Mayor Eric Garcetti didn’t mention Donald Trump by name in his luncheon talk. Still, he managed a subtle rebuke to the Republican presidential nominee.
“We are in a place,” he said, referring to Los Angeles, “where inclusiveness” is part of life. He briefly contrasted that to the presidential campaign, marked by negativity and Trump’s assault on immigrants, so important a part of the city’s population.
He spoke Tuesday to a crowd of business, labor and political people at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, arranged by Emma Schafer, a public affairs consultant who also compiles the website Emma’s Memos. I hadn’t seen the mayor for some time. He’s evolved into a more interesting speaker, framing his accomplishments as stories rather than bureaucratic recitations. He talked of “stitching a story” and creating “a narrative.” That’s the style he used talking about the airport, street repairs and tree trimmings, turning the routine into something interesting.
Looking at the reporters in the audience, he conceded he wasn’t making hot news. “I know it’s not as sexy as a bloody nose,” he said, but added that a bloody nose doesn’t get you anywhere.
I was interested about what Garcetti said about his plan for a year of free community college tuition. Community colleges, he said, offer those who didn’t do well in high school or ended up in jail “a second chance.” After lunch, I had planned to walk to Los Angeles Trade Tech College, a community college famed for giving young men and women a second chance and for the inclusiveness mentioned by Garcetti in his talk. The student body is 56 percent Hispanic, 27 percent African American, 6 percent Asian American and 6 percent white.
I was headed for the school to begin work on my column for Truthdig.com. The Palm, site of the luncheon, is close to Staples and LA Live and the big buildings of L.A.’s new downtown, several blocks from the college. I left the big money district and walked south on Flower Street toward Trade Tech. As the neighborhood changed, I passed a body repair shop. Across Flower was a payday loan company. I peered through an open door into a large, dark room where women were sewing and sorting clothes. On the campus I walked among the ethnically mixed students and joined a bunch of them on the train when I took the Expo Line home.
I had passed immigrants sewing clothes; working class students determined to have a prosperous future; rich people eating the Palm’s big steaks near the glitter of Staples and L.A. Live. This was the L.A. Garcetti was talking about at lunch. The scene, with its contrasts, was a vibrant answer to the narrow, anti-immigrant campaigning of Donald Trump.