What is Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti thinking?
Garcetti says that if elected mayor of the country's second largest city — which is broke, has crumbling roads and 90-year-old water pipes — he plans to remain in the military if possible. What?
The mayoral job is a 24/7, full-time gig, and we already have hard proof that a mayor who skips town — i.e. Antonio Villaraigosa — is not what Los Angeles needs. So what exactly is going through Garcetti's Ivy League-educated brain?
Garcetti's eight year stint in the U.S. Naval Reserve ends late this year. He was out of town a lot as City Council President, working in the spook/spy arm of the Reserve — apparently a service called NRCIS, the weekend version of NCIS, the military spy agency with eyes and ears around the globe.
Garcetti refuses to talk about it, claiming his job as a lieutenant has a classified security clearance. So, he would act as L.A. mayor while … doing what for the Navy, exactly?
And think of the time he'll need away from L.A. — nearly 40 days per year made up of a weekend each month and a two-week annual stint.
Garcetti is already being slammed for vanishing from his City Council job — skipping 10 of 12 meetings between March 5 and April 12 — to pound the pavement to become mayor.
His absence helped prevent the City Council from voting on an $18 million plan to house the homeless after Councilman Richard Alarcon angrily bolted out of the room. With four other members absent, including Garcetti, Alarcon's walkout ruined the quorum and stopped the vote.
L.A. Weekly contacted the Garcetti campaign but spokesman Jeff Millman did not reply.
As mayor, Garcetti will be chief executive over 40 city departments and bureaus with some 40,000 employees and a $7.7 billion budget. He will handle complex issues including the environment, education, job creation, the city's terrible finances and public safety.
Villaraigosa, the Weekly reported in its investigative story “The All About Me Mayor” in 2008, failed for three straight months to meet with his 40 general managers. Without executive direction and pressure, under Villaraigosa key initiatives died on the vine on many occasions.
Whether voters elect Wendy Greuel or Eric Garcetti, either one will be expected to play catch up, holding more than 40 general managers accountable after their long play date with Villaraigosa.
Garcetti would also have to keep tabs on hundreds of political appointees he places on city commissions to reduce their tendency toward favoritism, nepotism and other isms.
Garcetti must be present during numerous emergencies in the Disaster Capital of the World, including natural disasters, political unrest, cop shootings and assorted terrible events that always happen on a mayor's watch.
Garcetti will have to constantly prod the 15 City Council members — if not, they'll set the agenda for him, which is far from a consoling thought. In fact, whenever the mayor leaves town, the City Council president takes over.
That leaves in charge as temp mayor the slippery Herb Wesson, whose secret gerrymandering deals in 2012 to slice and dice up Koreatown are the subject of a federal civil lawsuit for alleged illegal use of race in drawing the area's voter boundaries.
Wesson alone needs Garcetti's full attention.
It leaves no time to serve in the spy unit, or any other unit, of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Garcetti is a child of wealth, who has long been helped by a family trust fund, and has owned stocks including Tiffany. He even cut a deal giving Venoco Inc. underground oil-drilling rights to land Garcetti co-owns on Wilshire Boulevard. No oil has been drilled yet, but Garcetti turned this eyebrow-raising deal into a headline when he denied any recollection of signing with Venoco.
Garcetti apparently served in the Reserve with distinction for eight years. But he clearly does not need their retirement check. If he becomes mayor, he should leave that chapter of his life behind him and focus solely on Los Angeles.
After eight years of Villaraigosa, who L.A. Weekly showed to be spending only 11 percent of his working hours on crucial mayor duties such as policy work, reviewing and signing legislation, and planning with his chief of staff and city managers, L.A. most definitely doesn't need a new part-time mayor.
Update: Bob Stern, a respected California expert on good government and ethical political behavior, spoke to the Weekly about Garcetti's unusual stance:
Bob Stern asks a series of probing and somewhat troubling questions:
1. “What happens if there's an emergency event in L.A., like a terrorist attack or something?”
2. “And he is there at the Reserve and not in L.A.? Could he get back here to … take care of what's going on?”
3. “If he's gone two weeks at a time, what happens [in L.A.] when he's gone those two weeks?
4. “Is he in touch?”
5. “How much hold does [the Navy] have over him?”
Good questions. When a member of U.S. Congress remains in the military reserve after getting elected, nobody seems to worry. There are 534 other members of Congress to debate the issues, respond to crises and make decisions.
There's only one mayor, and some would argue that under Villaraigosa there's only been .5 of a mayor.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.