21 Things I Learned From Meeting With The Mayor Of Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting one on one (plus staffers) with @MayorOfLA Eric Garcetti.

Our twenty-ish minute conversation covered a wide range of topics from big things: like Trump, the Women’s March, and ending homelessness, to the less political: like City Hall’s architecture, rain in LA, and even sketch comedy.

Below is a quick summary of the cool things I learned about Los Angeles government, Mayor Garcetti, City Hall, and how we can all get involved:

  1. When we sat down, the first thing Mayor Garcetti said was, “So, what are your ideas?” He is genuinely interested in your ideas to make the city better. His office has implemented what they call the “Constituent Bill of Rights” to ensure constituents’ phone calls are returned within a single workday.
  2. The mayor’s office holds office hours for constituents once a month (schedule permitting) where any Angeleno can apply for an in-person meeting with the mayor. I responded to a sign up form on their website and a few days later I had my meeting.
  3. If you don’t get picked for office hours, no worries because they respond to all phone calls, comments left via their website, and to social media messages — often within 48 hours. If you don’t already, follow the mayor’s office on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
  4. You can get City Hall to fill a pothole by texting them a picture of it with the 311 App (or by calling 311). They said it’s been a little slower because of all the rain lately, but they usually get to it within three business days. Still pretty cool, IMO.
  5. We talked about how great it is that people are getting mobilized, but that most people are donating to ACLU and Planned Parenthood because of their name recognition. Garcetti advised that while donating to large national organizations helps build their coffers for the long haul, there are organizations on the ground that need money and often get overlooked. Often times, it’s these organizations that are doing day-to-day litigating. I was impressed by the mayor’s ability to list so many organizations — so impressed, that I didn’t write any of them down quickly. I’ve followed up with his office for a list. Meanwhile, some organizations recommended by his office can be found here.
  6. Mayor Garcetti is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
  7. He also plays Jazz Piano.
  8. In addition to speaking at The Women’s March Los Angeles, the mayor organized a list of follow up projects and organizations people can get involved in.
  9. The issues facing our country, especially those articulated and worsened by Trump’s election, can be overwhelming at a national level. Garcetti encouraged me (and by implication, all of us) to get involved at a local level and to, “Keep your head, keep your values.” Solving problems in our own communities can help us feel better, make substantial change, and reinforce our local support systems for the long fight ahead.
  10. The mayor’s office offers a ‘Government 101’ class that teaches citizens ‘how city government works, and how to make it work for them.’ I couldn’t find the info for this class readily available on the LAMayor.org website, but did find this YouTube video. I’ll follow up with the mayor’s office and update this once I get the info.
  11. Just because something is part of Los Angeles County, doesn’t mean it’s part of the City of Los Angeles. If you live in WeHo, Burbank, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, or Pasadena, Eric Garcetti is not your mayor, so don’t send him hate mail over your parking tickets (apparently, it’s happened).
  12. The mayor sends out a weekly email with updates on everything from transportation projects (#101SlowJam w/the Roosevelt High Jazz Band), sightseeing recommendations, and data about L.A. (did you know that in 2014, foreign-born residents contributed nearly $233 billion to L.A. County’s GDP?). This newsletter also reminds you when office hours are coming up. Replying to it is how I got to meet the mayor! Sign up at lamayor.org (scroll to the bottom, where it says ‘get updates’).
  13. Things in the mayor’s office: a skateboard, a tzedakah box, a piano, art on loan from The Getty, photos with other leaders like President Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein. See more in this video from The Getty.
  14. Any Angeleno can join the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps, which actively maintains a list of ongoing and special events where you can donate time, money, and resources to worthy local causes.
  15. Addressing homelessness is something the mayor seems particularly passionate about. He told me about the importance of passing Measure H, which is on the ballot March 7th. This measure will add a quarter-cent sales tax to fund homeless services and continue the work started with Measure HHH last fall. It needs 2/3’s of voters to support it and would provide estimated $355 million annually. The Mayor’s office also leads the Welcome Home Project, through which Angelenos can prepare welcome baskets to give previously homeless families as they move into housing.
  16. Speaking of the March 7th election, Garcetti remarked on the low voter turnout in comparison to national elections and explained this March’s special election will be the last time Angelenos vote for mayor on an off-year. Legislation was passed to extend the upcoming mayoral term from four years to five and a half years so that mayoral elections moving forward will line up with gubernatorial or presidential elections.
  17. In 2013, Will Ferrell made a video endorsing Garcetti for mayor.
  18. Staff implied that while they respond to everyone, their most effective engagements are when people are civil and solution-oriented. This is a good reminder for all of us that when we’re contacting our representatives at any level of government, we’re more likely to get a prompt and engaged response if we’re polite, pithy, and clear about what we want them to do.
  19. The mayor knows about UCB.
  20. The physical office held by Mayor Garcetti is the same room occupied by every LA Mayor since the current City Hall opened in 1928.
  21. City Hall has an observation deck open to the public during business hours. Technically, I knew this before our meeting, but I’m including it because if you haven’t checked it out, it’s a great excuse to drop by City Hall. And, as long as you’re there, maybe stop by the mayor’s office in suite 300 and introduce yourself to the staff.
The 360° observation deck is free to the public and open during City Hall’s normal business hours. It’s a great place to watch a sunset during the winter. Photo by me.