STUDIO CITY — In one of his frequent recent trips to the San Fernando Valley on Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan took the opportunity to hurl a few arrows at education bureaucrats, rail-transit adherents and even the Los Angeles city attorney’s office. “We’ve made no headway in improving the education of our children,” the mayor told a group of several hundred Valley area Realtors before taking a walking tour of Van Nuys.
Later in the day, speaking before the Hispanic-Jewish Women’s Task Force in West Hills, Riordan put the case more strongly. Addressing the recent passage of Proposition 227, a measure that eliminates current bilingual programs and was supported by the mayor, he said, “The only way to break up the bureaucratic mind-set of our education system is by putting an atomic bomb there.”
The mayor has been using his office as a soapbox to call for education reform even though he has no direct authority over schools.
He’s been making regular visits to the San Fernando Valley, where a group of secession advocates is seeking to form a separate city, an effort the mayor strongly opposes.
Similarly, the mayor’s statements on rail transit and charter reform–two other issues he addressed at Wednesday’s breakfast meeting of the Southland Regional Realtors Assn.–also reflected commonly expressed themes of his administration.
Leadership lies at the heart of the problems with the Los Angeles Unified School District, he said.
“Smaller class sizes and computers on every desk won’t solve the problems,” he said. These might help, “but we need a leadership who will say we will not tolerate mediocrity any longer, and that will have the guts to fire people who fail children.”
Riordan laid the blame for lack of leadership squarely on the shoulders of the school board, whose members he said are more concerned with their political futures than with the welfare of children.
His comments drew scattered applause from the several hundred real estate agents present.
Riordan, who is also on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, said that commuter rail lines cannot sufficiently serve such a vast area as L.A., and laid out his plan for a system of shuttle buses that would connect commuters to express bus lines, using dedicated lanes and arterials, and aided by special signals and underpasses.
Such a system would be far cheaper, and more flexible, he said. Riordan also made a pitch for ongoing efforts to reform the city charter, a project aimed at improving city services by strengthening lines of authority and clarifying responsibilities within city government.
He took special aim at the city attorney’s office, saying that the city attorney should be appointed by the mayor, rather than elected. The city attorney should be most accountable to the offices he represents in court, Riordan argued.