MAILANDER’S LA - The Mayor-Elect of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti and I share a birthday, and in the very late innings of the most recent episode of that most joyous day, the then-candidate sent me an email:
"Hope you got to celebrate it for one of us," he said.
I told him that I was pulling for him but would complain the moment he was elected. "I'd expect nothing less," he responded, ever the candidate, still working it.
After the feel-good moment of Garcetti's election as Mayor of the second most important city in the universe--it is presently so important that three-fourths of its inhabitants couldn't care less about who runs it--fades away, I have a feeling that lots and lots of people are going to get in line to call in markers on the man they helped make Mayor of our city. And I also have a feeling that Garcetti as usual is one step ahead of all of them, expecting it, even waiting for it, and chuckling along with them.
I was on hand in the John Ferraro Council Chamber Thursday when Council President Herb Wesson announced to the public that Mayor-Elect Garcetti was entering the Chamber. Garcetti entered to thunderous and sustained applause: after all, this is a beast Council knows well, unlike Controller Wendy Greuel, who became increasingly abstruse to them as the recent campaign neared its awesome climax.
Garcetti somehow ran as a redeemer--that is a relative term--and even as a bit of an outsider, an agent of change. As he is just as much a fixture of City Hall as the bronze medallion of the ship at the crossing of the transept on the third floor, only facing an opponent like Greuel could have made this posture credible.
"She didn't just look dumb next to Eric, she looked San Bernardino dumb, especially in those stiff jackets," a snippy friend of mine in Jimmy Choos and a breezy blouse told me. "Who was her campaign manager, anyway?"
No comment. I too thought Greuel must have cost herself 25,000 votes simply by dressing like your mom, and dressing insistently like your mom at that. LA is supposed to be a forward thinking place--nobody comes to LA for structure, for rigor, for the schools or the PTA--but Wendy's whole campaign seemed straight outta 1992 at every step, when present-day relics Riordan, Boxer and Clinton wowed us all. (Note that I'm not calling Magic a relic too--but even by 1992 the man was already four years removed from last championship...)
Garcetti has conversely connected to hipsters, to nerds, to geeks and freaks, and to about 30,000 more people than Greuel has. But he also owes that many people a favor.
And so on Thursday, while the horseshoe gave the Mayor-Elect a round of applause even Stalin would have been glad to fetch, a few Nestors in the press room dutifully noted how Villaraigosa fetched even more theater, even more hope, when presenting himself to Council after his own anointing by the people in 2005.
The Mayor-Elect, in short, is too well known a quantity to City Hall to take anyone by surprise. There will be no honeymoon for him whatsoever. Councilmembers Krekorian and Buscaino especially, who went to bat for him big time during the campaign in key districts, will be hopeful of special favor. Everyone on Spring Street knows that Garcetti was trailing Greuel by seven in San Pedro and Wilmington at the time of the primary, but drew even by the election for the money. And Garcetti also nearly drew even with la Wendy in la Valley, thanks to Krekorian and unlikely Garcetti BFF Kevin James.
Garcetti in truth is far more intellectually nimble than Villaraigosa. He won't have to depend on the whisper of multimillionaires and billionaires to figure things out--a bit of a prince, he's been around people of power all his life, became one at the tender age of 30 himself, and has spent a very ambitious dozen years shuffling people in and out of his office in the hopes of accomplishing what can only be accomplished in tandem: real results, real movement, real difference.
But what's up for grabs now is some new direction for the City and its past and future denizens of the corridors of power, and scribes as well as satellite trucks were on hand to sniff it out Thursday.
As for the past, maybe Michael Higby had the best line on Mayor Villaraigosa's future--"He could go to work for an, er, think tank," he told KABC's John Phillips.
But for Garcetti, the moon's the limit. As he demonstrated on Thursday when, on vote after vote in a special session devoted to the present Mayor's budget, Council largely went the Mayor-Elect's way on every item.
He won't assume office for six more weeks, but the honeymoon--by the time he takes the oath, the champagne may flow but the horseshoe will have a mind of its own. Nobody on Spring Street is buying Garcetti as an outsider, that's for sure. He will have to make hay the old fashioned way: by earning it.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 11 Issue 42
Pub: May 24, 2013