Clark does heavy lifting for Bears

At Emery's introductory news conference last year, Emery referred to Clark as "my mentor as a strength coach," and he admires him for more than his training knowledge.

"What really stands out about Mike beyond his vast experience and outstanding technical knowledge in the field is his coaching ability," Emery said. "He excels at gaining rapport and establishing a positive relationship with every individual on the team. Mike is outstanding at uncovering each athlete's needs and hot buttons and helping that athlete … push up his own level of performance while working with and toward team goals".

Clark appreciates working for a boss who has a grasp of Clark's challenges.

    When I wrote a few weeks ago that City Councilman Dennis Zine seemed an odd fit with the office of city controller, I was fairly sure I'd get an earful from him. He is, after all, running for controller.

    Boy, was I right. Zine and I met recently to talk about his race, and he good-naturedly unloaded on me with his qualifications and enthusiasm for the job.

    Talking so fast I could hardly keep up, Zine worked his way through a latte at a coffee shop near City Hall and raced through highlights of his life and career: Lebanese American, born in Los Angeles, LAPD officer for 33 years, twice named L.A.'s best public official, good relations with the Jewish community, something about his opposition to new sales taxes — and plans for his life as the city's chief auditor and a whole bunch about "waste, fraud and abuse."

    He talked for 15 minutes before I could even edge in a question, and then only because he needed time for a breath of air and a gulp of coffee. He was, as he always is, friendly and open and entirely likable. A group of police officers training for something kept straggling by, and Zine greeted each as an old colleague. "Sanchez!" he called to one. "Hey there!" to another. They stopped, shook his hand. He grinned. "I'm a cop," he said a couple of times.

    No one doubts that. Zine is still, at heart, the motor cop and police union rep he once was. My question to him, once I was allowed to ask it: Why run for controller, a job that revolves around audits, not arrests?

    Zine's answer: Being a police officer is perfect training for being controller. "What does a cop know?" he asked, jumping in himself before I could guess. "He knows right from wrong."

    And that's what a controller needs to know, he concluded, after first rambling through a long diversion about how he is seeking no other office and would retire after completing his tenure as controller, and about how much he gives to charity and loves Los Angeles.

    Abruptly, he then jumped to his other qualification: He's frugal. Year after year, Zine said, he runs his council office on less than he's budgeted to spend, and he devotes the extra money to causes and organizations in his district. "I manage a budget," he explained.

    What about the charge that he hasn't done enough to solve city spending problems in his 12 years as a council member? "When you're in the Air Force," Zine responded, "you're in the airplane, not on the ground." I don't exactly know what that means, but he said it with great conviction, then waved at another police officer.

    Besides, he added, that criticism comes from opponents — primarily from his main foes, businessmen Ron Galperin and Cary Brazeman — who haven't run a council office or served constituents. As a result, they don't understand the complexities of city office, the trade-offs and compromises and devotion to a district where Zine is, by all accounts, beloved.

    "It's easy to be on the outside and say, 'What has he done?'" Zine explained. That's the wrong question, he said. "Look at what I've done, not what I haven't done."

    As controller, Zine said, he would convene monthly meetings of the city's general managers and force them to explain their spending and identify areas for savings. "General managers," he said, "for the most part don't like to be held accountable." He'll change that, and yet he'll also be part of the city team, prodding for improvement.

    In addition, Zine said he'll root out waste and delve deeply into risk management, especially at the Police Department, where he argues that officers who create liability for the city are allowed to continue on their jobs — even get promoted.

    Zine reminded me that he doesn't need this. He had a long career as a police officer and another as a council member. He's 65 years old. "I could retire, feed pigeons under the park bench."

    But he sees potential for the controller's job, the opportunity to demand more from the city, to hold others accountable and make them better too. "If you're a quarterback and you throw that bomb, and there's no receiver, it's incomplete," he said.

    Who could disagree?

    jim.newton@latimes.com

    Jim Newton’s column appears Mondays. His latest book is "Eisenhower: The White House Years." Reach him at jim.newton@latimes.com or follow him on Twitter: @newton_jim.

     

  • Related
  • Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag STORY:  Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
  • 2013 Chicago Bears results 2013 Chicago Bears results
  • Chicago Bears player photo galleries Chicago Bears player photo galleries
  • Maps
  • Halas Hall, Washington Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045, USA
  • Soldier FIELD, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

"It's really nice to have a man in his position as general manager who has lived in that room," Clark said. "He understands what we're trying to do and what it takes."

It seems like Bears players understand what Clark and assistant Jimmy Arthur are trying to do as well. The participation rate in the offseason lifting program has been well above 90 percent, Clark said.

"The guys have bought in," he said. "They get competitive and are pushing themselves."

Clark has the Bears working out in groups. After one recent OTA practice, he was pleased to see the offensive linemen go back to the weight room on their own for more, "running the rack" with dumbbells on biceps exercises and hooting and hollering all the while.

"It was as much about the banter as anything," Clark said.

Center Roberto Garza, whom Clark calls a "weight room junkie" has been one of the leaders. So has cornerback Tim Jennings, whom Clark jokingly referred to as an "ornery little nut."

Other standouts, according to Clark, have been defensive end Julius Peppers, defensive tackle Stephen Paea, new linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams, safety Craig Steltz and running back Matt Forte.

Clark said he is disappointed he hasn't yet worked with offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who is training in Arizona.

"Hopefully he has been working hard and doing the things he needs to do and he'll be a solid player for us," he said.

When Carimi and his teammates show up for training camp, they will be tested.

One of the first orders of business in Bourbonnais will be a 300-yard shuttle conditioning test administered by Clark. Each player has to hit a prescribed time depending on his position.

Anyone who has been working in the program during the offseason should have no problem passing.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

CHICAGO

More

Five on Five