Mayor worked hard to overcome critics, activist says

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Garcetti draws praise from elected officials on appointment as ambassador to India

By Sue Favor

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti has not been without critics during his tenure as he has seen the city’s homeless numbers spike and the Los Angeles Police Department come under fire many times. 

Community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson has watched Garcetti’s evolution throughout his 20-year career in public office.

“In the early part of his term, Garcetti had many critics among Blacks on a range of issues, from his stance on police accountability, African-American appointments, attacking discrimination in city agency job promotions, and outreach to the Black community,” Hutchinson said.

“He’s worked hard to overcome those criticisms — particularly in the area of Black appointments, increased budget initiatives for South LA, increased funding for jobs and businesses and strict police accountability.”President Joe Biden tapped Garcetti, who is in the third year of his second term as mayor, to be his ambassador to India last week. Garcetti, rumored to be in the running for other cabinet positions earlier this year, quickly accepted. He also vowed to continue leading the city until he is confirmed to the position by the Senate.

Garcetti’s nomination was met with widespread approval by local politicians, while the ramifications of his departure — and who his replacement will be — are causing speculation.“I love Los Angeles, and will always be an Angeleno,” Garcetti said. “I want you to know that every day I am your mayor, I will continue to lead this city like it is my first day on the job, with passion, focus and determination.

“I have committed my life to service –– as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval officer, as a public servant, and if confirmed, next as an ambassador. Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call. And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment and love for this city to my new role and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Africa, Global Health and Global Human Rights, said Garcetti is eminently qualified for the ambassador position.

“Mayor Garcetti will be an excellent diplomat,” Bass said. “He co-founded Climate Mayors and led more than 400 U.S. mayors to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement. He chairs C40Cities — a network of 97 of the world’s biggest cities taking action on climate change as well as leading on a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also led our city’s successful bid to bring the Summer Olympic Games back to the United States for the first time in three decades.”

Bass said she looks forward to working with Garcetti in a larger arena.

Members of the City Council — some of whom have clashed with the mayor in the past — hailed his appointment. Council President Nury Martinez pointed to Garcetti’s long record of public service that he will take into his new job.

“Mayor Garcetti has served the city of Los Angeles for more than two decades — eight of those as mayor,” she said. “From raising the minimum wage to managing the COVID-19 crisis, I have always been grateful for our partnership, and I have no doubt he’ll do amazing things in this new role. 

“The city is designed to adapt and sustain change and we will press on, laser-focused on delivering on our promise to rebuild a more resilient Los Angeles.”

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who served as an aide to Garcetti and then succeeded him on the City Council, said Garcetti helped him better understand the people and issues of the 13th District.

I congratulate Mayor Garcetti on his nomination as ambassador to India, and anticipate his approval in that role by the United States Senate,” O’Farrell said. “I trust that the mayor’s decades of public service and experience in Los Angeles — one of the most diverse cities in the world — will serve our nation well on the global stage.”

According to the city charter, Martinez, as council president, will become acting mayor once Garcetti formally steps down. The City Council then will have to decide whether to appoint someone to replace Garcetti or to call a special election to fill the vacancy. 

Hutchinson said there will likely be a “swamp” of contenders to replace Garcetti in next year’s election, and he speculated the frontrunner will be L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.

But whomever is elected has a tall order to fill.

“The task for (Garcetti’s) successor will be to build on his initiatives,” Hutchinson said. “The problems of LAPD accountability, chronic high joblessness — particularly among young Blacks — the crisis of small minority-owned businesses in South L.A., and the accessibility of quality health care remain crisis issues that, whoever succeeds him — whether as interim mayor or permanent mayor in 2023 — will have to deal with.”

City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said the pending transition in power will not adversely affect the council’s commitment to change and betterment.

“While a disruption in leadership will bring unanticipated challenges, transition also creates room for ingenuity and opportunity,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It is incumbent upon the City Council to lean into this change and work with collective nimbleness, perseverance, compassion and the pursuit of justice, to address the myriad of issues facing this city — of which the homelessness crisis and recovery from the pandemic remain front and center. In the end, it’s all about leadership.”

Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at newsroom@wavepublication.com.

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