“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to do something that made a difference in people’s lives.” As an up-and-coming, now-nationally recognized elected official, this is the guiding principle underpinning Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s public service.
Just as the Mayor’s office is deploying resources and generating solutions to combat the city’s most pressing issues, the amiable, once thought-to-be presidential hopeful spared some time out of his heavy schedule to debrief on a smorgasbord of subject matters.
Raised in a Jewish, Mexican-American household, committing one’s life to the belief and execution of one’s convictions was a lesson imbued into the forty-eight-year-old Mayor in his early years – an ideal he would go on to actualize in his career as a civil servant in the LA City Council and in City Hall. “People think I grew up in politics, because my dad ran for district attorney after I was in college. But as a kid, I was more inspired by his determination and dedication to his work, even while battling cancer. My mom worked in charitable foundations, and together they taught me to show up, and commit to the causes I cared about,” Garcetti explains.
Recounting his father’s successful bid for the LA District Attorney’s office, the largest prosecutorial force in the country, it’s critical to note that Mr. Garcetti’s father is best known for the supervisory role he donned in the cut-throat era of the “Trial of the Century,” which ended in the exoneration of O.J. Simpson.
As cited by the LA Mayor, this dynastical, political continuity is what many choose to ascribe to the Mayor’s political ambitions; he, however, dispels the notion that this is what persuaded Angelenos to place their bets on him – he has his own heavy-lifting to tout.
Akin to some of his predecessors and political colleagues, Mr. Garcetti attended prestigious institutions as a young adult, including Columbia University and the Queen’s College in Oxford – as a Rhodes Scholar. He extols the intuition of his parents for affording him the opportunity to blossom on his own. “My parents gave me a lot of freedom to explore my passions from a young age, and I was lucky enough to travel the world in high school and college learning from local leaders…,” the Mayor reminisces. Mr. Garcetti once told a crowd of teenagers, at his alma mater of Harvard-Westlake High School, that it was his AP Government teacher who focused his attention on the political landscape, rousing his interest to participate in civic engagement groups within the school, the high school’s newspaper, The Chronicle, detailed in 2017.
Given these factors being the constituents of his dream, it seems as though his political aspirations first materialized during his foray in the educational realm, where he took on a professorship at the University of Southern California. Mulling over a political future, perhaps armed with newfound expertise in the field, Mr. Garcetti took a chance by taking on key political actors in the LA City-scape and etching his name on the ballot. “Until I was 29, I had never really considered running for office. But the more I thought about it, the more I was drawn to it, and eventually I decided to give going door-to-door a try. And along the way, I learned that I could bring my professorial experience into this job — teaching people who are cynical about government the basics of how City Hall works, convincing strangers that I might be able to help them with their problems, opening up the civic process to more Angelenos, translating my work in academia and my passion for the study of human rights into tangible change in my city and for my neighbors,” the Mayor outlines. The new millennium designed anew the political stage in Los Angeles, and with it, reignited the promises defining the nation to thousands of Mr. Garcetti’s supporters.
Now, two years into his second term, Mayor Garcetti has been lauded as one of the most effective advocates of the issues plaguing the City of Angels. But, as any politician, he’s drawn sharp scrutiny on many of his policy positions, most notably his tackling of the homelessness epidemic.
Just recently as October of 2018, while speculation was rampant about Mr. Garcetti’s presidential sights, CNN’s Jake Tapper bluntly stated that “You were screamed at for four hours this week at a town hall on homelessness,” continuing to broach the topic of the Mayor’s perceived “crisis in [his] backyard,” during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union. Pushing for “leadership in Washington, DC,” the Mayor enumerated various reforms implemented in the city, and renewed calls for a ‘link’ between the federal and local government on the sprawling predicament. The Mayor has, indeed, outlined and continues to promulgate a multifaceted effort to assuage this modern-day devastation, with financial initiatives like Measure H and Proposition HHH approved by voters. Arguing these programs’ successes, the Mayor says the “strategy has helped the City house more than 30,000 Angelenos since I took office” by “connect [ing Angelenos] to shelter, housing, first aid, mental healthcare, and other supportive services.”
In this vein, many would contend that the timeliness of sheltering homeless individuals is unsustainable. In fact, New York City’s Mobile Triage Unit, a program that reaches out to homeless folks similar to L.A.’s, takes up to an hour to drive and reach out to “clients,” says a New York 311 operator, while L.A.’s unit takes “3-5 days.” With this in mind, Mr. Garcetti balked to answer whether forming a partnership to strategize with Mayor De Blasio, in this respect, would be in the pipeline for consideration, instead opting to illustrate his perception of outreach: “Requests for outreach are included in this approach, but a proactive model allows outreach teams to spend time getting to know local homeless populations and building trust, so that they can prepare them to accept services and move indoors.”
Additionally, the Mayor has been engaged in highly publicized talks with Tech Magnate Elon Musk, and his enterprise, The Boring Company, on the construction of an interconnected system of tunnels that, in theory, would aid the congestion of the 405 Freeway, a structure sometimes dubbed as a “parking lot,” a moniker for the roadway’s constant gridlock. Discussions have reportedly grinded to a halt because of a lawsuit, in which community groups claim the city violated laws governing a stringent environmental review process. Exploring the prospects of a special exemption for the transportation nexus, the Mayor bucked the notion that any ‘burdens’ will be eased: “Rather than making special exemptions for particular projects, my priority has been to improve the City’s business practices [and] bring the best possible ideas to the table…”
Looping in the beliefs that have catapulted the Mayor to prominence within the Democratic Party, Mr. Garcetti champions the cornerstone of his success, one that he wants young people to pay special attention to right now: “You don’t have to go across the country or around the world to find problems that need solving. The work you do in your own neighborhood is as important as anything else, and you can’t grow into the bigger stuff until you set down your roots.”