be framed?

The Mayor will be heading a campaign against secession that will function outside City Hall. And he will continue to stress what he has claimed all along-that the City of Los Angeles is a world-class city, that the current combination of neighborhoods is what makes it a great city and that it is better together.

However, he does understand that the City of L.A. needs to do a better job of bringing services to our communities. His mission within City Hall is to address that by implementing a Nordstrom-style level of service. That program is just beginning to roll out and is why he recently put traffic officers in intersections in the Valley, in North Hollywood and in 25 other intersections citywide to control rush hour gridlock. He wants to show that we have the resources and the expertise to make quality of life better.

In trying to deal with all the issues you've just mentioned there is one factor that could impede your progress-the current fiscal crunch. You've just announced your first budget. What are the challenges? And what's being proposed?

Even though this was a tough year for our economy, we're seeing signs of a rebound and our revenues are now predicted to be higher than what we thought they would be back in January. We also worked quickly to implement a citywide hiring freeze last year when we saw signs that we might not have the same budget situation for fiscal year 2002-03, and that helped us reduce spending.

Mayor Hahn's proposed budget actually included increases in the Police and Fire Departments' budgets, which reflects his deep commitment to improving public safety. We also worked very hard to maintain record levels of street resurfacing and sidewalk repair, and we are increasing tree trimming services by 5 percent. We have also included funding for our first year of the Housing Trust Fund plan and $3 million for Neighborhood Council projects.

Regarding the budget, has there been cooperation and the collaboration with the Council? With so many new members, what's the working relationship like?

The relationship of the Mayor and the City Council has improved tremendously under this administration. And while there will always be ups and downs, when something as real and serious as the current budget crisis rears its head, that relationship only becomes stronger.

There has been terrific collaboration between the two particularly as it relates to the budget. We've worked very closely with Council President Padilla and Nick Pacheco, the Chair of Budget and Finance Committee, to find ways to scrub money out of this year's budget to make sure we close the gap this year.

Lastly, if we were to revisit these topics with you in 6-12 months, what ought to be the benchmarks for measuring the success of the Mayor's tenure and leadership?

We would like to see the Mayor's commitment to the Housing Trust Fund realized. We'd like to see the implementation of significant programs aimed at addressing the recent spike in crime. And by the end of the year, the greatest challenge and the greatest success of this administration will be judged on whether we have been able to keep the City together.


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