Photo by Kathleen Clark

The recent ejection of Inspector General Katherine Mader by the minions of LAPD Chief Bernard Parks was perhaps the department’s most retrograde move since the beating of Rodney King. I say this even though I never thought Mader showed extraordinary aptitude in the job she acquired two and a half years ago. But all she had to do to look good was to be better than the people she worked for.

Mader’s missteps — which included some particularly inept politicking — were outweighed by her proddings and probings of an agency whose close-ranked culture concealed practices such as spousal abuse on the part of officers. This sort of thing failed to ingratiate her with Police Commission President Edith Perez and commission Executive Director Joe Gunn.

Whatever Mader’s style, it’s difficult to see that it changed between the months in which she criticized Willie Williams’ operation and those in which she reproached the administration of Parks. But Williams was a mayoral scapegrace, Parks a mayoral anointee. If Gunn’s excuse for Mader’s ouster — faulty paperwork and inattention to detail — were true, then she should have been fired early last year. But only when she queried the way Parks did things did she fall from favor.

Parker Center’s fingerprints are all over her expulsion, but there’ve been no cheers from the sidelines. Even the mayor who appointed Perez hasn’t exactly endorsed Mader’s departure. Meanwhile, the City Council is showing increasing disfavor, and Councilwoman Laura Chick has set a meeting of her Public Safety Committee to investigate the commission’s relations with Mader. City Controller Rick Tuttle has joined Chick in suggesting that Mader’s former position be strengthened in the new City Charter.

Of course, we are unlikely ever to see Mader back on the LAPD job. Her critics want her replacement to be less controversial; the rest of us can only hope her permanent successor is even more so. But where should the reluctantly retired I.G. go now? As I understand it, Mader’s returning to her old job at the District Attorney’s Office.

As it happens, this office should soon have a perfect position opening up for a tough, kickass attorney — even one with an occasional rap as a loose cannon. By now, just about everyone in county government anticipates that Wayne Doss, the long-reigning head of District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s notoriously lackluster Bureau of Family Support Operations, is overripe for reassignment. Under Doss’ stewardship, according to documents cited by the Los Angeles Times, the D.A.’s Office has fallen behind most other agencies in the state in the collection of delinquent child-support payments. This is particularly embarrassing for Garcetti, since he’s always bragged that child-support recovery was his shining accomplishment.

Who could better boost the department’s justly reviled performance than the impetuous Ms. Mader? Particularly since she’s already won considerable renown in her relentless LAPD quest for justice in domestic relationships? Not to mention her persistent probing of ugly departmental secrets. Mader would be perfect for the job. Assuming, of course, that Garcetti really wants someone to do something like that in his department.

Puzzlement by the Sea

Recently in these pages, I gave state Senator Tom Hayden credit for helping arrange a cease-fire in the Westside gang war that left at least four people dead last month. But I was a bit puzzled by Hayden’s follow-up at a highly publicized Santa Monica Pier press conference last week. There Hayden sat, next to Playa Vista Corp. president Peter Denniston, of all people, and “announced” a project nicknamed PV JOBS, whereby the controversial development’s principals would hire up to 500 at-risk youth per year to clear building sites and join in the construction of the planned 3.2-million-square-foot media center and nearby 3,246 residences.

There were two baffling aspects to this announcement: The first, and most ineluctable, was that Hayden has long and continuously opposed every aspect of the Playa Vista project on environmental grounds. Hayden volunteered that he and Denniston had “agreed to disagree’’ about the details of Playa Vista. But you had to wonder how anyone can simultaneously agree with those who consider Playa Vista to be an environmental disaster and then recruit hundreds of youths to build it.

Hayden tried to duck this issue, arguing that the project was still subject to the results “of protest and litigation.’’ He added that “If [the project] goes ahead, I want the Playa Vista jobs.’’ If it doesn’t happen, he said, he’ll seek the jobs for at-risk kids from other Los Angeles business interests.

Note that Hayden didn’t say he still opposed Playa Vista. As to taking his demand elsewhere, no area company but Playa Vista has as yet agreed to offer 10 percent, or any percent, of its jobs to at-risk youth.

If you believe in something, it’s said that you are prepared to act on it. I think Hayden now effectively believes in the development of Playa Vista, as long as it provides jobs for youngsters. If Hayden were now to oppose the build-out, he’d have to renege on his promise to promote youth employment. Thus, the anti–Playa Vista forces seem to have lost their major, elected ally.

The other bafflement involved whose idea PV JOBS actually was. Hayden linked the plan with his recent peacemaking efforts. But the Playa Vista jobs provision was arrived at five years ago, with the help of City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who noted that the plan would have been employing kids for years, minus past opposition from the likes of Hayden. One senior PV JOBS official further noted that since August, several Playa construction teams employing at-risk youth have been hard at work at Playa Vista.

In effect, what the Playa Vista people were saying last week was that, by recruiting more young people, they’ll continue doing what they’ve already been doing for four months. Only now Hayden can take some credit for it.

Many Parents

State Senator Richard Polanco’s chief of staff Bill Mabie recently called to make sure the senator got due credit for being the first to try to save the old Cypress Park Lawry’s campus, as alluded to in my last column. I’d credited Councilman Mike Hernandez with getting the ball rolling on this one, but Mabie told me that Polanco’s neighborhood outreach was critical in marshaling local opinion to favor saving the site’s gorgeous amenities from destruction by a Home Depot project.

Okay, I thought, as I arrived at the Thursday news conference that officially announced the project. But who really cares? Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy chief Joe Edmiston carefully meted out credit to each of the three legislators involved — Polanco, Hernandez and Supervisor Gloria Molina, whose crucial role was to finally bring the conservancy to the table and to add several million dollars in county Proposition A money. (Hernandez credited both the others in his original announcement.) In contrast to Hayden’s latter-day involvement in PV Jobs, Molina, Polanco and Hernandez each spent many years on the Lawry’s project.

It’s an old saying that “failure is an orphan, but success has many parents.” What’s important here is not the parceling out of credit, but that the deal got done. And the site was saved. Abandoned but by no means desolate, the fountains still flow and the old campus is now abounding with verdure: Persimmons hang like orange Japanese lanterns, the palm and pepper trees flourish, while vines now nearly cover the old pseudo-mission tower. There are tens of thousands of square feet of interior space for classes, exhibits, offices. All you’d need is a pair of mossy marble nymphs to make the place into a first cousin to the Huntington Gardens in San Marino.

All this is in the Inner City, just a block from Avenue 26 and two miles from Chinatown. As one insider put it, “All three office holders were involved, but it might not have happened without Hernandez signing on.’’ But what really emerges here is an example of what happens when this peculiar Eastside county-local-state legislative trio of Molina, Hernandez and Polanco — so often and so notoriously at war with one another — sit down and collaborate. This particular result is so spectacular that you can’t but hope they’ll make the effort a little more often.

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