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Goodbye Garcetti: 6 Souvenirs from the Garcetti Era of Gentrification

Eric Garcetti is likely the new Ambassador to India. We should never forget what he did as Mayor of Los Angeles.

Eric Garcetti at 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trial, He wears an. Olympic t-shirt and jacket and holds an air horn.
Eric Garcetti at 2016 US Olympic Marathon Team Trial (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s official: Eric Garcetti accepted the nomination for Ambassador to India, and should he be confirmed, he will be abdicating his post as Mayor of LA. Shocking no one, the man who’s never put in a full day’s work in his life demonstrated once again the remarkable powers of white mediocrity when put in the hands of someone who truly loves the taste of fine boot

This does not bode well for the regular people who actually live in Los Angeles, for several reasons. A big one is Garcetti has selfishly and recklessly opened a power vacuum likely to be filled with electeds equally or somehow more callow than him. But we knew this day was long-coming. He’s been the mayor with both feet out the door for at least five years, if he ever actually was present in any material way to begin with. In 2017 he spent one out of three days out of town, courting the Olympics and a presidential bid. 

This whole time he’s been a ghost. A vapor. A sentient grimace. A half-remembered sitcom impression of a mayor. What he’s never been is someone who tried or achieved anything difficult, admirable, or principled. Just a media-groomed moppet who indicates privilege and polish. Someone who has access to and will take money from anyone, including Democrat faves like serial murderer Ed Buck, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and the State of Qatar.

Obligatory pieces will continue to be churned out, editorials and think pieces debating his merits as LA’s most visible elected official. Local pundits will try to quantify and catalog his many failures: his failures as mayor. His failure as a potential presidential candidate. His failure to get a Biden cabinet spot (no thanks to Rick Jacobs). His failure to house people and keep them housed. His failure to push back on the most murderous police force in the country. His failure to make LA’s streets safer or its living conditions healthier. His failures to be held accountable for abuse within his office or held to account on any major scandal. His failures to deal with public health disasters. His failures to do anything but lie repeatedly and allow the city to give over a billion dollars to hotel developers (not counting whatever was happening under the table). His failure to transform into a Clintonesque power couple with his stilted relationship with Amy Wakeland. His failure to beat Pete Buttigieg at his own game. There are so, so many failures in Garcettiville. This is now widely known.

Journalists, most of whom only recently started being overtly critical of or vaguely adversarial toward Mayor Eric Garcetti (MEG), will point to the amplified public criticism of Garcetti since COVID. They will try to balance these failures against his perceived victories, which, on their own terms, aren’t anything to boast about. You can set your watch to the fact they will list one of his only accomplishments as “winning” the LA 2028 Olympic bid.

The other victory Garcetti and journos liked to tout, though much less so these days, was supporting the $15 minimum wage. However, Garcetti shouldn’t claim that as his, because it was the result of community organizing, not his paper-thin influence (remember when he tried to make Heather Repenning a thing?). A $15 minimum wage also represented less than half of what it would cost to actually afford to live in LA… in 2015. So I’m not sure we can trumpet this as anything that gets us remotely in the ballpark of a Garcetti Victory. 

These remembrances are destined to leave out some of the best (and worst) moments from Garcetti’s time as LA’s chief executive, most of which came from the people trying to hold him to some form of account. You could write a book on Garcetti. It would be an extremely dull one. So no one please do that! Instead, submitted for your approval are a few memorable moments that underscore the persistent organizer pressure on his brand of neoliberalism.

1. Garcetti’s First Act as Mayor (2013)

While City Council was busy rubberstamping the LA28 Olympic bid in 2017, Garcetti, along with fellow “84 Boy” Casey Wasserman, was ignoring the 23% increase in homelessness (and 73% spike in one year among Latinx in LA City) and, instead, spent most of that summer on a press tour, where he kept telling an anecdote about his first day as mayor in 2013. 

The OC Register published the anecdote:

On July 1, 2013, Eric Garcetti’s first day as Los Angeles’ new mayor, he signed a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee asserting the city’s interest in hosting the 2024 Olympic Games.

Next to his signature, Garcetti scrawled “LA 2024” and drew the five Olympic rings.

With those few bold strokes by the hand of a man retracing a lifetime’s emblems, Garcetti offered a glimpse into the mindset of a visionary who has long viewed the destinies of the Olympic movement and Los Angeles as intertwined; a peek into the soul of a dreamer who grabbed hold of those rings as a teenager and has never let go.

Readers of this site will know why Garcetti prioritizing the Olympics is a gigantic slap in the face to the marginalized communities of LA; the Olympics exacerbate the policing, evictions, land grabs, sweeps, worker abuse, and undemocratic nature of LA that Garcetti has spent 20 years contributing to. Garcetti’s whole goal with LA has been to turn it into a “Global City,” an ambition that’s as asinine as it is dangerous, buoyed by the prospect of another LA Olympics. We know he doesn’t care about sports, outside of the capital attached to them. The only thing sadder than when Garcetti feigns being passionate about “fucking” sports is when he’s protested and booed at LA sporting events.

2. Garcetti’s “Landslide” Election Night Protest (2017)

In 2017 Garcetti was elected to a second term without a serious challenger as Trump was busy fear-mongering around immigration and his wall. Garcetti’s win is often touted as a landslide, but in reality, he garnered a sad amount of votes, due largely to the depressed voter turnout administrations like his thrive on.

On the eve of the March election, DSA-LA and the ICE Out of LA coalition crashed the Garcetti re-election party, focusing on the fact he couldn’t even come out and declare LA a sanctuary city, among other demands. He’s tap danced around this for years, calling LA a “city of sanctuary” instead of any meaningful pushback against ICE, CBP, and other collaborations between federal and local law enforcement under Biden and Trump.

3. Garcetti’s Inauguration Disruption (2017) [disruption at 59:30]

Black Lives Matter LA and allies attended Garcetti’s inauguration and waited for the perfect moment in this truly bloated and self-aggrandizing program, the moment he’s sworn in, to disrupt the LA neoliberal equivalent of Bohemian Grove with a cry of “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

BLM, of course, is a group that had protested him plenty in his first term and would continue to elevate the pressure on and change the conversation around MEG in term two as his pro-policing record became the subject of international concern.

4. Garcetti’s Homelessness Award (2017)

Later in 2017, Garcetti holds a press conference in Skid Row to announce the opening of six bathrooms on Skid Row. Garcetti presented awards to community organizers who were strong advocates for the bathrooms. When General Dogon of LA CAN was called up, he rejected the meaningless “Homelessness Award” and said “this award is just like the Mayor and his cronies, it’s worthless… it’s 10 years late and it’s 200 too short. This is nothing compared to what we have been going through and what we need.” Note to future Mayors of Los Angeles: don’t exploit unhoused people for ill-advised photo-ops.

Garcetti holds a press conference in Skid Row to announce the opening of six bathrooms on Skid Row. Garcetti presented awards to community organizers who were strong advocates for the bathrooms including General Dogon of LA CAN who tears up the award in front of Garcetti.
Garcetti presents “Homelessness Award” to LA CAN’s General Dogon, who rejects it. (Source: Facebook)

5. USC Human Rights Day Backfire (2018)

In late 2018, LA CAN also helped lead the charge in another classic Garcetti embarrassment, mere weeks before his presidential bid absolutely combusted, following an unsuccessful astroturf campaign and “Urban Latino Beat” anthem, “Ready for Garcetti.” Garcetti accepted an invitation from USC to be the keynote for an event honoring the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, despite the fact the UN had chastised LA’s lack of action around our own human rights violations, starting in Skid Row.

When Garcetti tried to launch into his dubious origin story, organizers from around the city stood up continuously and interrupted him, singing Garcettiville-flavored Christmas carols and shut down his attempts to mollify the agitators and Garcetti his way out of things. This effectively ruined the event and became an unfortunate media event for the Mayor (who released a tacky, defensive rejoinder to the press). Cue one the LA Times’ most  pearl-clutchy and poorly aged editorials of the past decade (even more ridiculous than the one where they endorsed Garcetti not long after giving him a “C” rating). The organizers responded in kind. And the last two years would look more like this disaster than the less turbulent tenor of his first term.

6. Garcetti’s favorite “LA Movie” (2017)

In 2017 Garcetti sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg for an inane Atlantic interview. Here’s a brief excerpt:

So, Eric Garcetti thinks Airplane! is not only an “LA movie” but also his favorite “LA movie”? Is it just because he’s spent a large chunk of his time serving LA on a plane somewhere else? Airplane! is a classic American spoof; that’s difficult to dispute. However it’s patently not an “LA movie” in any shape or form. No human would ever even consider that, especially someone who grew up here. It’s not that he doesn’t understand youth culture or what it means to be “LA.” He doesn’t understand people, period. And he likely doesn’t even understand himself.

This also wasn’t the first or last time he’s mentioned his favorite “LA movie.” In 2015, Garcetti was asked to host Zócalo and KCRW’s “My Favorite Movie” series at the Million Dollar Theatre, and Garcetti chose the 1980 classic comedy Airplane! After a screening of the film and an interview with Garcetti and the filmmakers, the movie’s writing-directing-producing trio — Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker — handed Garcetti a poster with the inscription: “To Eric Garcetti, or Current Mayor of Los Angeles: We’re thrilled that Airplane! is your favorite film. On the other hand, we’re terrified that someone of that mindset is running the city.” Though this comment was seemingly in jest, it rings eerily true.

Although Garcetti, a man who never belonged to Los Angeles, is finally getting what he wants, a promotion upstream, the interests he serves aren’t going anywhere.