The political road can suddenly turn from smooth to rocky and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has lately hit a lot of bumps. That may keep him from an opportunity to move into the new Democratic administration in Washington.
Perception is an important ingredient in measuring politicians and when those around the politician are charged with wrongdoings the talk often throws a shadow on the leader—that is happening to Garcetti with the one-two punch of accusations made against former aides in the mayor’s office. These new troubles for the mayor come on top of criticism in other areas from across the political spectrum.
This week, former deputy mayor Raymond Chan was charged with conspiracy, bribery and fraud charges and lying to the FBI in a widespread corruption investigation over development projects and bribery in the City of Los Angeles. Garcetti’s office distanced the mayor from the charges saying the mayor was not aware of the transgressions and expressing disgust over the activity.
The mayor’s response is similar to his assertion that he was not aware of any misconduct by close aide Rick Jacobs now accused by a number of people for inappropriate sexual actions.
Both Chan and Jacobs have denied the charges made against them.
Yet, the stories with all the details of wrongs committed come with Garcetti’s name floated in the articles’ early paragraphs and denials from his office. Such publicity cannot help at a time when the City of Los Angeles is suffering on so many fronts intensified by the scourge of the pandemic.
For a week now Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles has been protesting in front of the mayor’s house urging the upcoming Biden Administration to deny Garcetti a Washington appointment. The protest organizers object to Garcetti’s record on homelessness issues, police conduct, and transportation.
Anger at the mayor is not only from the political left. Concern over lockdowns prompted by the coronavirus surge have landed on Garcetti’s doorstep, even though many of the new restrictions have been ordered by the county, not the city. However, the mayor of Los Angeles has the highest political profile in the area and is therefore an easier target than the five-member County Board of Supervisors.
It is not always fair to tar an official with actions of subordinates and for Garcetti’s part in responding to critics on specific issues he rightly points out that he is mayor to 4 million Angelenos, not just those that protest. Yet, the cumulative effect of the negative stories and protests make it tougher for the mayor to deal with the many crises at hand.
Garcetti is close to president-elect Joe Biden being an early endorser, co-chair of his campaign, and one who served on Biden’s vice-presidential selection team. Given the endless problems and ongoing virus concerns that make it hard to improve the situations confronting LA, it would not be surprising if the mayor took a federal appointment as if jumping through an escape hatch. In fact, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez recommended Garcetti follow that path in a column before Thanksgiving, commenting: “If I were Garcetti, I’d already have my bags packed and a Washington condo lined up.”
Garcetti ends his mayoral run in two years and its certain he wants to stay in public service. But the avenues available to him are chock full of competitors and obstacles. The governor’s office may not be open for another six years, four years after Garcetti as mayor is done, a long time to be in the hinterland. A U.S. Senate seat is undoubtedly opening soon, but there will be healthy competition from a strong field of candidates.
A Washington job would have strong appeal.
But with the constant protests and bad news stories that contain the mayor’s name, the appeal may not be a two-way street. Biden administration officials want to get off to a strong start and bringing in an officeholder weighed down with political baggage is a problem they don’t want to deal with.
The once paved political path Eric Garcetti was traveling has been strewn with boulders.