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A Sensitive Soul for Mayor




It didn't surprise me to learn that purported hip and purportedly young (he is 40) City Council President Eric Michael Garcetti turned to the stodgiest scribe at the stodgiest media outlet in town to announce that he was running for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013, rather than to new media. That's been consistent with his style of political showmanship to-date.

Garcetti already has far more old media name recognition than either civic figure in the race, and for that reason he is the automatic frontrunner upon entering--a meaningless designation. Those who are frontrunners over a year in advance of a election have neither an appreciable edge nor an appreciable fail rate.

As a human, Garcetti is as polyglot as his district--at least that's what he promotes himself to be. He has barely-there (note: he informs me that they are sturdier than I supposed) claims on both being a Latino and being "of Jewish descent." His interest in musical theater even gives him some gender bending street cred in LA's top gay ghetto. He's a Rhodes scholar, a designation I and perchance many of a certain age in LA associate with overly-sensitive quarterbacks thanks to our memories of Pat Haden as a Ram.

As a Councilmember, Garcetti has mostly mystified me--as do most Rhodes scholars and Rorschach blots. His staff is largely populated by frothy pretty things who seem busy and eager enough and produce and promote the kind of oblique policy documents that you'd expect of a Council district that is above 85% renters. Garcetti gleefully sells these and his policy wonk side with stock phrases like, "It's not a government solution, it's not a market solution, it's a combination..." And indeed Garcetti is a kind of hybrid himself; his polyglot hybridization extends to political policy.

He and I share the same birthday and went to the same school, and over the years there have been some cautious and even incautious exchanges. These exchanges have become increasingly oblique as his Council terminus postquem approached. But through them all, one thing has been obvious to me: Garcetti measures personal achievement by political achievement. And there have been not-so-subtle indications of this in his political life as well.

Fawning scribes have missed, for instance, Garcetti's key backing of Proposition R, the slippery-titled 2006 measure that extended Council term limits from eight to twelve years--assuring that Garcetti and Villaraigosa would be termed out at the same time, rather than Garcetti facing the cold when Villaraigosa was running for his second term of office.

When he first won his Council seat, his father was on hand to remind voters that Garcetti fils had done this all by himself. At barely barely 30 years of age, no less. One suspects that there were other factors...

I was in Berkeley a few days ago; there are sharrows on nearly every single residential street, and every avenue is a bike lane. All over the Bay area, in fact, there are signs that admonish drivers to share the road with cyclists. I wondered what the big deal was with getting this kind of thing done. Then I realized at last: even a civic striping of pavement can be a battle if you're enough of a sensitive soul to listen to all points of view and sweat them. I think that after ten years of high profile elected office, we're going to soon see if Eric Garcetti is cut out for politics.

UPDATE: Mr. President Garcetti responds in comments.