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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Talent pool of Mayor Bass is narrower than expected

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Brian Choi

By Brian Choi
The author is a political reporter for the Korea Daily.


When LA Mayor Karen Bass appointed Carolyn Webb de Macias as her chief of staff for her second year in office, it signaled more than just a staffing change. This appointment is pivotal in shaping Mayor Bass’ second administration. However, some view it as a predictable choice, lacking the innovation many hoped for.

Mayor Bass initially retained top officials from former Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration for at least six months, sparking optimism for a fresh influx of talent. Yet, subsequent appointments seemed tethered to familiar patterns: favoritism for a certain ethnicity, a preference for individuals linked to the Community Coalition(CC) that Bass founded, and the selection of former members from previous mayoral teams.

The appointment of de Macias, a 74-year-old black woman with ties to the Community Coalition and a role in former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s administration, exemplifies this trend. There is an underlying sense of sarcasm in and around City Hall, where affiliates of the Community Coalition are perceived as almost ‘untouchable’ due to their influence.

City Hall, unlike local nonprofits, serves a diverse population. It caters to both the wealthy and business owners, as well as the homeless and other marginalized groups. This diversity was a key factor in Mayor Bass’ election. The expectation was for City Hall to mirror this diversity, not just in terms of race or background but also in professional experience. The current trend, however, suggests a narrowed focus on Community Coalition veterans and insiders.

Carolyn Webb de Macias [Screenshot]

The perception that City Hall positions are exclusively for those within the Community Coalition network must change. There’s a wealth of talent in universities, businesses, and research organizations waiting to be tapped. A proactive approach to recruiting these individuals would greatly benefit the city.

It’s not an indictment of the qualifications or character of those appointed. Experience in a former mayor’s office or with the Community Coalition can be valuable. However, the public is yearning for a more diverse and dynamic team, one that brings fresh perspectives to the table.

During her engagements with the Korean-American community, Mayor Bass encouraged participation and application for roles. Yet, this hasn’t translated into a significant Korean-American presence in her team. It’s essential to understand this disconnect and address why terms like ‘CC clan’ have become synonymous with her administration.

My perspective is not solely about Korean-American representation. It’s a call for a revamped personnel policy that better reflects LA’s multiethnic fabric. A balanced and inclusive approach to staffing will not only enrich city administration but also strengthen community trust and engagement.

Mayor Bass has an opportunity to redefine her administration’s legacy by broadening her talent pool. Embracing diversity in its fullest sense – beyond racial and organizational lines – can lead to a more effective, representative, and forward-thinking City Hall.