Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is Ready For His Close Up
Los Angeles is famously unsentimental about the past (just ask Warren Beatty), yet the city does unabashedly love one old thing: Angels Flight, the steeply angled 298-foot funicular railway that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling rode to romance in La La Land. Although the 116-year-old attraction has been closed for three years after some scary malfunctions, on a recent spring afternoon, its lower entrance is surrounded by reporters, TV cameramen, dignitaries, bemused tourists, and the odd hipster drifting across the street from G&B Coffee, $6 almond-macadamia latte in hand. They’ve come to hear a press conference announcing that, at long last, the renovated Angels Flight will reopen by Labor Day.
At the center of the action is Mayor Eric Garcetti, a fit, square-jawed, gently graying 46-year-old who so thoroughly looks the part that he’s played fictional versions of L.A.’s mayor in movies and on TV. Dressed in a crisply tailored blue suit with a pin promoting the city’s 2024 Olympics bid, this former Rhodes scholar glides around with the amiable Zen detachment you might expect of a politician who, a few days later, will win reelection with a record 81 percent of the vote—a victory so definitive (despite low turnout) that everyone assumes Garcetti will seek statewide or national office before the end of his new five-and-a-half-year term.
Politicians love delivering good news, and Garcetti—a confident performer who has jammed with Moby—seizes the moment. He praises the individuals behind the renovation, guarantees the train will be completely safe—“I will be riding it myself”—and because the company refurbishing Angels Flight is based in Madrid, he wittily adds, “Spaniards built this town, and now they’re helping rebuild it.”
Garcetti often jokes that being mayor is like being in a zombie movie: “As long as you keep walking you’re fine; as soon as you stop, you’re eaten alive.” But you can’t keep moving at a press conference. The upbeat words about Angels Flight have barely left his mouth when he’s asked about an issue traumatizing wide swaths of Los Angeles—and America. What is he doing about President Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants, of whom Los Angeles County has more than a million?
“This is a city that not only provides sanctuary,” he tells his listeners calmly. “We are a place that will go further and defend our immigrants.” He ticks off some of the ways he’s had the city go against official administration policy, from putting together a $10 million legal-defense fund for those threatened with deportation to formally asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers not to use the word police when they identify themselves during their raids. He and Police Chief Charlie Beck also have held firm to the LAPD’s longtime policy of not checking immigration papers when no serious crime has been committed. And the city has declared schools “safe zones,” which should not share student records with the federal government.