By Olu Alemoru, Staff Writer
With Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti’s official swearing in ceremony less than two weeks away on July 1, there seems to be mostly optimism amongst Black opinion makers that it will be a good thing for the South Los Angeles community.
That keys into major inner-city concerns about jobs, failing public schools and crime.
Garcetti has pledged that in his first term he would create 20,000 local jobs with a $2 billion investment in clean energy, clean water and energy efficiency and ease L.A. out of the recession by realigning job training and job creation.
The former would use tools such as L.A.’s green building ordinance, solar feed in tariff program and low-impact development ordinance for jobs in solar installation and design, building retrofit, component manufacturing and maintenance.
Meanwhile, he also promised to streamline the process of job training with measures that included expanding one-stop job training and job placement centers at L.A. Community Colleges, develop a web portal with easy access to all adult education and job training courses to be accessed by a single online application program and launch an online training component that provides English language and basic math training.
“We’re very optimistic,” said Marqueece Dawson, chief executive of the Community Coalition of South Los Angeles. “I think the new mayor represents a fresh look at the sort of challenging problems we’ve had in the city. I’m certainly excited because he brings a new leadership that is full of talented people from the north edge of the valley down to San Pedro.”
Dawson noted that he remained neutral during the campaign, as both Garcetti and runoff challenger Wendy Greuel received support from members of the coalition.
“[But] the over-arching message I’ve heard from the mayor’s office is that he’s willing to give these problems a fresh look and not accept the status quo,” he said. “I think in a lot of these issues, it’s the details that matter and paying attention to the details over time can end up making a lot of difference.
“I think with jobs, there are lots of public projects people can work on if they are structured correctly. That’s why it’s important for the mayor to pay attention to the details, because one minute you can have an agreement and the next no one from the local community is working on them. So we’re excited to have someone who looks with a microscope at the details.”
Activist and media commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who interviewed Garcetti on his radio show, is also welcoming the mayor-elect. A day before the election Wendy Greuel — who had accepted an invitation two weeks beforehand — pulled out.
“It was the second time that I have personally endorsed a candidate. I didn’t do it because I was mad at Wendy; we’re all professional and these things happen,” Hutchinson said. “I don’t usually endorse anyone; for one, I’m involved in a nonprofit [the Los Angeles Urban Round Table] and we can’t do that. The other thing is I have little faith in politicians and elected officials. The only person I’ve endorsed is [the late] Mervyn Dymally and he proved himself to be a warrior and fighter.”
Hutchinson contended that Garcetti was a different kind of politician, noting his progressive background, the councilman having worked with NAACP chief executive Ben Jealous in Harlem when they were at Columbia University.
“He launched some initiatives when he was going to school back east,” Hutchinson said. “So he got an understanding of grassroots organizing, what it took to reach out to underserved communities of color, particularly African-American communities. I think it really sensitized him to the needs of poor people; that they should be a priority of any elected official and not just be paid lip service.
“The other thing is we’re desperate for new leadership in City Hall. It’s stagnating; there are too many things wrong with the streets, transportation, and investment in our communities. All these things have been withering on the vine under Antonio Villaraigosa. Plus, there’s too much cronyism; you have like 10 deputy mayors making $150,000 to $200,000 a year, you can’t name one of them and God knows what they do?”
Well-known provocateur Najee Ali, of Project Islamic HOPE, was a big supporter of Garcetti from the get go and has been invited to the July 1 swearing in.
“I’ve been involved in his listening tour, designed for Angelenos to give input in what they want City Hall to do as a priority,” he told a reporter. “Eric is number one in job creation in his council district and the economy is making a slight rebound so we feel with Eric’s ties to the Obama administration he will be able to create a successful strategy for jobs growth throughout L.A.”
However, Lita Herron, of the Youth Advocacy Coalition, expressed caution.
Herron noted as a rule that she has to maintain her objectivity and try and work with whoever comes into office.
“Until somebody steps right out into the forefront of our agenda, how can I choose sides?“ she said. “Our youth are in crisis and we need leadership that has a strong polish about it. We can’t afford to have anyone that is dis-connected or may overlook [the challenges] or worse, minimize them.
“The truth about campaigning is that you always hear a lot of promises made. Once they achieve office, are they kept? Personally, I want him to be strong on schools, increase the level of education in the at-risk districts and really make the investment. Secondly, I’d like to see him enhance the GRYD [Gang Reduction Youth Development Program], headed by Guillermo Cespedes. We need that kind of assistance, especially with early release.”
Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti talks with activist Najee Ali during one of his many stops on his listening tour. Garcetti will be sworn into office July 1. Gary McCarthy/Los Angeles Wave