Averse to controversy and hesitant to take sides, Mayor Eric Garcetti has often avoided staking out positions on divisive issues over his 19-month tenure. But finally, he has taken an unambiguous stand, telling Angelenos that … his favorite movie is “Airplane!”
OK, fine, good to know. But on too many other significant decisions facing local lawmakers and voters, Garcetti is still mum.
Garcetti has declined, for instance, to take a position on Charter Amendments 1 and 2, the measures on next week's ballot that would move local election dates from March and May of odd-numbered years to June and November of even-numbered years to coincide with gubernatorial and presidential elections. The idea is to boost L.A.'s dismal voter participation by merging local elections with state and national contests that tend to have higher turnout.
But when asked if he supported the ballot measures, Garcetti told the Daily News that he would not take a position. Why? “Because I can see both sides of the issue,” the mayor said. What kind of cop-out is that? Voters have to make a choice about this complicated question — one that Garcetti himself agreed should be put to them — so why shouldn't he tell them where he stands on it?
Garcetti also said that he didn't want to take a public stand on a ballot measure from which he could benefit personally. (City officials elected in 2015 and 2017 would serve a one-time 51/2 -year term to adjust to the new election schedule.) But if he stands to gain from it, all the more reason to explain why it is in voters' interests to pass it — or why it is not. Staying out of the fray helps no one.
Taken in isolation, Garcetti's silence on the charter amendments wouldn't be that big of a deal. But he has repeatedly punted, rather than confronted, controversial issues. When the City Council overruled the recommendation of Garcetti's Recreation and Parks Commission and his general manager to give the multimillion-dollar Greek Theatre contract to a new operator, the mayor was silent, not even bothering to defend the department head who works for him. Garcetti also had no comment when the council, charged with getting a second opinion on the impact of raising the city's minimum wage, attempted to hire the same U.C. Berkeley economists who had given the first opinion. And while past mayors have worked to elect school board members and shape education policy in the L.A. Unified School District, Garcetti has largely avoided the discussion.
L.A. needs a mayor with opinions. Garcetti should be at the forefront of the city's controversies. He should tell voters what he supports and opposes because his positions and his reasoning are indicative of his priorities and his leadership. It's time to speak up, Mr. Mayor, and tell the people what you think.