Los Angeles celebrates as city elects its youngest mayor in more than 100 years and first ever Jewish leader
The 42-year-old Ivy Leaguer, a veteran city councilman and son of a former prosecutor, took a ceremonial oath of office on the City Hall steps as part of inaugural festivities featuring Jimmy Kimmel and the musician Moby.
Officially, he takes over the job leading a sprawling city of nearly 4 million people on Monday.
‘These times demand a back-to-basics mayor focused above all else on our economy and jobs. And that’s what I intend to be,’ Garcetti said in a speech punctuated by optimism and recognition of a tough job ahead.
‘I will make my share of mistakes in this job,’ he said.
He replaces fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, 60, who exits after two terms during which he expanded rail lines in a city notoriously choked by cars and pushed to improve schools over which the mayor has no direct control.
Garcetti presented an agenda anchored firmly to jobs that included cultivating ideas with business executives and universities, stopping the flight of Hollywood productions and reducing red tape long seen as discouraging job growth.
‘You’ll have a local government that’s off your back and on your side,’ he promised.
The new mayor takes charge of a city with problems all too familiar: knotted freeways, an unemployment rate hovering around double digits, many struggling schools, battered roadways.
Garcetti has long said he will focus on the economy ‘like a laser beam’ and try to recover jobs lost in the recession.
His goals range from getting all city workers to contribute to costly health care to dealing with long-standing gripes about potholes and cracked sidewalks.
Garcetti becomes the city’s first elected Jewish mayor, and his background reflects the city’s diversity: he often refers to his Italian and Mexican roots.
Garcetti has a temperate, wonky style — he was a Rhodes Scholar, after attending Columbia University — that will be a change from Villaraigosa, who was known for his outsized personality and ability to make headlines about his nightlife and dating.
It also will be a generational change. Garcetti is just a few years older than Villaraigosa’s eldest daughter.
Garcetti was elected with a yawn from most residents — not even one in four voters cast a ballot in his May runoff against Controller Wendy Greuel. Los Angeles is known for mostly ignoring the scrum of local politics.
That means he takes office with many residents having no idea who he is.
A Los Angeles Times editorial Sunday acknowledged city government can be ‘remote’ from the people it serves and reminded residents of the obvious: the changing of the guard at City Hall ‘affects everyone who lives, works, learns or shops in Los Angeles.’
Garcetti was able to defeat Greuel, a fellow Democrat, by depicting her as a pawn of utility union bosses in a city long friendly to labor, an outcome expected to echo beyond California as unions nationwide face threats to their clout.
The budget remains a central issue. He promised to make government ‘leaner and more efficient,’ including using more technology.
Bankrupt Stockton and other California cities are in worse shape, but spending in Los Angeles is projected to outpace revenue for years and rising pension and retiree health care bills threaten money that could otherwise go to libraries, tree-trimming and street repairs.
He’s also facing a new round of labor contract talks.