L.A. Mayor Exit Creates Uncertainty for City Bouncing Back
(Bloomberg) -- Eric Garcetti’s impending exit as Los Angeles mayor will leave a leadership void in a city trying to claw its way back from the devastation of the pandemic.
The departure of Garcetti -- whom President Joe Biden on Friday said he intends to nominate as ambassador to India, pending Senate confirmation -- comes at a crucial moment as the U.S.’s second-largest city prepares to fully reopen classrooms for the next school year and tackle a jobless rate of more than 9% in the economy of roughly 4 million people.
The process to find his successor will leave room for a distracting fight. While City Council President Nury Martinez could immediately step in on an acting basis once Garcetti leaves, the city’s charter allows the council to choose an interim leader or call a special election to finish the current term. The city’s next general election is scheduled for Nov. 8, 2022.
Whoever fills Garcetti’s seat could have an incumbent advantage going into next year’s race. City Attorney Mike Feuer has launched his mayoral campaign already, as has Councilman Joe Buscaino, while at least four other council members are also considering entering the race, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Garcetti, 50, who gave an early endorsement to Biden as the Democratic nominee in January 2020 and reportedly toyed with the idea of running for president himself, has been mayor since 2013. The White House statement praised Garcetti’s role overseeing “the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere, the largest municipal utility in the country, and one of the busiest airports in the world,” as well as his role in Los Angeles’s winning bid for the 2028 Olympic Games.
He’s been lauded for prioritizing infrastructure like an expansion of Los Angeles International Airport, though homelessness has proliferated under his watch as the cost of real estate has shot up, affecting the quality of life. Last year, police clashed with Black Lives Matters demonstrators who showed up at Garcetti’s front door, exposing the city’s enduring racial tensions.
His administration has also faced multiple scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment made against a former senior adviser and inappropriate comments on a Facebook group that prompted the mayor’s chief of staff to step down.
Under Garcetti’s direction, Los Angeles embraced strict Covid lockdown rules imposed by California, yet the area still became the country’s epicenter for the pandemic earlier this year, straining local hospitals. Now, with vaccines aplenty, almost 69% of L.A. county adults have received at least one dose as of July 4. Still, the spread of the delta variant is a growing concern that prompted county officials to encourage even the fully vaccinated to keep wearing masks indoors.
While the entire city is recovering from the pandemic’s walloping, it’s been a harder fight for lower-income communities. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. issued a report in February saying that low-income communities, people of color and women bore the burnt of the economic pain during the lockdown.
“Should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles,” Garcetti said in a statement on Friday.
If Biden’s slow progress in filling ambassadorial posts is any indication, it could likely take some time before Garcetti’s nomination is considered and he would leave for India.
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