Meeting the Challenge of Charter Reform

by Kevin F. McCarthy, Steven P. Erie, Robert Reichardt

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Abstract

Charter reform has become a major issue in the City of Los Angeles. The last comprehensive revision of the city's charter took place in 1925 and since then the charter has been amended over 530 times. The result, many would argue, is a charter that is unwieldy and difficult to understand. Both the mayor and the city council have sponsored separate reform commissions to review the current charter and make recommendations for comprehensive reform. In June 1997, the Los Angeles Business Advisors (a group of major businesses operating in the city) asked RAND to analyze the reform process and to identify and describe the key reform issues and options. This report reviews the history of prior reform efforts, how the city has changed since 1925, and how Los Angeles' governance structure compares with other cities. It then discusses the major governance problems facing the city in the areas of policymaking, management, and service delivery. Although the report is more descriptive than prescriptive, it concludes that today's charter has become an operations manual that does not suit today's municipal environment. The report recommends instead a charter that enunciates a set of general organizing principles.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1

    Introduction

  • Chapter 2

    Background on Current Charter Reform Effort

  • Chapter 3

    History of Charter Reform

  • Chapter 4

    Future Policy Environment

  • Chapter 5

    Key Reform Issues

  • Chapter 6

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Los Angeles' Governance System: Organization and Services

  • Appendix B

    History of Los Angeles' Charter Reform

  • Appendix C

    Comparing Los Angeles' Governance System with Those of Other Cities

  • Appendix D

    Findings from Interviews

  • Appendix E

    List of Major Issues and Options

  • Appendix F

    Summary of Survey Responses

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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