City Hall

Mayor Garcetti learns the pitfalls of traveling out of LA

garcetti-instagram-hay.jpgEric Garcetti Instagram shot from the Midwest last week.

This wasn't anything like when Mayor James Hahn found himself stranded on the other side of the country in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, or even when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was trade-tripping in Latin America when the LAPD beat up families and journalists in the May Day Melee at MacArthur Park in 2007. But there was a lot that went on during Mayor Eric Garcetti's 10-day family vacation in the upper Midwest, a trip he and his office originally tried to keep very quiet. That plan didn't work out as hoped. Rick Orlov surveys the news events that Garcetti missed in his Monday Tipoff column in the Daily News, and says that showing up goes with the job description if you run for an office like mayor.

If you think you can get away from the job, even for a few hours, do not run.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is returning from a 10-day vacation in Michigan with his family, is learning that the hard way, much as his predecessors experienced at one point or another.

While he has been taking scenic pictures of rivers, lighthouses and Adirondack chairs, the city experienced one of its worst water main breaks in recent history flooding out UCLA, the Employee Relations Board invalidated a change in civilian pensions — a major hit to his budget, experienced a lightning strike at Venice Beach that killed one person and a Chinese student, Xinran Ji, was slain at USC.

And, while there is nothing the mayor necessarily could have done if he had been in the city, when disasters hit people expect to see their mayor on the scene.

Also in Orlov's column: the campaign to lower parking fines, and the cost of fighting the Hollywood Millenium Project.

Add Garcetti: In a piece for the August issue of Governing magazine, author John Buntin asks Does Eric Garcetti Have a Big Enough Vision for LA?

For generations, ambitious mayors and governors all over the country have followed a common playbook: Pick a few key priorities and push to get them through early in the first term, while political capital remains high. That was the way Garcetti’s predecessors as L.A. mayor approached the job. Both Antonio Villaraigosa and James Hahn focused immediate attention on a single cause. For Hahn, it was expanding the police department; for Villaraigosa, it was gaining control of education.

Garcetti, who is 43 years old, has taken a very different approach. He’s rejected advice to focus on one or two high-profile priorities, and he’s dismissed “artificial deadlines.” Rather, he’s taken pains to single out those who’ve done the hard work of improving government operations, like the parks and recreation employee who figured out a way to turn off air conditioning at department facilities with a simple red button. Instead of sweeping plans, Garcetti talks about performance-based budgeting and management by statistics.

What has been notably absent, in the opinion of many, is vision. That’s puzzled some longtime observers of Los Angeles politics. “I have no sense of what he is trying to do,” says political commentator Joe Mathews. “I don’t think there has been any vision or action toward a vision that I can ascertain.”

Garcetti believes that such criticisms miss the whole point of what he is doing. Far from playing “small ball,” as his critics assert, he believes he is engaged in the most wide-ranging and important of all enterprises. He says that by demonstrating that city government can handle its primary responsibilities effectively, he will be able to convince one of America’s most skeptical constituencies to trust government again.

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