Los Angeles’s new mayor, who took office last summer, swears he’s not a hipster. Yet Mayor Eric Garcetti comes closer than most mayors–a spry age of 41, an avid Twitter user, former digs featured in Dwell magazine, and a courter of the tech and Hollywood scenes (“We’re the third most friendly startup city in the world”!).
But despite some interesting innovations he’s made during the first seven months of his administration–such as appointing a new Chief Innovation Technology Officer, proposing a plan to woo businesses by nixing an important city tax, and a new beta site meant to provide more transparency about city operations–he’s been off to a slow start as he’s struggled to define his policy priorities. Garcetti is the furthest along in his term of the eight new mayors that Co.Exist has been profiling as they lead the charge towards the future of U.S. cities. (see: “The Class of 2014: The New Mayors Who Are Building The Future of America’s Cities”).
Following a flashy, but sometimes ineffective predecessor, his low-profile is partly strategic. But critics like LA Weekly writer Gene Maddus are starting to wonder whether the mayor has much of a big vision at all.
With unemployment higher than 11%, the city of Los Angeles suffers from relatively slow job growth, compared with its sprawling outlying metropolitan area and many other California cities. “The mayor has to deal with ‘How do we create more local jobs?’” says Kevin Klowden, director of the California Center at the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. “A lot of it is dealing with the bureaucracy. LA is considered a very difficult place to do business.”
That’s partly what Garcetti wants to address with his controversial plan to eliminate the city’s business tax, which accounts for 10% of LA’s revenue. Whether that passes muster will remain to be seen. He’s also put out a series of proposals on how to boost the local tech sector and foreign investments in the city, as well as improve job training and tackle LA’s troubling high school dropout rate. In a famously congested, car-centric city, he’s also hoping to make streets more bike and pedestrian friendly and wants to build a new “people mover” to the nation’s third-busiest airport as well as make sure there’s a park within walking distance of everyone’s home.
Will the city one day resemble the Los Angeles of the futuristic Spike Jonze movie Her? Who knows, but tackling some big visions for sustainable urban development will be important if Garcetti wants to make his mark on LA.