Los Angeles' new mayor: hipster, Rhodes Scholar, budget fixer?

Wed May 22, 2013 11:21pm EDT
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By Sharon Bernstein and Tim Reid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Rhodes Scholar and urban planning wonk in a city that generally prefers its politicians to be less eclectic, Los Angeles mayor-elect Eric Garcetti will take the reins as the nation's second-largest city teeters between recovery and financial ruin.

Despite a strong renewal in the city's housing market in recent months, unemployment remains higher than the state average, and the city's budget deficit could top $1 billion within four years. Trees are going untrimmed, streets unpaved and the fire department has had its budget slashed.

Garcetti, who takes over on July 1, promised on Wednesday to "focus like a laser" on the local economy, and renegotiate pay raises and other deals with the city's unions.

But to do that, he may have to push beyond the skills he has honed as a consensus builder and wrench changes from a city whose bureaucracy and citizenry are not used to being told what to do - even by their mayor.

"In L.A., you are constantly dealing with powerful folks that you can't order around," said political scientist Raphael Sonenshein, who directs the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. "On the other hand, he's going to have to understand when the consensus approach isn't working."

At 42, Garcetti embodies a legacy that in many ways reflects the city's political, intellectual and ethnic sub-cultures.

His father, Gil Garcetti, was a high-profile prosecutor who was elected district attorney of Los Angeles County when Eric was in his early 20s, and the future mayor grew up among the city's Democratic elite.

His education at the exclusive Harvard School for Boys was among the most prestigious in the region, landing him a spot at Columbia University and later, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.   Continued...

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks during an election night party at the Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, California, May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson