The Biden administration just announced that it’s nominating LA Mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India. Thank god he’s finally going. Garcetti’s term in office has been a disaster for LA. He’s spent the last eight years on a campaign of relentless self-promotion, while letting the city go to hell. I only hope the Senate approves him quickly.
Garcetti’s term in office has been marked by rampant corruption and dishonesty. There was the brazen pitch for Turf Terminators in his 2015 State of the City speech. The Mayor lauded the company for helping residents save water by replacing their lawns with drought-tolerant plants. He neglected to mention that Turf Terminators had helped round up tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign coffers and the Mayor’s Fund. Then, after sucking up millions of dollars from turf-replacement rebates and facing withering criticism for doing substandard work, the company quickly folded.
Another ugly episode was the Sea Breeze scandal. Developer Samuel Leung’s massive residential project was rejected outright by the City Planning Commission, but Garcetti stepped in and rescued the project, which was eventually approved by the City Council. Later Leung confessed to money laundering, having funnelled over $600,000 to various officials through associates and employees. Of that total, $60,000 went to a committee that supported Garcetti in the 2013 mayoral election.
And let’s not forget that Ray Chan, who worked for Garcetti as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, has been charged by the Department of Justice with conspiracy, bribery and lying to federal agents. The US Attorney’s office alleges that Chan was part of a wide-ranging pay-to-play scheme, where developers received favors in return for funnelling money to city officials. Five of those charged by the DOJ have already entered guilty pleas. Chan’s trial may begin later this year.
If the City of LA was thriving, then maybe you could overlook a certain amount of corruption. But Los Angeles is falling apart. In 2013, the year Garcetti was elected, there were 29,682 homeless people within the city’s boundaries. By 2020 that number had risen to 41,290. While the Mayor will now tell you that solving homelessness is his highest priority, he basically ignored the problem during his first term in office, focussing instead on jetting all over the country in an effort to position himself for a presidential run. And at the same time as the homeless numbers were rising, Garcetti turned the Department of City Planning into a rubber stamp for high-end housing projects, driving gentrification and displacement in neighborhoods across LA.
While he claims to be fighting for the environment, his record in this area is decidedly mixed. It’s true that the he played a role in reducing the City’s dependence on fossil fuels to generate power, but he’s failed miserably in cutting emissions from transportation. Garcetti has been claiming for years that his policies are getting people out of cars and onto transit. Unfortunately, the facts show the complete opposite. LA’s DASH system has suffered a huge loss in ridership, from 26,619,776 unlinked trips in 2013 to 19,292,677 unlinked trips in 2019, a 27% decline. Having also served on the board of LA Metro during his term in office, Garcetti must take some of the blame for the fact that the countywide agency has seen an approximate 20% loss in ridership since 2014. Metro ridership is now actually lower than it was in 1985, even though the County has added more than a million residents since then. And while transit ridership has been declining, per capita car ownership has been rising steadily.
The Mayor’s lack of concern for LA’s urban forest has allowed its continued decline during his term in office. Under Garcetti, City Planning and Public Works have consistently been willing to let developers and others cut trees down whenever they feel like it. While there are always promises of replacement trees, in fact there’s no real oversight, and the City doesn’t seem to actually verify whether replacement trees ever get planted. Solid waste is also a huge issue. It’s true that cities all over California are struggling to deal with refuse since the recycling market collapsed, but Garcetti seems perfectly happy to just ignore the problem. The Department of City Planning approves huge new projects, claiming that 50% to 75% of the waste produced will go to recycling. In fact, the City is recycling less than 35% of the solid waste it collects. The rest is going to landfills, which produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.
I actually feel bad dumping Garcetti on India, since I know that country is facing huge challenges right now. Hopefully he’ll just be following instructions from the State Department. In some ways, his talents may be a good fit for a diplomatic post. He dresses nicely, speaks well, and he’s good at reading from a teleprompter. He’s also great at schmoozing, which I understand is something ambassadors do a fair amount of.
But during his time as Mayor of LA, Garcetti has shown himself to be a soulless, spineless, shameless hack. I can’t call him a public servant, because he has no interest in serving anyone except himself. I’m praying that the Senate confirms him quickly, though it’s hard to believe Republicans won’t rake him over the coals with questions about the sexual harassment scandal he’s embroiled in. They’d also be perfectly justified in grilling him over the fact that his former Deputy Mayor will soon be facing trial on charges of conspiracy and bribery.
But hopefully they’ll approve him. Hopefully he’ll leave LA quickly. Hopefully we’ll soon be rid of this worthless parasite. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.