Bill Boyarsky
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Is Garcetti's long, long view too short-sighted?

Antonio Villaraigosa was a man of the moment. Mayor Eric Garcetti fancies himself more a man of the decade or even of the years beyond.

I thought of the differences between the two as I listened to the mayor being interviewed Monday by Patt Morrison at Town Hall, which puts on public affairs programs for its political and business oriented membership.

bill-300.jpgDuring his two terms in office, Villaraigosa exploded with ideas, plans and schemes in an exasperating, exhausting and occasionally impressive manner. Garcetti at Town Hall was more like a personable CEO being interviewed on CNBC, earnestly pitching his company’s products and bright long-range future, brushing off a more immediate and less pleasant matter.

In Garcetti’s case, unpleasantness was the pension and benefit issue. The city, according to many experts, is not putting aside enough to pay for future employee benefits. The Los Angeles 2020 Commission said that the city figures the pension fund investments would return more than 7 per cent a year. Too high, the commission said, noting that investment king Warren Buffett said the projection should be around 6 percent. That means the city should put more taxpayers money into the pension funds to support them. Garcetti came down on the side of a lower investment return projection.

But he quickly moved on to a subject he obviously finds more enjoyable—the “remarketing” of L.A. into a place that is the world’s first choice for business people, vacationers, convention goers and most anyone else. He cited a story in the British newspaper The Guardian, which touted L.A. as the top brand in the world of municipal marketing.

Building on that, he saw his goals as promoting L.A. as “a place where creativity lives”; a place international investors “think of as their second home”; a place where the world will come for music and other events rather than to Coachella or Austin. In describing the “second home” concept, he told how he made coffee for a Chinese investor he was trying to lure to L.A. The man, he said, was impressed.

Back to the CEO analogy, Garcetti seemed to be trying to convince skeptical investors that the long-range prospects for his company (Los Angeles) were great and that they shouldn’t get bogged down in all the details.

This was in contrast to the Town Hall appearance last month of Austin Beutner, co chair of the Los Angeles 2020 Commission and David Fleming, a commission member. They presented a much more grim and detailed vision of Los Angeles’ future than did Garcetti. They were definitely skeptical investors.

It will take more than a cup of coffee—even one brewed by the mayor—to convince people like that.

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