Say what you will about former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the man never turned down a chance to party. Put together a half-decent guest list and an open bar – preferably in another city – and you could count on him to show up.
Not so for his successor, Eric Garcetti.
The L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce has been trying for weeks now to get Garcetti to commit to attend its Access D.C. trip. The annual lobbying trip is now only a few weeks away, and the mayor is still a solid “maybe.”
This is a problem for the Chamber, which, perhaps not coincidentally, supported Wendy Greuel in last year's mayoral race. The Chamber is selling tickets to the conference at $825 a pop, and part of what they're selling is the chance to rub shoulders with powerful City Hall folks.
Villaraigosa was a mainstay on these trips, attending them all eight years he was in office. If Garcetti doesn't go, that will eliminate much of the point.
“We're talking with his staff and trying to work out what works with his schedule,” said Ruben Gonzalez, the Chamber's vice president of political affairs. “It's a work in progress.”
The official purpose of the trip is to lobby Congress on behalf of local business priorities. But in between breakfast briefings with senators and representatives, the junketers share a lot of down time with local elected officials, usually in the intimate surroundings of an expensive hotel.
Hard to imagine why anyone would want to pass that up, but Garcetti is at least entertaining the idea of skipping it. The trip is set for March 10-12, which is only a week after Garcetti is due to return from a trade mission to Mexico City.
“Have not set his schedule yet for that week,” said Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman, via a terse email. “Will have an answer closer to the date.”
Let's now get some context by going back to last spring, when Gonzalez produced this Chamber of Commerce web video, attacking Garcetti for his support of the Occupy L.A. encampment:
More recently, Garcetti has addressed Chamber events and the Chamber is a partner in the Mexico City trip. Looking ahead, Garcetti will need the Chamber's strong support to pass his plan to eliminate the city's business tax.
But perhaps there are still some hard feelings from the campaign.
Update: More from Millman.
“Mayor Garcetti and his staff have a good working relationship with the LA Chamber. He spoke at their Inaugural Dinner a few weeks ago and his staff collaborates with them on many issues and projects. Recently Mayor Garcetti and the Chamber jointly sponsored a workshop in South LA to help residents claim the Earned Income Tax Credit on their tax filings. The Chamber is also a partner in Mayor Garcetti's initiative to create 10,000 jobs for LA youth this summer, which will give these young Angelenos income and skills that will last a lifetime.”