What Does the Mayor of Los Angeles Do?

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California Today

Tuesday: As Eric Garcetti prepares to permission the job, a look astatine however the relation compares with the responsibilities of different big-city leader.

Jill Cowan

July 13, 2021, 8:53 a.m. ET

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Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles has been tapped to articulation  the Biden medication  arsenic  ambassador to India.
Credit...Josh Haner/The New York Times

Good morning.

There’s inactive a Senate confirmation up of Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier helium tin truly permission Los Angeles.

But President Biden’s authoritative announcement of Garcetti arsenic his prime to beryllium the adjacent ambassador to India has already acceptable disconnected yet different Democratic governmental scramble successful California, this clip to capable a relation that is astatine erstwhile high-profile and benignant of thankless: that of a big-city mayor.

The information that the announcement came successful the midst of New York City’s bruising, confusing mayoral election raised inevitable comparisons, not conscionable betwixt Garcetti and New York’s outgoing mayor, Bill de Blasio, but betwixt the 2 jobs.

Although New York’s politician has considerably much power, the roles person astatine slightest 1 happening successful common, said Raphael Sonenshein, the enforcement manager of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs astatine Cal State Los Angeles: “It’s extraordinarily hard to permission those offices with the bands playing and the crowds cheering. If you privation an casual emergence successful politics, tally for State Assembly — don’t tally for 1 of these offices.”

As it turns out, though, the relation of Los Angeles’s politician was shaped by New York’s. I asked Sonenshein, who besides served arsenic the enforcement manager of a Los Angeles metropolis committee that helped reshape the powers of the mayor’s bureau successful 1999, astir the differences. Here’s our conversation, edited for magnitude and clarity:

Tell maine astir your archetypal absorption to the quality that Garcetti yet got the nod.

I had been much optimistic than astir that helium was going to get the job, but it was intelligibly not a done deal. I’m beauteous pleased astir it.

Why?

I deliberation it’s a bully measurement for him, and it’s a bully measurement for Los Angeles successful immoderate important ways.

No L.A. politician successful my recollection has gone from politician to a national- oregon international-level post. The mayors of the 3 biggest cities ne'er look to spell anyplace — you get precise ambitious people, and their ambition is ever frustrated.

It besides has to bash with L.A. getting much designation successful the nationalist Democratic Party. National Democrats utilized to say, you spell to the Bay Area for endowment and you spell to L.A. for money.

So what powerfulness does the politician of Los Angeles really have? And however does that comparison with different large cities?

New York is benignant of by itself, but besides emblematic of East Coast and Midwestern cities successful having a beardown politician system. It’s conscionable that New York is extraordinarily strong.

What does that mean?

When I was moving connected charter betterment from 1997 to 1999, I looked astatine New York City’s charter, and I was astonished to observe all residual powers not different delegated went to the politician successful New York. That’s astir unheard-of. The politician besides runs the schools there, which is much communal successful the East but is truly antithetic retired here.

The New York City Council is precise ample — 51 members. It’s stronger than it utilized to be, but it’s inactive hard to look up to the mayor. It’s a vertically organized government. That’s from the past of East Coast and Midwestern cities, with beardown party machines.

What you person successful L.A. is simply a authorities strategy that was designed 100 years agone to not beryllium similar New York and Chicago. It was going to beryllium a nonpartisan betterment authorities with dispersed authority. And it definite looks similar they succeeded.

We person what I mightiness telephone a moderately beardown mayor. I would not usage the connection weak. The existent situation is that there’s a batch of powerfulness successful L.A. government, but it’s divided among galore institutions.

The schoolhouse committee is independently elected. The committee of supervisors runs an immensely beardown region government. You person 87 metropolis governments, immoderate wrong the borders of the metropolis of L.A., each of which has land-use authority.

At the aforesaid time, though, the politician is without question the most-recognized governmental person not conscionable successful the metropolis of L.A., but successful the region and successful each of Southern California.

So during emergencies, during an earthquake, during the Covid crisis, it’s imaginable for each of those to propulsion unneurotic down the mayor.

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Credit...Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

Is determination thing Garcetti gets blamed for that’s really retired of his control?

Homelessness is astir perfectly designed to frustrate the authorization of the politician of Los Angeles. It’s an contented that crosses jurisdictional boundaries — the region needs the metropolis and vice versa. It’s a semipermanent crisis. And it’s extraordinarily hard to address. So bash you alteration the full operation successful bid to hole homelessness? It’s not thing this dispersed authorities responds good to.

What astir the New York City mayor?

The 1 happening the politician doesn’t endure from present that the politician of New York does endure from is an overhanging authorities government. It’s a powerfulness that the California authorities authorities either doesn’t person oregon chooses not to use. So successful New York, if the politician doesn’t get on with the politician — arsenic the existent politician doesn’t — there’s conflict. You could person a property league wherever the politician threatens to usage the authorization to suspend the mayor. The authorities successful the past has taken implicit the finances of New York City. None of that would hap here.

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Credit...Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

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Credit...Steph Chambers/Getty Images

This week, Shohei Ohtani volition transportation and deed successful Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. My workfellow Kurt Streeter writes that not lone is the Angels standout one of the top spectacles successful sports close now, but helium besides represents a almighty rebuke of anti-Asian hate.


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Jill Cowan grew up successful Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported each implicit the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she ever wants to spot more. Follow on present oregon connected Twitter.

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