The second-largest city in America looks poised to elect the ultimate hipster candidate as its next mayor.
Eric Garcetti drives a Prius, lives in hip Silver Lake and grows almost all of his food in his yard, which may soon be home to chickens. If polls and campaign donations are any indication, he is likely to be elected mayor of Los Angeles in May.
Fitting his reputation as the candidate "of the people," Garcetti, 41, surprised his rival, Controller Wendy Greuel, on Wednesday by challenging her to sign the "People's Pledge" to donate half the SuperPAC amount she receives to charity. The proposal is based on the "People's Pledge" that Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her Republican predecessor Scott Brown made in their Senate race last year to give half of their advertising money to charity.
Garcetti, who has been the council member representing the Hollywood area since 2001, said he wants to limit the influence of special interests, who "want something from you." Like President Barack Obama, Garcetti -- who said the president is a "personal friend" -- said most of his fundraising has come from small, individual donations, including 70 percent from people who contributed for the first time to a city race.
The candidate also advocated for publicly-funded elections when he took to social news site Reddit Tuesday to answer live questions from the public.
There is even a fake Twitter account that parodies Garcetti's hip, progressive and eco-friendly ways. The account, @Eric_Garcetti, includes tweets about trying to win Radiohead tickets on LA's hip music-playing public radio station, about a solar charger for the councilman's MacBook and about his "grasshopper-inspired bicycle." One of the tweets reads, "Life is like a skinny tie.. it goes great with a martini!"
Of Mexican descent on his father's side, and fluent in Spanish to boot, Garcetti is popular among a key demographic in Los Angeles -- Latinos. In a poll released Wednesday, he took 35 percent of the Latino vote. His two challengers scored 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
Garcetti was favored by 26 percent of recently-polled Angelenos, followed by Greuel, with 16 percent and who polled better with white, older, educated and affluent individuals. Greuel also has a better hold on support from unions and Hollywood. Although it's been close, Garcetti has led other polls as well.
Perhaps the biggest threat to his candidacy is the fact that he is a member -- and the president since 2006 -- of a city council that has a "do-nothing" reputation. He also has the nepotism stigma to overcome, as the son of former LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti.
Where does Garcetti come down on the issues? HuffPost asked him about everything from marijuana to Walmart to condoms in porn. Check out his answers below:
<strong>1. LA City Council voted in July to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/la-marijuana-ban-on-dispensaries-approved-by-council_n_1698671.html">ban all marijuana dispensaries</a>. The ban has since been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/29/la-marijuana-dispensary-ban-suspended_n_1840422.html">temporarily suspended</a> after patients and supporters collected 50,000 signatures for a referendum on the ban. How many dispensaries should be allowed in LA, and how should they be regulated?</strong> California voters enacted Prop. 215 to give patients access to medicine. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people (including gang members and other criminals) looking to make a quick buck have taken advantage of the voters' good intentions and have started a marijuana industry that too often negatively impacts our neighborhoods. Efforts to reign in the problem through a citywide policy are currently stymied by two dueling court decisions. Until the California Supreme Court weighs in (and potentially during appeals through the federal courts), we must work at the community level. We must bring together LAPD, local prosecutors, local residents and relevant city departments like Building and Safety to crack down on retail marijuana stores that are not complying with Prop. 215 and that are hurting our neighborhoods. I have publicly and repeatedly stated the best thing that the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/eric-garcetti-reddit-ama-la-mayor-candidate-pot-pay_n_2488510.html?utm_hp_ref=los-angeles">federal government could do is reclassify cannabis</a> so that we can actually get folks the medicine that they need. I have consistently supported measures to enforce and maintain a reasonable number of dispensaries for sick individuals to get their medicine. ... As far as recreational use, if the voters of the state were for it, I'd be happy to regulate it like alcohol, especially to make it less easy for underage use and to make sure it isn't the Wild West situation we see in some neighborhoods.
Condoms In Porn
<strong>2. Both the city and county of LA have recently mandated condoms in porn films. However, citing present industry testing standards, porn companies have deemed the condom requirements unnecessary and have threatened to pack up and <a href="http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/03/05/porn-companies-threaten-to-leave-la-as-new-condom-law-goes-into-effect/" target="_hplink">take their industry to less restrictive counties</a>. Is the mandate a public health necessity? Or is it a government overreach and not worth the risk that adult film companies could leave LA because of it?</strong> Protection of workers in any industry is within the purview of government. There are real health concerns, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/eric-garcetti-reddit-ama-la-mayor-candidate-pot-pay_n_2488510.html?utm_hp_ref=los-angeles">not my top priority</a>. I wonder about enforcement and jobs issues.
<strong>3. In March last year, LA City Council <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/chinatown-walmart-la-_n_1376139.html" target="_hplink">approved a motion</a> to ban chain retail stores from downtown's historic Chinatown. The ban would have stopped Walmart from moving into the neighborhood, but the store obtained the permits it needed the night before the council voted. What kind of effort, if any, should LA make to stop Walmart from building more stores in the city?</strong> I have helped lead dramatic turnarounds of neighborhoods like Echo Park, Silver Lake and Atwater Village that have been driven by and that have created thriving independent business districts. Small businesses create the vast majority of LA jobs and they are a key generator of family wealth. The question isn't whether to 'stop Walmart.' The question is how to create a consistent and predictable approval framework for stores like Walmart that takes into account their impact on surrounding businesses. Would a Walmart or other store drive traffic to and boost surrounding businesses? Or would the new store drive them out of businesses? Would it create a net increase or decrease in local jobs? These are questions that Main Streets across the nation have grappled with and it is a question we must approach intelligently and carefully here in Los Angeles.
NFL Stadium/Dodgers Stadium
<strong>4. Proponents of building a football stadium in downtown LA say it will <a href="http://www.ourweekly.com/los-angeles/black-leaders-call-california-lawmakers-support-farmers-field" target="_hplink">bring a team, jobs and tourism</a> to the city. Opponents raise <a href="http://www.laprogressive.com/no-farmers-field/" target="_hplink">numerous concerns,</a> including <a href="http://www.scpr.org/programs/madeleine-brand/2012/04/10/25954/can-downtown-la-handle-farmers-field" target="_hplink">air quality, noise, artificial light and traffic</a>. After the news of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to funnel $1 million of taxpayer money toward the stadium's construction, many were furious and <a href="http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/09/26/controversy-raised-over-public-funds-slated-for-farmers-fields-architectural-firm/" target="_hplink">said city money should be spent elsewhere</a>, such as towards LA's large homeless population (much of which is blocks away from the proposed stadium). Do you think the football stadium should be built---and with or without city assistance? Are you in support of also expanding Dodgers stadium to be like LA Live (pictured here)?</strong> The stadium should be built without taxpayer dollars, and the City Council has voted to ensure it won't. I believe a stadium would boost our economy and create jobs. More importantly, I want to see the new Convention Center that would be built at no taxpayer cost as a result of the stadium project. Were it not for our inadequate convention center, there would be no reason why L.A. -- home to Hollywood, the Lakers and year-round good weather -- would be losing major events to Las Vegas in the summer and Chicago in the winter. The events industry has been clear -- a new center would vault us to the top of the heap, attracting new business travelers to our city and our restaurants, hotels and attractions. In fact, there are hotels right now slated for development if the Convention Center plan moves forward. The stadium is far form a done deal, given the tough terms negotiated by the city. Among other things, a full environmental impact report must be completed that addresses traffic, pollution and the like.
<strong>5. Should undocumented immigrants be granted separate driver's licenses? Or should the police go back to impounding unlicensed drivers' cars for 30 days? What will you do to advance Latino rights?</strong> I believe in extending a helping hand to every Angeleno. I agree with Chief Beck, Sheriff Baca, and other public safety experts that it is safer for every Californian to be eligible for a driver's license -- which is just that, a license to drive a car, not qualify for anything else. This would ensure more people on our roads are trained, tested, insured and identifiable. The status quo ignores the reality on our streets. As for impounding, I support Chief Beck's directive to always take cars away from unlicensed drivers. When I took office, I took over an incredibly diverse district -- so I created an office that could engage with it. In terms of the Latino community, by hiring Latinos and former community organizers (including my chief of staff, so that the tone is set form the top), I've made sure everyone is engaged and no one is left behind. And it's not just about speaking in Spanish -- it's about empowering communities. Of of my proudest accomplishments is my Neighborhood Leadership Institute, which operates in English, Spanish and other languages. I understand that the way for our neighborhoods is often best understood by the people who live in them, and so we've graduated more than 1,000 people through classes like Government 101, Budget 101, Land Use 101 and more. That's 1,000 people equipped to engage with City Hall.
<strong>6. To what extent should Angelenos pitch in (read: pay higher taxes) to improve the city's public transportation? What efforts will you make to alleviate traffic and make the Subway to the Sea a reality, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/21/opinion/la-ed-subway-stop-beverly-hills-20120421" target="_hplink">despite Beverly Hills' resistance</a>? Is expanding our freeways (i.e. current widening of the 405) a worthwhile traffic-alleviating strategy?</strong> Solving traffic congestion is about more than easing our commutes. It's about reducing pollution and boosting our economy. Businesses aren't making money when employees and deliveries are stuck in traffic. And when cargo is delayed at our port and airport, trade goes elsewhere. The approach to our traffic congestion must be multi-modal, and that's what I've done in my district. I installed the city's first bicycle 'sharrows.' We actively seek to maximize and streamline rail and bus travel. We brought and expanded car sharing -- each shared car takes 15 cars off the road. You can now hail cabs in my district. We authored the city's first valet ordinance to reclaim those clogged lanes in front of busy nightspots. And based on research showing up to 30 percent of congestion in certain areas can be caused by people circling for parking, we are using sensors at parking spaces to let people know where open spaces are so they can drive directly to them and get off the road. We must expand options citywide -- and we have to finally tackle the big projects too. Connecting the Green Line to LAX is simply common sense. Let's get it done. I'm excited to see the Expo Line open and the Crenshaw Line moving forward. But we need to think big and build out a comprehensive and integrated system, one connected for easy transfer so you can ride seamlessly. We need to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/eric-garcetti-reddit-ama-la-mayor-candidate-pot-pay_n_2488510.html?utm_hp_ref=los-angeles">get the Wilshire extension moving</a> and I am optimistic that the differences with some folks in Beverly Hills can be addressed and settled.
<strong>7. LA has the largest homeless population in the U.S. What specific strategies would you implement to combat homelessness?</strong> Ending homelessness isn't just a moral imperative; it's an economic one too. Beyond direct costs like repeated emergency room visits and 911 calls, we know that children cannot study in a shelter or a car. We know veterans cannot overcome their demons sleeping beneath bridges. And we know business cannot thrive when our boulevards are overwhelmed by people in need. The key is not treating homelessness as an issue to be solved. It's about people who need help. We have been successful in permanently moving people from the streets by first hitting the streets and identifying homeless persons by name, identifying and tackling their unique needs and above all getting them housed. That means moving beyond shelters and providing people with real housing that includes the treatment, services and training needed to permanently keep people off the streets. And we've engaged the community and designed beautiful buildings that have enhanced the neighborhood community, both outside and inside the building. We opened three new supportive housing developments in the last two months, and and they are incredible assets to the community in every way.
<strong>8. What specific steps would you take to increase employment in LA? What sectors would you focus on?</strong> LA needs leadership that doesn't keep chasing yesterday's long-lost jobs, but that brings tomorrow's jobs here now. I have already helped bring clean tech, electric car, online and clean energy companies to our city. When I wrote recent solar legislation, or partnered with an Los Angeles tech company to build a smartphone app for my office, or stopped recent proposals to furlough cops, I was thinking about jobs. Indeed, these initiatives will help clean the air, make it easier to get potholes filled and reduce crime. But they will also create jobs -- creating markets for emerging clean energy firms, boosting the prospects for a local growing tech company, and making investors secure about filling empty storefronts. One of LA's most significant problems is its gross receipts tax -- it's the highest in the region and one that taxes businesses even when they lose money. Building on my successful work that eliminated the business tax for LA's small businesses (60 percent of our city's businesses) and that created targeted incentives for high-growth and highly-mobile sectors such as Internet firms, entertainment businesses and car dealerships, I am now the leader in working to end the tax completely. We must also align our education and workforce training with employers. When I found out that a major hospital wasn't advertising for health care professionals in Los Angeles any more, I asked them why and they said Los Angeles didn't have a ready pool of trained people they could hire. When I analyzed the situation, the missing link between the employer looking for workers and local residents looking for work was the community college right down the street that had stopped its nursing program a few years before. I worked to bring them together and, today, local hospitals are hiring local residents after they are trained at Los Angeles City College. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
<strong>9. Should teacher seniority be protected or should schools lay off teachers based on who is the lowest-performing? What changes would you make a priority for LA schools?</strong> The importance of our schools -- to our individual children's futures and the future of our economy -- cannot be overstated. One positive thing we are seeing today is competition-driving success. After we saw charter schools out-performing traditional LAUSD schools, we then saw traditional schools are outperforming the charters. This should be the point -- all of us need to come together with our ideas on a district-wide and community-wide basis to find what works for those kids in the classroom. In my district, I made sure every school has access to an after-school program; helped make kids safer going to and from school; and brokered groundbreaking agreements with LAUSD to split the cost of athletic fields and open them up to the community after school -- engaging the community with the school and saving both the city and the school district money. We must also come together and align education with the needs of the economy -- to move our city forward and to ensure our kids are prepared for the jobs of the future. So if we are in a global modern economy, we must make sure our kids are learning foreign languages and computer programming languages alike.
<strong>10. What slows down LA in implementing environmental measures, and what steps will you take to make LA greener, faster?</strong> I am proud that I took action to move the stalled plastic bag ban forward. I want to see action now. I authored the nation's widest-reaching green building ordinance, the nation's first municipal green building ordinance, legislation that made LA the biggest city in the nation to have a Solar FIT initiative, and the nation's largest clean water initiative of its kind, just to name a few highlights of my work on the environment. I will aggressively promote green technologies, clean energy and other environmental measures for two reasons: 1) every Angeleno deserves clean air, clean water and a healthy city in which to raise their children. This to me is a basic right and responsibility of government; 2) I want to continue my work to put Los Angeles at the forefront of industries primed for growth and job creation.
<strong>11. What city services, if any, should be privatized to save the city money?</strong> We must look at efficiencies across the board. We must keep in mind, however, that we have often found that a careful analysis shows savings from in-house operations due to less employee turnover, a high professional skill level and priority on public service. I opposed the proposal to privatize city parking garages because it was a one-time fix during a terrible real estate market and because we learned from the Chicago experience. There must be a strategic and careful approach to the selling of public assets.
Film And Television
<strong>12. What steps will you take to make LA more attractive to production companies and help keep entertainment industry jobs here?</strong> I represent Hollywood, and after years in which our signature industry was fleeing, we've reversed the trend and seen entertainment companies come back and expand. I personally recruited Nielsen. TV Guide and Technicolor moved in. The Academy Awards recently committed to 20 years in Hollywood, we brought Jimmy Kimmel Live to Hollywood Boulevard and network television production to Glassell Park. And Paramount is embarking on a $700 million expansion, and we're working on cutting red tape and modernizing and expanding Sunset-Gower and Sunset Bronson studios. Make no mistake -- it's not about glitz and glamor, although that is good for tourism (and 2011, despite the economic downturn, was a record tourism year in Hollywood). It's about jobs for working families -- makeup artists, set caterers, carpenters, painters, electricians, truck drivers and the dozens and even hundreds of people who support the few people you see on screen. I spearheaded tax exemptions and incentives for the entertainment industry to fight back against powerful incentives offered by other cities and states. And I am pushing the state to not only protect its successful tax credit program, but to create new incentives for commercial shoots. I have been a leader in eliminating fees and making city facilities "film friendly" and in providing power at frequent filming sites. To move the ball farther, I helped establish a Citywide Film Task Force that convenes city departments to troubleshoot and cut through bureaucracy. As mayor, I will continue to prioritize this key industry -- and will make sure I have close at hand the city's first film czar. And, as movies, television shows and music is increasingly watched and listened to online, we must have a strategy to match global tech leaders with the creative industry here in LA, or else they will take our industry to them.
13. What are your top three priorities for the city of LA? What are the very first actions you will take as mayor? First, we must get LA back to work. We need to change the conversation from what we are going to cut from the budget to how we are going to grow it by making Los Angeles a magnet for jobs and economic growth. A city back at work is a city that provides police, fire, library, parks and other key city services. Right now, City Hall is focused on cuts and taxes. I believe this failed focus accepts defeat. As mayor, I will implement a program to target technology, clean energy, trade, and other high-growth industries. We will push to prepare our students and workforce for the jobs of the future by promoting both foreign languages and computer programming languages. And we must change the status quo of LA having the highest business tax in the region. Second, we must reform City Hall so that it is disciplined and efficient with taxpayer dollars and is focused on delivering the services the people of LA expect and deserve. Politicians love to talk about cutting red tape -- and I've done that and believe in it. But City Hall requires a fundamental cultural shift. Departments cannot be judged on their ability to say 'no.' We must judge performance on finding solutions and getting to 'yes.' We must judge performance on businesses opened, jobs created and revenues generated. And city departments must be pushed out of their silos so that the Department of Transportation, for example, manages traffic flow not just for speed and safety, but cleaner air and economic impact too. Third, we must never lose sight of the street-level health of our communities. I often say, you can't look to the stars until you fix the cracks in the sidewalk. Strong cities start with strong neighborhoods. I tripled the number of parks in my district. I ensured an after school program is available to every school. I launched a nationally-recognized anti-graffiti program. And we deployed the city's first constituent services smartphone app, so people can report potholes, abandoned furniture and other blight with the push of a button anytime, anywhere. I will immediately prompt a true partnership between City Hall and our communities.
Earlier on HuffPost: