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Trouble in Tinseltown
Can LA's Milquetoast Mayor Rise to the Challenge?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent state of the city address was a downer, to put it mildly. The city faces an array of looming disasters. One in five people live in poverty; housing prices are forcing a middle class exodus; pension costs are rising to 20 percent of the budget; and the public school system is one of the worst around. Mayor Garcetti’s somewhat lame speech has the Economist wondering if he’s the man to bring the city back from the brink:

Few of the pledges Mr Garcetti made last week were costed or came with deadlines. By budget day his campaign vow to scrap the city’s gross-receipts business tax had shrivelled to a plan to snip it from 0.51% to 0.425% over the next four years (although he continues to promise its elimination). Sceptics grouch that they have no idea what the mayor spends his time doing. […]

In a city not known for restraint, Mr Garcetti’s approach can be refreshing. But it is too soon to determine whether it is working. A sterner test than he has yet faced may lie before him, in the form of one of the disasters, natural or man-made, that befall the city from time to time, or a fiscal crunch that could force a hard decision on taxes (vast deficits are projected for years). If not, his challenge will be to demonstrate that his modest proposals are enough to tackle Los Angeles’s deep-seated problems.

As head of the LA City Council (2006–12) Garcetti’s lack of a record and non-confrontational approach aroused suspicion that he was studiously avoiding conflict just to pave his road to the mayor’s office. Now, with so many municipal crises at the fore, Garcetti’s continued reserve and restraint has incurred much of the same grumbling.

A poll-driven, risk-averse administration wouldn’t exactly distinguish Los Angeles from many other struggling cities bereft of real leadership. But with so many social and fiscal time bombs threatening the lives of the city’s poor and middle class, career-obsessed mayors are the last thing Los Angeles needs. Here’s to hoping that Mayor Garcetti proves his skeptics wrong.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Speaking of career obsession, the results of the elevation of Senator “Present” to the Presidency suggest that we should not hold out much hope for Lost Angeles. Perhaps the inequality police should take a look at the staggering inequality in this solidly blue city, 1% of whose residents are a major source of Democratic Party contributions and propaganda. Don’t hold your breath.

  • Corlyss

    “As head of the LA City Council (2006–12) Garcetti’s lack of a record and non-confrontational approach aroused suspicion that he was studiously avoiding conflict just to pave his road to the mayor’s office.”
    Gee, that sounds familiar. Let me see . . . name’s on the tip of my tongue . . . used to be a senator from Illinois . . .
    Based on recent experience, I’d say the LA Mayor has an excellent chance of being elected president.

  • AllanDale

    The Golden State was founded on the principle of consumption: gold, sunshine, leisure, and finally, other people’s money–what could go wrong with that? A resource-poor state that has to beg, borrow, or steal other people’s water merely to survive on an arid, burned-out edge of a continent with scarce naturally-arable land and a reactionary political culture that flip-flops between the two official political denominations. The sooner the state is sold to the Chinese the faster the federal government can start collecting revenue for providing water to the new owners.

    • Jim__L

      The water, SoCal takes from northern California.

      Little-known fact: Southern California is actually resource-rich: it has a lot of oil. The greens just won’t let any of it come out of the ground.

      • AllanDale

        As a matter of fact, California requires water from four adjacent states just to provide drinking water for the population and water for the industrial farms in the arid Central Valley. In the 1960s, the state’s boosters assured everyone that by the end of the 20th century, floating offshore desalination plants would solve the water problem on a permanent basis.

        • Jim__L

          The Central Valley water districts (like the ones I grew up in) get water from the Sierra Nevadas, and additionally ship a whole lot of water to LA. When water gets tight, farms get shortchanged long before the mega-cities.

          Stuffing millions of people into Los Angeles is the primary mistake here.

    • Dan

      pretty sure that CA is a lot of things but resource poor isn’t one of them

  • free_agent

    In the end, these problems seem to get fixed by people “voting with their feet”. Of course, the people with the most money get to vote first (get first choice of where they’d like to go), and those with the least money get last pick. As an extreme example, even the poorest are exiting Detroit. But maybe things are so bad in Detroit that they’re starting to get fixed. In AA, they call that “hitting the bottom”.

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