It isn't easy being mayor of Los Angeles after the tenure of Antonio Villaraigosa. There were too many exclamation points in Villaraigosa's first years -- Education Mayor! Green Mayor! Transit Mayor! -- and too many disappointment when, about mid-way, Villaraigosa just gave up governing Los Angeles.
Mayor Eric Garcetti seems to have calculated the risks in exclamation points, but at the risk of not having much color in what little there is in his agenda for Los Angeles.
Gene Maddaus in the L.A. Weekly cast a cold on the mayor's first seven months at City Hall, and other commentators also have. They cite the thinness of Garcetti's accomplishments so far, the unraveling of big development plans in Hollywood the mayor had backed, and the drabness of "management reform" as a mayoral goal.
"We are bringing a culture of metrics and measurements to city government unlike any that I've ever seen before," Garcetti earnestly told Scott Shafer of the California Report. Perhaps realizing what that sounded like, the mayor quickly added what he's really hoping to achieve: "Have we brought our confidence back in Los Angeles? Are we building a great infrastructure, taking the capital of cars, and moving into a great public transit infrastructure? Have we reinvested in our city and we believe in ourselves? That will be the measure of success."
The gap between good metrics and public confidence in city government is wide and deep in Los Angeles. And it's not clear what policies currently championed by the mayor can get him to that second, critical goal. The mayor isn't too sure either, resisting the branding of his mayoralty with bold-type initiatives.
Instead, the mayor likes to highlight his role in negotiating a new contract with workers at the city's Department of Water and Power that freezes wages for three years and makes structural changes in pension benefits. He wants Angeleños to know that he's evaluating his managers with "performance based" data. He's concerned about customer service impressions.
All of which leaves his harshest critics unimpressed. They're likely to see Garcetti as a product of the corrupting City Hall system, where campaign money determines city priorities for the benefit of developers, contractors, and political donors with something to gain.
Because Garcetti hasn't done much to define himself as mayor yet, except perhaps as a diligent manager, he risks having others do the defining for him. Still, the mayor has no plans to be other than low-key ... and out of focus.