Column: Don’t run for president, Mayor Garcetti. There’s plenty for you to do in Los Angeles

Mayor Eric Garcetti takes questions following a press conference in Los Angeles on Sept. 5, 2018.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In 2009, Los Angeles magazine memorably put Antonio Villaraigosa on its cover with a one-word headline stamped across his torso: Failure.

A companion essay went on to assail L.A.’s then-mayor, who was rumored to be pining for the governor’s seat. His career, the article said, was “less about fulfilling commitments than about seizing opportunities and satisfying ever-larger appetites at the expense of those who put faith” in him.

Doesn’t that sound a bit like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti right about now?

Today the buzz is about Garcetti’s desire for a national oval-shaped office. This year already, Hizzoner has visited the important primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Garcetti got glowing write-ups in GQ and Rolling Stone this summer. He’s been using social media this month to praise gubernatorial candidates in Georgia and Oklahoma. He blasts President Trump at every chance. Just last weekend, he was on CNN’s “State of the Union” calling the president “hostile” to Latinos and the working class.


Mayor Garcetti loves to make grand gestures geared to impress outsiders instead of concentrating on residents who already live in L.A.

Garcetti also declared on CNN that before the end of the year he’ll declare whether a run for the White House is in his future.

Here’s some advice, Eric: Don’t do it.

He’s cool enough. Garcetti’s stance on the big issues is in line with the progressive wing of the Democrats nationally. He has strengthened L.A.’s reputation as a sanctuary for immigrants, and has consistently pushed for a higher minimum wage citywide. The mayor knows climate change is happening, that our region’s love affair with the combustible engine is unsustainable, and that the Los Angeles Dodgers should win the World Series.

Still, Garcetti has now served Los Angeles, as either City Council member or mayor, since 2001 — by far the longest run at City Hall since voters approved term limits in 1991. So we can fairly use the Los Angeles of today as a gauge of Garcetti’s career. And what does he have to show for it?

From down here in O.C. — long red, now purple and a better barometer of what will play nationally than, say, Mississippi — I ain’t impressed.

Let’s start with typhus.

On Oct. 9, when Garcetti was asked about a skid row outbreak of the disease — historically associated with 19th century battlefields and prisons — he responded, “Things sometime slip through the cracks.” He’d spent his day asking followers on Twitter to choose a new cover picture for his account. And he gave a shout out to his Oklahoma City peer while not sarcastically using the hashtag #MayorsGetThingsDone.


The typhus outbreak is related to the city’s homelessness crisis, which has deepened throughout his tenure. And that is a symptom of a housing crisis that has seen poor, disabled and blue-collar residents squeezed out of their homes by gentrification. Upscale development across the city has attracted the world’s hipster class, spawning economic stratification out of an Edith Wharton novel.

Nothing from Garcetti’s office approaches the semblance of a solution to this situation.

There’s still far too much work to do in Los Angeles for Garcetti to be eyeing what’s next for his career. Yet he loves to make grand gestures geared to impress outsiders instead of concentrating on residents who already live in L.A.

He has fanboyed over the return of the Rams, even though they’re going to play in Inglewood in four years. His push to help turn Playa del Rey and Venice into Silicon Beach has cursed the entire Westside with tech bros, electric scooters littering the sidewalks and traffic that — inconceivably — continues to worsen. Bringing the Olympic Games to Los Angeles in 2028 might be fun, but will unavoidably exacerbate our current conditions.

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Stumping for candidates in Minnesota, like he did this past weekend, helps no one in Southern California but himself. Creating a political action committee and hosting a $1-million fundraiser with DJ Khaled in Hollywood to prop up Democratic congressional candidates across the country — that may pump up the #resistance, but it does little to pave potholes or keep the middle class in Los Angeles.

Yeah, those of us who must deal with the day-to-day grind of Los Angeles — the thick-as-molasses 405, the resurgent smog, the Chargers — will always trash it more than anyone. But it’s out of love: Los Angeles is still an awesome city, even if no one north of Santa Barbara thinks so. Still, a presidential run will bring a lot of attention to the things that have crumbled during Garcetti’s watch.


Even if he does rise to become the Left’s Great Italian-Mexican-Jewish Hope, Garcetti hasn’t shown he can work across the aisle. Just last week, when he tried to convince Venice residents that an abandoned Metro bus yard in the community was the perfect place to build a homeless shelter, constituents responded with boos and anger.

I did feel bad for Garcetti after his Venice fiasco; there’s little reasoning with NIMBYers. But one thing he said that night especially irked me. “The easy thing to do politically is to walk away,” he told the crowd several times.

Isn’t that exactly what Garcetti is considering doing to Los Angeles?

Follow @GustavoArellano on Twitter.