Eric Garcetti, L.A.'s new bitcoin and hashtag mayor

During his inaugural speech Sunday, Eric Garcetti pledged to give Silicon Valley a “run for their bitcoin.” It was a joke about the decentralized virtual currency created in 2009, but nobody laughed.

Garcetti’s reference might have fallen flat, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t play an important role in a speech intended to introduce the 42nd mayor’s vision for government and governing.

For a mayor bent on returning “back to basics,” Garcetti brings a distinctly future-oriented approach. Concerned with the old tasks of creating jobs and streamlining local government, Garcetti is looking toward new technology for answers.

In addition to the bitcoin line, which came during a section of his speech on Silicon Beach, Garcetti said that he aims to bring a “rotary-phone government into the smartphone era.”

Even the inauguration itself was a demonstration of this. The tech-happy mayor created a virtual guide for his inauguration on “Guidebook,” a mobile application I’d wager is even more obscure than bitcoin.

One need not look further than the official website for the new mayor’s office. The cool-blue Garcetti campaign logo has been updated to include the hashtag #lamayor, which his staff will monitor. The simple website, apparently modeled after the one used by his campaign, places an emphasis on social media and departs from the traditional information-packed sites of mayors in other major cities such as New York or Chicago.

It’s easy to get carried away with technology, and Garcetti should be wary of settling for technology instead of results. It’s one thing to ask constituents to use #lamayor when they want a pothole fixed. It’s another thing to actually fix the pothole.

Having a mayor with a deep appreciation for technology, however, is not something to be overlooked. During the election, Mark Suster, a pro-Garcetti partner at a venture capital firm, wrote a blog post about why a tech-focused mayor matters:

Look at the impact that having a tech-savvy leader in a city can make. Consider Bloomberg in NYC or Ed Lee in San Francisco. They both have presided over big tech booms in their respective cities. They understand that job growth and therefore overall city well-being depends on it.

While a mayor of any city doesn’t have unilateral power, and certainly the mayor of L.A. has unique challenges not faced in other cities, having a champion of business in office will help to continue to raise the profile of the city when people make crucial choices about where to grow jobs.

Even as Garcetti’s references slide over some people's heads, the city is poised to benefit from a mayor whose interest lies in technology and its application. With Garcetti, audiences will need to prepare for more bitcoin and hashtag humor. But hopefully, by the time he rides into the sunset, everyone will get the joke.


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