I have a story to tell you about Eric Garcetti.
Garcetti introduced and passed a city “sweat free” ordinance banning the city purchase of goods like police and fire uniforms made in sweatshops. I drafted the ordinance and had a birds-eye view of the process at City Hall, which seemed at times like a cross between chaos and the circus. The measure established a body of citizen advocates to participate in monitoring and implementing the ordinance. There were no campaign contributions from the immigrant workers, most of them undocumented, whose labor was protected by the ordinance. Eric Garcetti listened, raised questions, sorted out the cross pressures, took on the downtown garment industry, and won. He wanted to improve the lives of the working poor in spite of false threats that garment jobs would leave the city unless the workers were paid sub-poverty wages.
This is one small example of the kinds of issues we in Los Angeles need to consider in making our city one of greater opportunity. How to improve the purchasing power and participation of the powerless in the city. How to strengthen the voice of neighborhoods that are neglected by distant bureaucracies and developers. How to knit Los Angeles together as the hub of the creative arts, education and sports, not as a mechanical combine of airports, freeways and rail corridors. How to address justice, not simply growth. How to remember that it is the environment that keeps us here, not the billboards.
Both President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown have managed to cut budgets while sticking to broader visions for health care and education. That forward balancing is what Los Angeles needs. But to hear the dreary mayoral debates, as reported in the Times, the only question before our city is which candidates can cut the most out of social programs and pensions. Austerity is the way monks live, not the way cities thrive.
I am supporting Eric because, as the Times carefully says in its endorsement, Eric has “the most potential to rise to the occasion and lead Los Angeles out of its current malaise.”