It's not that Mayor Eric Garcetti left town on the eve of the Police Commission meeting this month, at which the panel was to determine whether the police shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed African American man with mental health problems, was justified. The Ford killing last summer was one of numerous such deadly police encounters that have raised tension and anger across the nation and led to rioting in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, and the Los Angeles Police Department was considering a citywide tactical alert. But Garcetti was back in town in time for the commission's decision.
It's not that Garcetti looked less than leader-like in video shot by protesters at his home the day before the meeting as he poked his head out of his car window, pleading with protesters to stop blocking him so he could make his flight to Washington to get funding for constitutional policing, veterans' homelessness and other programs. Los Angeles needs its mayor to travel, especially if it's to bring back money or other resources to support the city. He could have gotten out of the car to speak; he could have chosen to address the protesters before the trip to the airport instead of during it. But those are matters of image and public relations more than substance.
Nor is it that the mayor's trip to Washington included a Georgetown political fundraiser for his 2017 reelection campaign. Nor is it, really, that the fundraiser was the main event, with his campaign paying for the trip, and that a couple of White House meetings were added later.
The problem with Garcetti's trip to Washington is that he didn't come clean about it being for a fundraiser until after Times reporter Peter Jamison found out about it. Los Angeles, at a sensitive time, wants to know its mayor is on the job, on the spot and, most important, that he is being forthright about his actions and activities.
Garcetti's explanation — that it's his policy not to talk about campaign business while doing his mayoral duties — just doesn't wash.
Did he lie? No, but he was weaselly about the truth. "I did see friends" after the White House meetings, the mayor said, and it's certainly within a broad definition of "friends" to include people pulling out their credit cards to make political donations. Later, his aides said he was referring to a social engagement and not to the fundraiser.
But why couldn't he just be straightforward about the purpose of his trip? Was it because he feared that leaving town for a fundraiser the day before the Police Commission meeting might make him look bad? And how does he think he looks now?