Ambitious and charismatic, Eric Garcetti has ruled Los Angeles for nearly eight years. The star of the Democratic Party, lit in the city of angels, was predicted to have a dizzying career. He was going to run for president, but suddenly changed his mind. Then, there were rumors that he was being groomed for a cabinet position in Joe Biden’s administration. Garcetti declined. It was the height of a pandemic, and the mayor couldn’t leave a city where a new coronavirus anti-record was breaking every day.
“For the last two years, Joe Biden told me that he wanted to see me in Washington, D.C., and there was a place set aside for me. But I put it to his administration that I needed to be in Los Angeles now. That was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make,” Garcetti said at a news conference last December.
Rumor had it that President Joe Biden had something more in store for the mayor. Soon, word leaked to the press that the head of Los Angeles would go to the Indian capital as an ambassador instead of the U.S. capital.
“There’s a huge difference between being a city manager and an ambassador. India is the most populous country that is going through a tough time right now because of the coronavirus. Los Angeles has been through a similar crisis, and Garcetti has just the right amount of experience to share with India,” said Chapman University political scientist Laura Khan.
“The position of ambassador to India is an important position, the relationship with that country is strategic, and he’s someone who can say the right words. He will be a great mediator between the White House and the Indian government,” believes Zev Yaroslavsky, who worked for many years at the Los Angeles City Hall. The politician explains President Biden’s choice simply.
“Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti and President Joe Biden have known each other for a long time, Garcetti was one of the first to endorse Biden in 2020. They have a close political and personal relationship,” Jaroslavsky believes.
Experts also believe it’s all about trust.
“Usually presidents always choose people they trust to serve as ambassadors. And it was no surprise that after Garcetti’s participation in Biden’s campaign, he was given such a career opportunity,” says Professor Laurie Hahn.
Garcetti is 50 years old and a political scientist by training. Born in Los Angeles, he describes himself as a Jew with Mexican and Italian roots. On his mother’s side, Garcetti’s relatives once emigrated to the United States from Russia. The current mayor’s father is a former Los Angeles County prosecutor. Garcetti has introduced many innovative programs to the city. But despite his accomplishments, there is more criticism of the mayor. He is blamed for L.A.’s main trouble: the rise in homelessness.
“People don’t have patience, they see the problem, it’s not solved, who do they blame? The mayor, of course. But he deserves criticism as well as praise. He brought the city the Olympics in 2028, he expanded the transportation system. And many people, including entire institutions, are responsible for so many homeless people living on the streets. Just think of the changes in mental health laws in the ’60s, the wars our country was involved in, the rising housing prices that put people on the streets,” says former Los Angeles City Hall official, Zev Yaroslavsky.
If Garcetti goes to India, temporarily, until the next election, the post of Los Angeles City Manager will be taken over by the current City Council leader.
“Right now the City Council leader is Nuri Martinez. If she is appointed as acting mayor before the next election, it will be historic. First, she would be the first Latina in that position, and second, she would be the first female mayor in Los Angeles, because there have never been female mayors here, like New York City,” says political scientist Laurie Hahn.
The White House has not yet confirmed information about the Los Angeles mayor’s move to India. Sources in the president’s administration say that Joe Biden might make a statement about replacing the ambassadors to India and China in the coming days.