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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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White House Selects LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to Be Ambassador to India

Mayor Eric Garcetti has been at the helm of the city of Los Angeles during a homeless crisis, countless wildfires and civil unrest, in addition to lobbying the international community for a shot at hosting the Summer Olympics.

LOS ANGELES (CN) --- The White House announced Friday that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been tapped to serve as ambassador to India. First elected mayor in 2013, Garcetti, 50, would be one of the first mayors in LA to leave office during his term in the last century.

“Today, the president announced that I am his nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to India. I am honored to accept his nomination to serve in this role,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I love Los Angeles and will always be an Angeleno.  I want you to know that every day I am your mayor, I will continue to lead this city like it is my first day on the job, with passion, focus, and determination.”

The White House also tapped former diplomats Denise Campbell Bauer and Bernadette Meehan to serve as ambassadors. Garcetti is the only elected official named in the recent round of nominations.

Before he can jet off to New Delhi, Garcetti must be confirmed by the Senate and it's unclear when that will take place. Some of the grilling he might face from senators may involve the ongoing corruption probe by the FBI at City Hall, a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Garcetti aide Rick Jacobs, and the all-encompassing homeless crisis that has plagued LA for decades.

Sherry Bebitch-Jeffe, co-host of the Inside Golden State Politics podcast, sees Garcetti’s nomination as a consolation prize, a challenge for his political career and an escape route away from LA.

The nomination also spells a big headache for Angelenos.

“It means that on top of all the problems we’re experiencing in LA --- including the pandemic, homelessness, the rise in crime, and the really rocky political environment the country finds itself in --- we will not have a duly elected mayor for a while,” Bebitch-Jeffe said in a phone interview. “If I were Eric Garcetti and looking at what he was facing, and someone said, ‘Hey, I can get you out of here,’ I’d take it.”

Garcetti was one of the first early supporters of the Biden ticket leading up to his run for the White House. But he did not nab a cabinet position --- making any other appointments or nominations seem like runner-up prize, Bebitch-Jeffe said.

This past winter, a vocal group of Angelenos protested outside the mayor’s mansion to dissuade the Biden administration from picking Garcetti for a cabinet job as either transportation or housing secretary.

Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, led the “Block Garcetti” protests in response to his track record as mayor.

“The idea of appointing a mayor who is overseeing one of the worst housing crisis in the country to set national policy on housing would have been terrible for the country,” said Abdullah. “We wanted to make sure that we would take one for the team.”

Garcetti says he turned down a position with the Biden administration.

“There were things on the table for me but I said to (the Biden camp) very clearly ... I need to be here now,” Garcetti said during a press briefing this past December. “I want to be here and I need to be here.”

A half a year later, Garcetti appears ready to go.

"I have mixed feelings," Abdullah said about Garcetti possibly leaving LA. "I think it’s a win for LA because Eric Garcetti has been able to paint on the veneer of liberalism for some time, but he has been terrible for Black people in the city."

She hopes the next mayor will put together a budget that considers Angelenos of color in terms of social justice issues.

Before serving as LA’s mayor, Garcetti sat on the City Council for 12 years. The son of former LA County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, Eric Garcetti served for 12 years with the U.S. Navy Reserve Component.

Most recently, Garcetti served as a co-chair with then-presidential nominee Joe Biden’s committee to select his running mate. Biden ended up picking another Californian, then-Senator Kamala Harris. But Garcetti was no stranger to the campaign trail as he promoted Biden’s run for the White House in the 2020 presidential election.

The White House highlights Garcetti’s role as a mayor with international ambitions, pointing to his role as an inaugural Asia 21 Fellow of the Asia Society, and his teaching gig at Occidental College’s Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs.

“He has lived and conducted field work on nationalism, ethnicity, and human rights in Southeast Asia and Northeast Africa,” the White House said in a statement.

Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors, an environmental initiative, and according to the White House led efforts for cities across the country to adopt the Paris Climate agreement.

“I have committed my life to service --- as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval officer, as a public servant, and if confirmed, next as an ambassador,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call.  And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”

Follow Nathan Solis on Twitter

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