Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Endorsement: Eric Garcetti For Mayor Of Los Angeles

For those of you who follow this blog, you know back in February I endorsed both Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel as the two candidates I wanted most to see as our next mayor of Los Angeles.

Today, seven weeks later,  I'm thrilled to endorse Eric Garcetti alone as the progressive choice, the environmental choice, the fiscally sound choice, the feminist choice, the best choice to lead Los Angeles for the next 4 years.

So what happened in the last seven weeks to make me want to plant my flag so firmly in Garcetti's camp?

There were several factors - partly it was due to the negativity and divisiveness of Greuel's campaign, partly it was due to ethical lapses Greuel herself had made, but mostly it was from observing Garcetti at work, on the streets and in Council Chambers, and realizing this was a person who cared deeply about everyone in our City, who worked tirelessly to be a consensus builder, who every day lived the "Respect, Empower, and Include" mantra of the Obama campaign and who was willing to stick his neck out to make the right choice.......even if that choice cost him politically.

So here are just some of the reasons why I'm endorsing Eric Garcetti for Mayor of Los Angeles.....

Councilmembers Wesson, Parks and Perry endorsed Garcetti
 Garcetti has shown time and again he's willing to make the right decisions - whether it was taking ownership of LA's budget mess and working with unions to help our city avoid bankruptcy, or standing up to deep-pocket business interests that want to to shove endless LAX-caused Carmageddon down our throats -  even if those decisions weren't politically expedient.

When it came to dealing with the city's budget mess, Council President Herb Wesson praised Garcetti for the courage he showed by pursuing pension reform for city workers despite the wedge it drove between him and union leaders. At the time, Wesson told Garcetti that he could keep out of the spotlight on the issue and let Wesson take the brunt of the criticism, but Garcetti insisted on coming out publicly in support of the reforms. “You saw all the heat he’s taken from unions,” Wesson said in an interview. “I gave him an out, but he didn’t want it. That’s courage.”

I witnessed Garcetti's courage up close and personal as I organized against LAX runway expansion through the "Stop Endless LAX Carmageddon" campaign. Despite enormous pressure from business interests and trade unions - many of whom had donated generously to his campaign - Garcetti came to the conclusion that moving LAX's runways made little sense from either an economic or safety standpoint. He was one of only three council members to vote against the proposal, and he immediately caught heat for it.

"Eric didn't get to that decision because it was good politics," said Councilman-elect Mike Bonin, whose district includes LAX.  "Eric got to that position because he listened to the actual, factual arguments. Eric got to that position because he's a serious grownup, because he cares about about Los Angeles, and because he cares about doing what's right."

Garcetti won not only the endorsement of nearly all the sitting council members - including the council's only woman and every African American, but the endorsement of all three of his former opponents from the March run-off as well. While individual endorsements are nice, it's how these disparate personalities have lined up to support Garcetti - from liberal councilman Herb Wesson to conservative mayoral candidate Kevin James - that should be most indicative to voters. Why? Because Garcetti was able to work past their differences, and past the campaign rhetoric, to find consensus on issues they did agree on.  James in particular noted he didn't agree with Garcetti on everything, but appreciated his independence when it came to special interests. "That willingness to stand toe to toe with the very powerful interests in the city — that's something that's attractive to me," James said.

Garcetti marching with SEIU union janitors
It says something about the upside-down nature of this race that Greuel has tried to paint Garcetti as anti-union because he opposes the millions of dollars in taxpayer funds DWP's union leadership has funneled into Greuel's election.

What gets lost in that rhetoric is this - it's not about the DWP, or about unions in general, it's about Citizens United. It's about uncontrolled, unaccountable spending from interest groups overwhelming and distorting the democratic process - and it's just as bad coming from interest groups we like (unions) as coming from interest groups we don't like (the Koch Brothers).

So despite how the opposition might try to paint him, from Garcetti's key role in passing a living wage ordinance for Century Corridor hotels to marching with janitors as they sought to negotiate for decent working conditions, Garcetti has proven himself to be an ally to labor.

In a 2007 letter to the LA Times praising Garcetti's support of workers at the LAX Hilton, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA Federation of Labor, wrote "These are men and women who, despite earning poverty wages and despite the lack of affordable health insurance, continue to work hard to make (their employers) profitable. We should thank Garcetti and others who have the courage to stand with people who work hard for poverty wages."

And the DWP's deep pockets aren't shared by most other unions in Los Angeles. While workers in private sector unions struggle with poverty wages, and other public sector workers like LAUSD teachers haven't seen a raise (not even for cost of living) in eight years, salaries for DWP's upper management jumped a whopping 15% since 2008, with the average DWP pay rising from $88,299 to $101,237 in 2012.

No other city employee has seen raises like that, not even police officers, who's salaries rose only 2%.

In all that time, Wendy Greuel never found a single dollar in "waste, fraud and abuse" at the DWP.
So it makes perfect sense for them to believe they could get a better deal from Greuel than they could from Garcetti. 

According to Richard Riordan, this will be city workers' 
new retirement plan if Wendy Greuel becomes mayor
One day after receiving the endorsement of another powerful public sector union, the LA County Labor Federation, Greuel enthusiastically embraced the endorsement of Richard Riordan, even going so far as to say he'd be her "first hire".

Only five months earlier the Labor Fed, along with a number of other public employee unions, barely defeated Riordan's attempts to put a pension-reform measure on the ballot so onerous, one union president called it a “Wisconsin-style rush to the bottom on pay and benefits for all middle class people.”

The back-to-back endorsements by Riordan and the LA Labor Fed was a circle that would not square.

Greuel tried to soft-peddle Riordan's endorsement to labor by claiming she'd renegotiate pension give-backs the union had already made, but then walked that back within hours after she was hauled in front of the Chamber of Commerce to explain herself. 

So while much has been written about the DWP's independent expenditures on Greuel's behalf,  it's these schizophrenic signals coming from Greuel we should all be paying attention to. Because when a candidate does a 180 like this depending on her audience, it means the voter can't ever really know where the candidate stands.

Garcetti has the support of nearly every private sector union in Los Angeles - janitors, grocery workers, sanitation workers, truck drivers, port workers, construction workers, teachers, laundry workers, security officers, stadium, sports and entertainment workers, LAX workers, and City administrative and technical workers. He has it not by making promises he can't keep, but by being who he's always been - a fair partner with a deep commitment to social justice, dignity, and the principle of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

Garcetti at the Venice CicLAvia hub - he wants these once a month!

Garcetti, who's received the endorsement of the Sierra Club and the Los Angeles chapter of the California League of Conservation Voters, has long been a champion of policies to expand public transportation and improve our environment.  In 2004, Garcetti authored Proposition O, a county storm water bond which sought to clean the city's waterways. Voters approved the bond with just over 76% of the vote making it the largest clean water bond in the country.

In 2005, Garcetti helped found the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. He also authored two of the nation's largest municipal green building ordinances requiring all city buildings, and all commercial buildings over 50,000 sq ft, to be built to LEED-certified standards.  A longtime electric car driver, he even appeared as a proponent of electric cars in the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

Garcetti loves talking about public transportation in a way only a wonk can, supporting a comprehensive transit network that integrates light rail, subways, busways and even dedicated bike lanes. 

"I will continue to accelerate badly-needed rail lines (and where appropriate, busways), since these projects have the best shot at reducing traffic throughout our city. We need to finish the Expo Line to Santa Monica, link LAX to the Green Line, build the Crenshaw Line in South Los Angeles, get a North­‐South line in the San Fernando Valley that traverses the Sepulveda Pass, and it is critical to get the Wilshire subway to the Westside," Garcetti told 

"I would also make sure that the system is on time, predictable, and easy to navigate. The city has an incredible amount of transportation data and we can use this to make our city’s transportation system more flexible and change to the city’s demands."

Incidentally, I knew I couldn't support Greuel for mayor when she used a $1.25 a year mineral rights lease to eviscerate Garcetti's environmental record, implying in attack ads he was secretly trying to make a profit off of poisoning voter's children (no, I'm not exaggerating - watch the ad yourself)

For those of us who supported Debra Bowen in her congressional bid against Janice Hahn in 2011, we've seen this movie before. With only a week to go in that race, John Shallman, campaign consultant to both Hahn and Greuel, put out ugly, misleading mailers attacking Bowen, claiming the staunch environmentalist was in bed with big oil.  Shallman's "proof"? Twenty year-old campaign contributions from energy companies and an unsourced blog post from a supporter of primary opponent Marcy Winograd.

But hey, it worked once, so I guess that's all that matters.

Greuel is an accomplished female leader and should she win it would be an historic first for Los Angeles.  But does that mean she's the best or only choice for women? Hardly.

In endorsing Garcetti over Greuel, California NOW president Patty Bellasalma cited CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women - an international treaty that commits governments to removing barriers to women’s equality. Also known as the Treaty for the Rights of Women, it addresses legal rights, education, employment,
 health care, violence against women, politics and finance.

“CEDAW implementation is essential because it establishes a requirement that when policy is being considered one of the factors that must be known is the gender effect of the policy," said Bellasalma. 

Originally introduced by former Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, Garcetti fully backed it's implementation. But it stalled after opposition from the Mayor and City Attorney. According to Bellasalma, Greuel was missing in action.

“I’ve known Wendy for 30 years. She could have endorsed CEDAW. She could implement CEDAW but when asked why she hasn’t committed to its implementation her answer has been, 'We’ll have to do a study to determine it efficacy'. Studies have already been done,” Bellasalma said. “It’s bad when your first answer to a problem is to hire a focus group."

More recently, California NOW reiterated their support of Garcetti as the feminist choice for mayor after Greuel refused to directly answer if she thought it was appropriate for the Obama administration to restrict over-the-counter access to Plan B emergency contraception for girls under the age of 15.

Instead of addressing the issue in terms of federal policy,  Greuel bizarrely stated access was somehow the responsibility between a doctor and their patient, missing the point entirely of having over-the-counter access to emergency contraception.

When the moderator pressed her, pointing out that many members of women’s health organizations believe there should be NO age restriction on access to emergency contraception, Greuel replied, "Well again, I think that's a conversation between the young woman and, uh, the pharmacist and others about the ability to have access to that (access to Plan B). I think we need to teach our young women responsibility…..”

When the moderator asked Eric Garcetti the same question, Garcetti replied, "No I don't believe there should be….(age restrictions on access to emergency contraception).....we have to remember these girls, these young women, are often coming from sometimes abusive situations, may have been the survivors of sexual abuse in other situations. They might have that in the home, and I think if you make this be something that somebody has to describe to their parent, you remove those protections from some who have been the most abused and the most vulnerable, and that's the reason I oppose(restrictions on access to Plan B)."

Garcetti was one of President Obama's earliest supporters.
One of the great mantras of the Obama campaign was "Respect, Empower and Include" and it's a mantra Garcetti - who happens to be one of Obama's earliest supporters - takes to heart as a public servant.

Garcetti was the first Council Member to institute weekly "office hours" where constituents could meet with him face-to-face without having to go downtown.  Garcetti estimates he's met with 5000 constituents over the years this way.

"You might be talking to a head of state back-to-back with a homeless person who has recently lost their job and their apartment and desperate. You're the last stop they have to try to get their life back on track," Garcetti told

"You have to learn to be a great listener, it's the most important thing in politics, and both the classroom as a teacher taught me that...same thing in politics, if you think you're just supposed to give good speeches at press conferences, you'll never solve people's problems...Office hours has been my way to stay grounded, to make sure people never have too many layers between them and me and that I'll always be held accountable."

There's lots more I could go into, but I think you get the picture.

Vote for Eric Garcetti to be our next Mayor -  the progressive choice, the environmental choice, the fiscally sound choice, the feminist choice, the best choice to lead Los Angeles for the next 4 years.

1 comment: