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A NEW COURSE FOR CITY COUNCIL ON-TIME START GETS GARCETTI PLAN GOING.

Byline: Rick Orlov Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council entered a new era Wednesday, ending a 21-day holiday break with the first session of 2006 under new leadership.

And it set a new example: Instead of the usual 20- to 30-minute delay in starting, the council session began promptly at 10:01 a.m.

``A good start,'' new council President Eric Garcetti said as he presided over his first meeting and thumbed through a copy of a new edition of Robert's Rules of Order.

Garcetti has said he hopes to address some of the criticisms of the council, cementing its role as a serious policymaker as well as improving meetings by paying more attention to the public and returning to a three-minute limit for council members' speeches.

The first test came as Garcetti cajoled members - who generally sat quietly listening to presentations by the public and colleagues - to wrap up their speeches within the time limits as the council tackled a weighty, 82-item agenda.

``I am hoping to set an example of being on time - and I have to admit I haven't always followed it,'' Garcetti said. ``It's rude to the public and the members who are here on time to make them wait.''

Councilman Tom LaBonge jokingly suggested that the council have a pot of money that would pay for extra district projects to reward members who are on time.

When it was suggested that the fund be financed by penalizing members who are late, Garcetti said he preferred to be more positive.

Garcetti said he hopes to make council meetings more friendly to the public, while running more efficiently.

A digital clock has been installed on the podium with an alarm that sounds when speakers have exceeded their time.

Garcetti said he also wants to see whether cushions can be installed on the chamber's wooden benches to make them more comfortable for the public. And he said he wants to see whether a docent system can be created to help the public navigate and understand council procedures.

Garcetti said he is excited as he prepares to try to coordinate the activities of the 15-member council and reflect both its concerns and those of the public in understanding how city government operates.

Thirteen council members attended the first meeting of the year - with Councilman Alex Padilla excused to speak at the League of California Cities meeting in Sacramento and Councilman Dennis Zine attending a National League of Cities meeting in Florida.

Garcetti will undergo yet another test of leadership later this week when he releases new committee assignments for council members.

He said he has been talking with council members about changes and plans to shift about a half-dozen chairmanships. He also said he wants to change the focus of some committees and spread out responsibilities.

Among these is shifting responsibility of the Department of Water and Power to a new Energy and Environment Committee. He also plans to put tourism into a new council Commerce and Tourism Committee.

That panel also will retain authority over the Airport and Harbor departments.

Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 12, 2006
Words:522
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