His scandal-plagued tenure in L.A. doesn’t merit a national promotion, and his departure would throw the entire southland into disarray at the worst possible moment
Don’t do it, Joe. Don’t offer Eric Garcetti a job. You ran on a platform of competence and decency. Mr. Garcetti is neither. Americans can disagree whether you are as beyond reproach as you portray yourself – but they can agree that the L.A. mayor has no business in Washington, DC.
It’s hard to find anyone in Los Angeles who thinks much of their mayor these days. By every conceivable metric, life in the City of Angeles has gotten worse during Eric Garcetti’s seven and a half years in office. Not a little bit, not marginally, not just here and there. Huge swaths of the wealthiest city in the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in human history have descended into post-apocalyptic anarchy – and that was before the riots and looting he all but cheered for in May and June. Homelessness, poverty, addiction, crime, traffic, pollution, and living costs all have spiraled on Mr. Garcetti’s watch, with no relief on the horizon. Walking the streets of L.A. in 2020 is like living through an episode of The Walking Dead. Every day at least three homeless people perish on the streets, while tens of thousands more languish in unthinkable conditions. Diseases that humankind eradicated decades and even centuries ago are making a comeback in Mr. Garcetti’s own city hall, which had to be closed and cleaned last year due to an outbreak of typhus. Public defecation, urination, and masturbation have become daily facts of life.
The City of Angels recently passed the grim milestone of 300 murders for the first time in more than a decade – with a month of 2020 yet to go. In September a 23-year-old graduate student was assaulted, beaten, and raped on the Venice Pier. Her assailant left her for dead outside a public toilet and last reports were that she remains in a coma. The horrifying story didn’t even make local news broadcasts or the Los Angeles Times, and was barely mentioned in a couple of local blogs. It was just another Tuesday in Eric Garcetti’s L.A.
Even before the COVID-19 economic shutdown businesses were fleeing and the city’s budget was in shambles, with serious people seriously discussing the possibility of bankruptcy. Now, with countless thousands more businesses – and their tax receipts – gone the city faces financial Armageddon. Mr. Garcetti has played a central role in this decline, first as a city councilor elected in 2000, later as president of the city council, and for the last seven years as mayor. The city’s finances have literally gotten worse every year that he’s been in public life. And while obviously it’s not all his fault he’s proven either unwilling or unable to tackle the increasingly dire situation.
Meanwhile his administration has been a prime source of the stench of corruption that, along with homelessness and crime, has become L.A.’s grim calling card. On Monday the FBI indicted his former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Raymond Chan, on charges of bribery, racketeering, and other charges. As Dan Guss wrote in CityWatch earlier this month, “In elected office in LA since before 9/11, Garcetti planted, watered and grew the seeds of LA’s ongoing FBI corruption troubles with his cronies, and their pals.”
Despite this near-perfect record of failure it’s widely reported that President-elect Joe Biden is considering Eric Garcetti for a cabinet position, likely in either the Department of Transportation or Health and Human Services. You can’t make this stuff up: The mayor of the city with the worst traffic congestion on earth and the worst homeless and poverty crisis in United States history apparently is being considered for national transportation and housing jobs. In another layer of irony, in January Mr. Garcetti told a writer for The Atlantic he didn’t want those two jobs specifically: “To be HUD secretary or Transportation at some point might be interesting—but not at this point in my career, because it’s kind of like the last job that you have.”
Mr. Garcetti’s national aspirations are no secret. After L.A. voters reelected him in 2017 he repaid them by spending much of 2018 outside California trying to gin up support for a presidential run (with his L.A. taxpayer funded staff and security in tow, natch). He incessantly toured primary states where no one had ever heard of him and spent lavishly on consultants, focus groups, even testing campaign jingles.
Joe, don’t haul Mr. Garcetti’s many skeletons with you into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, especially when there are plenty of equally or more qualified candidates.
The moral arguments against “Secretary Garcetti”
Despite his myriad failures and scandalsa, until recently Mr. Garcetti skated through his political career on a carefully cultivated image as a good guy. He emotes like a Beyond Meat version of Bill Clinton and embraced the moniker “Mayor Yoga Pants” in a nod to his Mr. Sensitive act. He makes a big deal out of his fondness for urban gardens, organic tea, and Coldplay (that last one ought to be disqualifying in and of itself). His speeches and public comments brim with touchy-feely language and allusions. He’s known to leave the less palatable aspects of politics governance to staffers and loyalists, allowing him to float above the fray unsullied.
Unfortunately for the ambitious young mayor reality has a way of catching up with imagery, especially in the digital era. In July an LAPD officer who worked on the mayor’s security detail sued the city, alleging years of sexual harassment by top Garcetti aide Rick Jacobs. Insiders say that Mr. Jacobs is Mr. Hyde to the mayor’s Dr. Jekyll, one of those bare knuckle political hacks who does the dirty work. The allegations include forcible kissing, grabbing, groping, sexually explicit comments, and objectification. In a sworn pleading the officer claimed that Mr. Garcetti not only was aware of Mr. Jacob’s behavior but brushed it off and even laughed at the antics. At least four other individuals subsequently came forward with similar claims even as the mayor continued to plead ignorance, including freelance journalist Yashar Ali. In October Mr. Ali published a detailed account of his alleged experiences with Mr. Jacobs. Another man claimed Mr. Jacobs grabbed his buttocks at a party at Mr. Jacobs’s house in 2012, while another said Mr. Jacobs approached him at a party in 2019 and “tried to hug and kiss me forcibly.”
Garcetti’s denials were dealt a major blow last week when the Los Angeles Times published a 2017 group picture that shows Mr. Jacobs making a crude gesture at another man’s crotch while the mayor grins into the camera inches away.
It might be one thing if Mr. Jacobs were the sole source of taint in Garcetti’s world. If that were the case the mayor’s protestations of ignorance at least would be more plausible (despite the above picture).
Quite the contrary: Mr. Garcetti wears scandal like one of his dark skinny suits. Despite his dismal showing early in the Democrat Party primary he doggedly remained in the race. That is, until he called a bizarre Tuesday evening press conference on January 19, 2019 to announce he was dropping out. The announcement was attended by none of his senior advisers nor his family. He was flanked by city hall staff and secretaries who looked positively baffled to be there. By way of explanation he gave the standard political pablum about finishing the job at home. However, his announcement came less than a week after the Los Angeles Times had reported that the FBI’s ongoing investigation into corruption in L.A. politics had ensnared two top members of the Garcetti administration, including his Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Raymond Chan. This past Monday the Times reported Mr. Chan has been indicted on charges ranging from bribery to racketeering.
There may be an even darker reason behind the mayor’s decision not to run. According to city insiders he has been dogged for nearly two years by rumors of a domestic incident at his private residence in January 2019, an allegation the Times mentioned in passing in its Monday story. Earlier in his political career insiders raised troubling questions about he and his wife’s treatment of the seven children they fostered before adopting their daughter. There was wide speculation in L.A. political circles that the couple were literally auditioning kids for the role of first child.
Mr. Garcetti is rapidly running out of friends in his hometown. In order to placate his party’s left flank he has all but declared war on the Los Angeles Police Department – a move that Black Lives Matter most recently rewarded with a ten day’s worth of protests at the mayor’s mansion in Hancock Park (the protests continue). To say his COVID-19 policies have alienated the city’s business community is an understatement. With just under two years to go in his term he is rapidly approaching lame duck status.
The worst possible time for L.A. to lose a mayor
To be sure, few Angelnos would shed a tear should Mr. Garcetti leave for Washington. The fact of the matter is, however, he must serve out his term. His departure in January would throw the City of Los Angeles, and consequently the entire Southland, in to political disarray in the midst of an historic public health and economic crisis. It would result in either the appointment of an interim mayor by the city council or a special election. It would throw the city’s coronavirus response into (greater) disarray precisely as the virus’s second surge reaches its apex. It would paralyze L.A. politics as the viper’s nest of city council jockey for advantage to succeed him.
Last bu not least, Mr. Garcetti should stick to his own pledges. In October he told the Los Angeles Times that “it’s more likely than not” he’ll serve out his term. A week after the election he told ABC7 that a cabinet position is “not something I’m weighing right now, quite frankly.” And of course there were his statements about the importance of finishing his job in L.A. back in 2019.
Eric Garcetti personifies the California political tradition of the privileged failing upward. He’s a scion of Los Angeles royalty whose father served as Los Angeles District Attorney and had the dubious distinction of losing the O.J. Simpson criminal trial. Garcetti fils attended the exclusive Harvard-Westlake School before matriculating at Columbia University. He spent his early and mid 20s amassing various graduate degrees, culminating with Ph.D. studies at the London School of Economics. Before launching his political career at the age of 29 he’d never held anything resembling a real job, though he apparently was briefly an assistant professor of diplomacy at Occidental College between 1999-2000.
For all his privilege, for all his advantages Mr. Garcetti cannot point to much of anything in the way of accomplishments for the people of Los Angeles. His skeletons could burst out of the closet at any moment, potentially tainting the Biden administration before it even gets started.
So, Joe, please. For the good of the people of Los Angeles, for the good of the country, don’t bring Eric Garcetti to Washington.