January 10, 2018

The business operational systems of the City of Los Angeles comprise a $3 billion real estate asset portfolio, $7.9 billion in annual procurement spending, and $300 million in workers’ compensation liabilities. Budget innovation and reform have been largely thwarted by the city’s large bureaucracy. To jumpstart better government management of city assets, Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Deputy Mayor for Budget & Innovation Rick Cole created the Mayor’s Innovation Operations Team (O-Team). Among the many outputs of the group—which was funded for two years—was the creation of an asset management system, AssetWorks. In this exclusive TPR interview, the former director of the O-Team Mark Anthony Thomas (pictured; now VP, New York City Economic Development Corporation), Michael Kelly (Executive Director, LA Coalition for the Economy & Jobs), and Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin explain the genesis of this dynamic group and the future of procurement reform in Southern California.

How was the O-Team created, and what challenges did the mayor assemble this team to address?

Mark Anthony Thomas: The O-Team was an initiative to help the City’s leaders think through reforming operational issues that it didn’t have the bandwidth to address, in terms of talent, expertise, or recruitment capacity. The big problems facing the city at that time were workers’ compensation, real-estate asset management, and procurement, as well as customer service.

I spent a year in Los Angeles, serving as the City’s first FUSE Corps executive fellow, driving the City’s livability and Clean Streets reform work. I offered advice, to the founding partners of the O-Team, on how to create a successful team. In April 2015, I was approached to apply to direct the O-Team.

Read more of the Q&A.