Garcetti says he wants L.A. to shed its '800-pound gorilla' image

Garcetti says he wants L.A. to shed its '800-pound gorilla' image
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti greets the region's neighboring mayors during a gathering at Getty House. (Catherine Saillant)

Under a brilliant white canopy, mayors from dozens of Los Angeles County cities gathered on the back lawn at Getty House Monday to talk about public safety, traffic congestion, job creation and how they can better work together to tackle problems.

New Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti invited mayors from the other 87 cities in the county to his ceremonial residence and 63 (including representatives of mayors) showed up. Garcetti said he planned to make such informal get-togethers a regular occurrence during his administration.

"I've heard from so many friends in neighboring cities that we act sometimes like the 800-pound gorilla that doesn't listen,'' Garcetti said of Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city. "We say, 'It's our way or the highway,' and you learn to hate L.A. and vice versa. That era is over."

Monday's session is an extension of an earlier so-called "listening tour" that the mayor took through city neighborhoods. Garcetti said that his listen-first impulse paid dividends during his 12 years as a city councilman representing Hollywood, Silver Lake and other communities and that he intended to replicate it as mayor.


"If you lay a foundation of leading by listening, I think it strengthens what you can do for the next four years,'' he said during a brief interview. "These relationships are going to be critical."

Malibu Mayor Joan House said she's generally been impressed by Garcetti and thinks the mayor meetings are a great idea.

"Casting a wide net, increasing communication, is crucial,'' House said.

San Dimas Mayor Curtis W. Morris, who's been on his city's council for 33 years and has served as mayor for 17, was more circumspect. "I came because I'm curious,'' he said. "It's a good idea, but we'll see what comes of it."

After brief remarks, Garcetti's team broke the officials into groups and conducted rotating 15-minute sessions on jobs, traffic congestion, public safety and how to motivate a workforce after years of job cuts.

Another speaker briefly outlined the upcoming activation of the Affordable Care Act and discussed what cities could do to help residents enroll in a healthcare program. There were several no-shows, including Long Beach, the county’s second-largest city.

The region's mayors had a lot to say. Several expressed concern about the state requiring local governments to take over responsibility for housing low-level criminal offenders. Others talked about ways to increase voter support for an extension of local transportation taxes, similar to the Measure J ballot question that narrowly failed to gain a required two-thirds majority in November.

Another group of mayors talked about how they could overcome a public view that many local political leaders are corrupt and government workers are overpaid. They agreed that the best tactic was to keep communication with residents open, produce facts and make records easily accessible.

By noon, after a group photo on the Getty House lawn, the event concluded. Garcetti said he would cherry-pick ideas from his counterparts and hoped they would do the same.

"Just because we're 4 million people [in Los Angeles] doesn't mean we can't learn from a city of 20,000,'' he said.


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