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Amid India reports, Garcetti says conversations with Biden will remain private

Eric Garcetti speaks at a microphone
Mayor Eric Garcetti addresses reporters at Los Angeles City Hall on Wednesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Since the news broke that he might be President Biden’s pick for U.S. ambassador to India, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has waved off the reports, calling them speculative.

He did so again on Wednesday, at a news conference where he signed the city budget, saying he would talk when there was an actual job offer.

But when reporters pressed Garcetti on the prospect of a Biden appointment, he offered a glimpse into his thinking on a possible early departure and how serving as an elected official can be a useful training ground for a diplomat.

“I don’t think you can solve the problems of L.A. without being engaged in the world, which is how I tried to lead as a mayor,” Garcetti said. “And vice versa, we can’t solve the problems of the world without L.A. being a part of it as well.”

The mayor didn’t detail what problems he was talking about. But as he continued his answer, he pointed out that he had already served eight years as mayor, the maximum time in office for recent mayors.

President Biden is expected to announce that he will appoint L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India.

Voters in 2015 agreed to change the city’s election dates, giving a one-time extension to the terms of several politicians, including Garcetti, whose term now ends in December 2022. Under normal circumstances, Garcetti would leave July 1.

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“I never dreamed that I’d be here a day past July 1 of this year,” Garcetti said. “Because that was the eight years that, if I were lucky enough that I signed up for — the potential two terms. Every day after that is gravy. Every day after that is something beautiful.”

Garcetti was reelected in 2017, so he would have known that his second term would run until 2022. He has repeatedly declined to commit to serving out the entirety of that second term, however.

Axios reported last week that Garcetti is likely to be nominated for the position, which was later confirmed by The Times.

Asked about the reports, Garcetti on Wednesday said, “I won’t speculate on something that‘s been speculative. As I’ve said, I will always pick up the phone if the president calls.”

Garcetti declined to explain what conversations he’s having with the Biden administration about any jobs.

“That is something I know that I’m not going to be speaking about,” Garcetti said. “I’ve had many conversations with the president over the last year and I keep those conversations always private.”

The mayor was asked if he thinks something in his background qualifies him for diplomacy.

“I’ll say this, and I think I could say the same thing about any council member: The skills you learn as an elected official are daily diplomacy. It is about resolving conflict. It’s about bringing cultures together. It’s about making sure that you build coalitions,” Garcetti said. “It’s about trying to get people who are sometimes at odds with each other to move forward together.”

At Wednesday’s event, Garcetti also weighed in on this summer’s Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Japan, saying he supports the event going forward next month if safety precautions are taken.

The Biden administration could nab L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. If so, he will leave with a mixed legacy.

The decision to hold the Games during the pandemic is controversial. More than 80% of Japanese residents said in recent polls that they want the Games canceled or again postponed. Doctors’ and nurses’ groups say hospitals could not handle another increase in COVID-19 cases and the threat of virus variants coming in from around the world.

Japanese officials and the International Olympic Committee have tried to reassure the public that a playbook outlining detailed precautions approved by the World Health Organization will ensure a “safe and secure” Olympics.

Garcetti, who helped lead L.A.’s efforts to secure the 2028 Olympics, said he feels for the athletes who have trained their entire lives and could miss their window to compete if the Games are canceled. He said he sees a way for the Olympics to go forward in which the events are audience-free but televised, and athletes stay in a “bubble” and are regularly tested.

“The exposure to the general population will be very, very low,” he said.

Times staff writers Victoria Kim and David Zahniser and special correspondent Hanako Lowry contributed to this report.


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