This past week, CNN and Politico reported that Democratic senators are privately raising concerns about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination to serve as ambassador to India.
Given the 50-50 split in the Senate, Garcetti’s nomination is clearly in danger, which would be a political blow to both Garcetti and President Joe Biden.
As one should gather from the headline of this column, as a lifelong Los Angeles resident, I couldn’t be happier at this prospect.
But back to why Garcetti’s nomination is, as Politico puts it, “on the ropes.”
In March, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, halted Garcetti’s nomination pending an investigation into what Garcetti knew and when he knew it about widespread reports his close advisor Rick Jacobs harassed and was abusive toward male and female city staffers.
In 2019, Los Angeles police Officer Matthew Garza, who worked on Garcetti’s security detail, filed a complaint about Jacobs’ behavior, which he said included inappropriate comments and physical contact, and later filed a lawsuit against the city.
In February of this year, Naomi Seligman, a former spokesperson for Garcetti, filed a whistleblower complaint arguing that not only was she a victim of Jacobs but that Garcetti knew about Jacobs’ behavior.
Subsequently, the Los Angeles Times reported on a text exchange involving other Garcetti in which one staffer, identified as Anna Bahr, a spokeswoman for mayoral candidate Karen Bass, said Jacobs harassed her, too, but that she didn’t want to “bring down” Garcetti by speaking up. (Bahr also denied to the LA Times that she was harassed despite the texts.)
Oddly enough, Bahr told the L.A. Times she told Seligman and another staffer about Jacobs but that they “did nothing” about it. Seligman denied Bahr reported anything to her.
I know, it’s a mess.
But that’s the sort of office Garcetti apparently oversaw, for years. If there’s a hint of truth to the claim that he knew what was going on — which he’s repeatedly denied — he deserves this “L.”
If Garcetti’s nomination ends up failing, it will be a righteous end to a mediocre politician who has skated by for two decades thanks to Los Angeles’ abysmal civic institutions and atrophied political culture.
A record of abysmal achievement
Garcetti has been a fixture in Los Angeles politics for most of my life, having been elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2001. On paper, he’s an interesting person. Raised into a family of mixed Mexican and Russian Jewish ancestry, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, he served in the Navy and studied for a PhD on nationalism and ethnicity at the London School of Economics. Sounds good to me.
And, having been in meetings with him a number of times over the years, I can concur that he’s personable and all that. But so are used car salesmen.
The fact is Garcetti has consistently overpromised and underdelivered.
Remember when he was going to push for a repeal of the gross receipts tax so Los Angeles can be more economically competitive? He gave up on that.
Remember when he said he was going to ensure Los Angeles city workers contribute toward their health benefits? As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2019, he “abandoned his long-stated goal of getting the city’s public employee unions to pay a portion of their healthcare costs.”
I still remember when he came into the Los Angeles Daily News office a few years ago and said pension reforms were only “two-thirds” done. Pension costs have continued to eat up about a fifth of the city’s general fund throughout his time as mayor.
Oh, he’s bringing the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles?
First, no one cares about the Olympics except tyrannical governments in pursuit of legitimacy. Second, Los Angeles is only hosting the 2028 Olympics because no other city was dumb enough to want it, with Budapest, Hamburg and Rome withdrawing.
And what about, you know, homelessness?
That thing that’s been a crisis for as long as Eric Garcetti has been in office — 20 years?
He pushed for Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond to build housing for the homeless, and how’s that going? The average cost per unit of HHH-funded projects is approaching $600,000 and some are now at $837,000 per unit, according to City Controller Ron Galperin. That’s not the work of a city that cares about the homeless. That’s the work of thieves.
Garcetti’s delusions of grandeur
Four years ago, I wrote an article titled, “Garcetti for president only makes sense if you value style over substance.”
The article was written in a bizarre period of time that hopefully most have forgotten about in which Garcetti was seriously being talked about as a possible presidential candidate.
He was visiting all the obvious states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.
He was out criss-crossing the country promoting some project of his called Accelerator for America, which he co-founded with Rick Jacobs (remember him?), which, according to its website, “finds and develops solutions to economic insecurity and shares them with cities to create national change from the ground up.”
Yes, because he clearly knows how to find and develop solutions to economic insecurity. See Los Angeles. No, really, go look at it.
He was generating headlines from Politico like, “Garcetti edges toward presidential run with trip to Iowa.”
Well, I wasn’t impressed by all of this, because I, as a lifelong Los Angeles resident, knew what Garcetti was actually capable of and, are previously mentioned, his record of accomplishment was trash.
“While I’m sure Garcetti is having a pleasant time visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, if Garcetti focused on improving one of the poorest large cities in the country instead of playing presidential candidate, maybe then he’d be a viable contender for county supervisor,” I wrote at the time. “But hey, if you just like politicians who talk big and underdeliver, I guess Garcetti is a presidential prospect worth watching.”
The following year, in early 2019, Garcetti’s presidential ambitions (or delusions?) were over.
City Hall was a mess, dealing with a typhus outbreak and a rat infestation, and the FBI was starting to kick down doors. Again, that’s the sort of thing he oversaw.
He visited with our editorial board on March 11, 2019 and I asked him if the bad optics of the aforementioned issues were the reason he decided not to run. He waved off the question and went on to talk about how much he enjoyed visiting Iowa.
That was the last time I ever met with Garcetti.
Well, fast forward three years and Garcetti was passed over for a vacant Senate seat in favor of the incredibly boring Alex Padilla and his nomination to serve as ambassador to India has stalled in the Senate. He’s fiddled throughout the supply-chain crisis, according to business groups. He’s been making a fool of himself saying he wasn’t breathing during maskless photos when mask mandates were still in place, as everyone saw.
Two decades at the top of what’s supposed to be one of the most impressive cities in the world, and here Garcetti is, not even able to cap off his mediocre career with an undeserved ambassadorship. Incredible.
Sal Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected].
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