Three More Fantasy Candidates for LADOT’s General Manager

I got a couple of complaints via email after Wednesday’s story that with all of the effort we put in to finding the perfect candidate for the new General Manager for LADOT, we overlooked candidates from our own back yard.  Even as I type these words, a comment came in on a previous story that said of the General Manager search, “Los Angeles has one the most complex highway and street systems in the country, and an outsider who is unfamiliar with the territory would be at a disadvantage.”

So, we went back to the research board and came up with three local “fantasy candidates” to take the helm at LADOT: D. Malcom Carson, Tim Papandreou and Michael Woo.

D. Malcolm Carson

City Councilmember Jan Perry, Lillian Mobley, Pat Jones, Vice Chair of the South Los Angeles Client Advisory Council and Legal Aid Foundation Managing Attorney D. Malcolm Carson.
City Councilmember Jan Perry, Lillian Mobley, Pat Jones, Vice Chair of the South Los Angeles Client Advisory Council and Legal Aid Foundation Managing Attorney D. Malcolm Carson.

Malcolm Carson currently serves the City of Los Angeles as a Member of the City’s Board of Transportation Commissioners and as a member of the regional advisory body for the I-710 Long Beach Freeway EIS/EIR.

In addition to his transportation expertise, Carson has a strong track record in advocating for neighborhood empowerment which suggests a sympathy for creating the kind of neighborhoods where people can walk, bike, and play outside.

But we don’t have to guess at Carson’s transportation beliefs, he was a Streetsblog commenter back when Streetsblog was first publishing in L.A.  To get an idea on Carson’s beliefs, read some highlights of his time posting on Streetsblog here, here and here.

As for his experience as an administrator, it’s not exactly the LADOT, but he currently oversees a staff of 15 attorneys and legal advocates who provide legal and technical assistance to community-based organizations at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.  Rumor has it that Villaraigosa is most comfortable appointing people to positions of authority that he already knows.  If that’s the case, Carson provides a green, community-based alternative to the current leadership at LADOT.

Tim Papandreou

This image of Papandreou is from a profile done by the ## Francisco Bike Coalition.##
This image of Papandreou is from a profile done by the ## Francisco Bike Coalition.##

Tim Papandreou is currently working in San Francisco as the head of a division of the San Francisco MTA which is dedicated to creating a transportation system that moves people a peak efficiency without pitting different modes against each other.  But before moving North, he spent a decade working at Metro, then known as LACMTA or the Transportation Authority.

Granted, a move to the top spot at LADOT would be a big promotion for Papandreou.  However, he’s been moving up the ladder rapidly, and if he were to come back to Los Angeles and had success he could be the kind of long-term leader that can truly bring a long-term sea change to the Department.

To get an idea of his transportation philosophy, his division in San Francisco doesn’t look at the issue as “how can we move the most cyclists, pedestrians and drivers,” but as “how can we move the most people on bicycle, people on foot and people in cars?”  In other words, what’s important is the PEOPLE aspect of things, not their mode of transportation.

Perhaps most interestingly, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition profile referenced above shows that Papandreou is an avid environmentalist in his own right:

Timothy still rides a bike or takes transit everywhere. On work days, he makes his roundtrip by bicycle in a suit. His point is to show that you don’t need gear and lycra to regularly ride a bike. That, and he hates changing. Fortunately, San Francisco’s typically cool weather makes his wardrobe choices possible…

…He has his own veggie garden and makes his own compost with food waste. He recycles his waste and water. He’s a vegetarian, who cooks once per week for the whole week in order to be more efficient. Timothy is a poster child for urban sustainability.

A person who’s environmental ethic makes me look like I’m logging redwoods for a living running LADOT?  The thought actually makes me salivate.

Michael Woo

Former Livable Places Executive Director Beth Steckler and Woo at the Gold Line Little Tokyo Station in 2007.
Former Livable Places Executive Director Beth Steckler and Woo at the Gold Line Little Tokyo Station in 2007. Photo: Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Michael Woo is something of a local celebrity in transportation and planning circles around Los Angeles.  Currently, Woo is the Dean of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona.  But his roots in the area are much deeper than that.  Woo was the Councilman for Hollywood and the surrounding areas from 1985 until 1993 when he ran for Mayor in a crowded field, and finnished second with 46% of the vote.  Since then, he’s found a way or two to keep busy.  From his bio at Cal Poly Pomona:

He chairs the national board of directors of Smart Growth America, the national coalition advocating compact development patterns and sustainable transportation choices; the governing board of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center; and the board of directors of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), the nonprofit organization which runs the Hollywood Farmers Market, the largest certified farmers market in the City of Los Angeles, which he helped to establish 19 years ago when he was a Councilman.

Reflecting his growing interest in the relationship between climate change and environmental design, Woo’s recent special assignments include an appointment from the California Air Resources Board to the Regional Targets Advisory Committee (RTAC), and an invitation from the Urban Land Institute to co-chair a study panel on the economic impacts of Senate Bill 375.

It’s this amazing background, and his long track record of work on behalf of the City of Los Angeles in an official capacity that makes him such a compelling candidate.  Woo understands the issues facing Los Angeles from both the eyes of a city official and the eyes of an environmental and Smart Growth Advocate and would command instant respect from the City Council and LADOT.

But of course, Woo would have to give up a lot to take the position, perhaps more than any other person we’ve discussed.  In addition to his day job, his work on all those boards and non-profit groups makes a tremendous difference.  If he were willing to take the position, he should be at or near the top of any short list.


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