Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed Thursday to ensure that L.A is a clean and safe city in his final State of the City speech, an acknowledgement of concerns over violent crime and the unsanitary and bleak conditions of the streets that have dogged his last year at City Hall.
In his address, the mayor announced plans to hire hundreds of new sanitation workers by employing formerly incarcerated and unhoused Angelenos and to use specialized teams to continue to help the homeless as part of his proposed city budget.
His budget, to be released next week, will also “bring about a safer city,” said Garcetti, who didn’t specify how much he would set aside for the police department, which typically consumes the largest share of “unrestricted” city revenue — a trend that angers groups who want spending reduced.
“We need to ensure that this is the safest and the cleanest city that it can be,” Garcetti said during a speech delivered from the under-construction Sixth Street Bridge near Boyle Heights.
The symbolism of the bridge spoke to both the august and the quotidian elements of the mayor’s job. The ribbon-like concrete arches of the bridge soared grandly behind him, dancing toward the downtown skyline.
A portable toilet, dumpster and construction equipment were also visible, as an orange-vested crew continued their morning’s work a few hundred yards down the bridge from the mayor.
Garcetti used the metaphor of a bridge throughout his speech, noting that the city is “living through a year of transition. From pandemic … to renewal. And from one administration to the next. This calendar year will close on a new mayor’s first month in office.”
He also used his address to pay homage to his start as mayor, inviting college student Kenia Castillo to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. As an eighth-grader, Castillo administered the oath to Garcetti when he was sworn into office in 2013, the mayor said.
Facing term limits, Garcetti must step down in December. At one point, he appeared to choke up during his address as he thanked his family members — both his daughter, Maya, and father, former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, were in the crowd. Garcetti’s wife, Amy Wakeland, was absent because she was not feeling well, a spokeswoman said.
Others in the crowd included City Council members, general managers and deputy mayors.
Garcetti also said he would propose spending more than $1 billion on homelessness in his new budget. The figure will include money raised from Proposition HHH, a voter-backed initiative to support homeless housing, and is likely to include budgeted dollars for homelessness that went unspent in this year’s budget.
The mayor also outlined plans for a new $21-million climate equity fund that will focus on mitigation and resilience efforts in low-income neighborhoods. Homelessness and the climate emergency are the “two greatest challenges that we face in the long term,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti also referenced the pandemic, noting the “hurt city roars back to life,” but the “epic battle has left us tired and bruised.” While he noted that hospitalizations are at their lowest point since July, he said, “COVID-19 isn’t over, but its grip is loosening. We will see more surges … confront new variants.”
Using the speech to look back on his nine years in office, Garcetti touted the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and a project at LAX that will connect travelers directly to airport terminals.
He also name-checked the citywide fee to raise money for affordable housing, the 2028 Olympics and a boost in the minimum wage.
The last few years have been tumultuous for Garcetti, both professionally and personally. He oversaw the city’s response to COVID-19, and turned down an unknown position in the new presidential administration in late 2020 after supporting President Biden during his campaign.
Protesters picketed outside his house, forcing his wife and daughter to relocate at points during the pandemic.
In 2021, Garcetti was nominated to be Biden’s U.S. ambassador to India, but an investigation by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) into sexual harassment allegations against the mayor’s former advisor has delayed a vote in the Senate. It’s unclear when or if the mayor will leave L.A. early. Garcetti has said he knew nothing about the complaints.