Eric Garcetti has enormous potential to be one of L.A.’s great mayors. He is young (just 42), full of energy, experienced in politics and government, passionate about L.A., brimming with policy ideas, compassionate toward the disadvantaged and a great communicator and explainer. I saw many of these traits up-close when I co-taught a course with him at Occidental College in 2000, and have watched him blossom as he joined the City Council and served as its president.
Now he faces the daunting challenges of running America’s second-biggest, and most diverse, city.
No mayor can succeed unless he or she attends to the routine civic housekeeping tasks that residents expect from municipal governments – fix the potholes, keep traffic flowing, maintain public safety, keep the parks and playgrounds clean and in good repair.
But Garcetti didn’t run for mayor just to be a caretaker. He promised more.
When you see a news story about Election Day in Los Angeles there’s a good chance it’s not about any issues or personalities involved during any one campaign, but about the city’s poor voter turnout. Depending on who you read, L.A. is the city that is too lazy for democracy, or too cool, bored or indifferent. Watching our turnout numbers fall has become a spectator’s sport, like watching a limbo dancer – how low can we go?
But whether 200 or two million people vote today, the future of this city cannot be sneered or shrugged away. We remain a troubled town with infinite resources, a divided city with the potential for great unity. Pundits may bemoan a sameness with the two mayoral candidates, or the lack of sexy ballot initiatives, but like it or not, Los Angeles will begin changing July 1, when the new mayor takes office.
(Jack Lavitch and Henry Lee are two West L.A. retirees who are also part-time, second-hand car buyers. They were lunching at Philippe the Original sandwich diner near central Chinatown when asked about the coming mayor’s race.)
“First and foremost, the next mayor should fix up our city streets. There are potholes everywhere and they are a danger to us all. This would be something everyone could easily see — it would make a huge difference for everyone. That’s something [the mayor] could actually accomplish. It wouldn’t cost that much and it would make us all feel better about the whole city.”
“Oh yes,” he adds, biting into his sandwich. “He could get everyone free French dips like this one every Friday. I am joking.”
Jack is skeptical about official claims stating the city is nearing bankruptcy. “Maybe they actually are but they haven’t convinced me or the public.
(As the May 21 mayoral runoff election approaches, Frying Pan News is asking voters what they believe the next mayor’s priorities should be — as well as what he or she should avoid doing once in office. This week reporter Marc Haefele interviews three San Fernando Valley voters near the corner of Van Nuys and Burbank boulevards; all three women are Van Nuys residents.)
We do need a better distribution of wealth in our city. At the same time, we need more funding for both teachers and police. Of course I’d like to see more jobs, but how much can the mayor alone do to accomplish something like that? Maybe we can only work with that problem on the national level. There was a lot of flash to Antonio Villaraigosa and yet not too much substance.
(As the May 21 mayoral runoff election approaches, Frying Pan News is asking voters what they believe the next mayor’s priorities should be — as well as what he or she should avoid doing once in office. This week reporter Marc Haefele interviews South Los Angeles residents at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, the sprawling retail complex located at Martin Luther King Jr. and Crenshaw boulevards.)
I would hope the new mayor would at least do better than the current one. Of course, they are all politicians aren’t they — what can you expect? Sometimes the most you can do is to hope that it just doesn’t get worse when someone new is elected.
But here’s what I hope the new mayor would do — do a lot more to help the poor folks. Help them to get more opportunities. The economy right now is still simply horrible for poor folks.