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Garcetti sworn in as L.A. mayor with a ‘back to basics’ focus

Eric Garcetti promised to “work hard on the basics” of running the city as he was sworn in Sunday as the 42nd mayor of Los Angeles in a no-frills ceremony staged to present him as a man of the people.

Garcetti vowed to focus relentlessly on guiding the city’s economic recovery, slashing business taxes, keeping film production from fleeing L.A. and spurring high-tech jobs on the Westside.

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“These times demand a back-to-basics mayor, focused above all else on our economy and jobs,” Garcetti told the crowd before outlining plans for “a customer-friendly government, one you can actually reach on the phone.”

Garcetti, 42, thanked outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for leaving Los Angeles “safer, greener and stronger,” even while weathering a brutal economic crisis.

But eight years after Villaraigosa set far-reaching goals for schools, public transit and the environment, Garcetti said his priority would be to “fix the potholes and pave the streets, pick up the litter, fix the sidewalks and trim the trees.”

“It’s no use painting a lofty picture if you don’t have the brass tacks to pin it up on the wall,” Garcetti told several thousand people gathered outside City Hall on a sweltering summer afternoon. Much of the crowd looked on from the newly opened Grand Park, across Spring Street, where an evening of free entertainment featured L.A.-based acts Buyepongo, Jungle Fire, Moonlight Trio and the Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

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“A lot of people are going to be watching his administration with high expectations,” said John Wirfs, a Silver Lake architect who packed a picnic with his friend Colin Chow and rode the Red Line downtown to see the ceremony from a rare shady spot on the lawn.

Befitting his populist message, Garcetti spoke not from a raised platform but from the bottom of the City Hall steps, which were covered in blue carpet. For Villaraigosa’s first inauguration, the carpet was red.

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Both the musician Moby, wearing a black T-shirt and speaking partly in Spanish, and late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel joked about the Silver Lake councilman’s ties to cutting-edge culture. Kimmel said during his introduction that the blazing heat was “the responsibility of the previous administration.”

“Mayor Villaraigosa, this is on your watch,” Kimmel joked. “When Eric takes over as mayor, it’ll be cool all the time.”

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Garcetti also reminded the city of his mixed heritage: Jewish on his mother’s side, Mexican on his father’s.

“My family’s story in Los Angeles begins humbly — one side of my family crossing an ocean and a continent to flee persecution in Poland and Russia, the other side crossing a river, escaping war in Mexico, looking for a better life,” he said.

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Alluding to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings clearing the way for same-sex marriage, Garcetti described Los Angeles as “a place where difference and diversity aren’t castigated, they’re celebrated — long before the courts rule in their favor.”

The inauguration marked the most dramatic transformation of the city’s political leadership since 2001, with nine of its 18 elected offices changing hands. Among those sworn in at the ceremony were incoming City Atty. Mike Feuer and City Controller Ron Galperin, accompanied by his husband, Zachary Shapiro.

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On Monday, Garcetti will set to work forming his administration. Among the first moves planned is a review of top officials at dozens of agencies, including the fire, airport and harbor departments. Garcetti said he expected general managers to reapply for their jobs and demonstrate ways to cut costs and set performance benchmarks.

But Sunday was largely about ceremony and symbolism. On a morning visit to First African Methodist Episcopal Church in South L.A., Garcetti said he picked Kenia Castillo, the 13-year-old daughter of a janitor, to swear him in rather than “some big elected official or my father,” former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti.

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“I wanted this city to understand that I know the power comes from you, from the least among us, from the most humble, from the forgotten, from those voices and those faces who aren’t even in the pews today,” he told parishioners.

Garcetti told the congregation that he’d chosen fifth-grader Lily Newman to lead the Pledge of Allegiance because when he saw her at her Porter Ranch school, she gave him a jar full of nickels, dimes and quarters that she’d collected from classmates for his campaign.

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“That jar will be by my side,” Garcetti said. “And it will remind me that it is time for us to raise up a generation that believes that Los Angeles is not just a big city … but a great city. And greatness is defined not by how much wealth we have in the best places, but by how much we lift up the worst, how much we welcome back those coming home from prison, those coming back from war, those sleeping under a bridge no more, and those who need just some hope.”

Garcetti also signaled that he plans to give vanquished rival Jan Perry a senior role in his administration. Perry, whose 12 years on the City Council came to an end Sunday, won nearly every precinct in South Los Angeles in the March mayoral primary but did not make it into the May runoff.

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“Twelve years of elected service does not mean the end of her service, mark my words,” Garcetti told First AME Church parishioners. “I’ve got plans for her.”

Departing City Controller Wendy Greuel, who lost the mayoral runoff, watched the inauguration ceremony from the audience but did not speak.

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Nearby, Villaraigosa applauded and nodded enthusiastically, getting up at one point to photograph Garcetti while he was being sworn in. He waved and mugged for someone in the audience as Garcetti’s speech was coming to a close.

“I loved how Eric is so ready for the job, how he’s focused on brass tacks and doing the small and big things that we need to keep the city on a steady trajectory forward,” Villaraigosa said afterward.

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Former Mayor James K. Hahn also welcomed Garcetti’s emphasis on the small things.

“You are the mayor of a world-class city, and you are going to be on the world stage,” he said. “But I think the people who live here want somebody who’s going to take care of fixing the streets and making sure that the city is safe.”

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Some in the crowd were skeptical. Loren Manning, a public defender, wondered how Garcetti was going to fulfill his promise to hold regular chats with city residents to share their concerns and ideas.

“There are 4 million people in the city, and he’s going to have office hours for anyone who wants to see him?” she said.

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“It sounds great, but it’s easy to write a good speech,” said Manning, who lives in Koreatown. “I’ll wait and see what happens.”

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com


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