The following article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on March 29, 2014.
The Green Way: ‘We are part of one city called L.A.’ — Eric Garcetti – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Steve Scauzillo
March 29, 2014
When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti went on a three-day trade trip to Mexico this month, he promoted not just businesses headquartered in the city of L.A. but companies in Rosemead and Pasadena.
For example, he said Parsons Engineering of Pasadena was the last U.S. company left helping build an expansion to Mexico City Airport, a $10 billion contract.
He jumped south to Rosemead-based Panda Express, saying he was happy to help the profitable fast-food company pave the way for 266 stores in Mexico because Panda promised to manufacture their food, including their famous orange chicken, in the San Gabriel Valley to maintain consistent standards.
Why promote companies outside the city of L.A.’s boundaries?
The obvious answer is jobs. Good jobs would be created in Southern California by these San Gabriel Valley companies doing business with Mexico, the state’s No. 1 trading partner. Some of those jobs undoubtedly will be filled by people living in Los Angeles.
Garcetti used the trade example to make a point to 200 transportation planners and independent city officials at a conference in Industry. Neither jobs nor transportation follows city boundaries. People don’t know who is mayor of what city or care, he said, if they are stuck in traffic on the 5 Freeway.
People live in one city and work in another, crossing boundaries like changing lanes.
Garcetti said he will promote both jobs and transit in the greater L.A. area, not just in Los Angeles.
“We are part of one city called L.A.,” he said in his speech Wednesday at the Pacific Palms Resort in front of officials from Diamond Bar, Glendora, Claremont, El Monte, Monterey Park as well as Los Angeles.
A few years ago, they’d be fighting words. Local folk were none-too-pleased with L.A. politicians.
Today, it’s fascinating how Garcetti can pull this off without stepping on jurisdictional toes. As former SGVN writer Chip Jacobs used to write, this is a sea change for the San Gabriel Valley.
First, there’s the way he said it.
He didn’t march into the belly of the San Gabriel Valley, beat his chest and proclaim “I’m king of the world,” as “Titanic” director James Cameron did on Oscar night.
His easy-going air and ever-present effervescence resembles a summer breeze, a fresh voice emanating from our neighbor to the west. Most in the room I spoke to said they believed Garcetti was sincere in his desire to lift all boats.
There were some politicos who told me he was preparing for his run up the political ladder, next step governor and then, Washington.
Of course he has political ambitions. But the way he’s growing a constituency, not chopping through one. Like my mother would tell me, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Just before the speech, he signed a blow-up of a Gold Line train, writing: “Let’s go East!” Later, he spoke words folks in the foothill cities have never heard from a Los Angeles mayor: “I am excited to champion the Gold Line project all the way to Claremont.”
In the past, San Gabriel Valley cities have tangled with his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who steered the MTA toward abandoning the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont. The Villaraigosa approach could be summed up as an “Only L.A. Matters” philosophy, a kind of let-the-rest-eat-cake edict.
Garcetti’s first move was outward. He invited 87 SoCal mayors to his house for a meet and greet. “The friendships and relationships formed across city borders cemented something new,” he said.
Now, he’s endorsing east-county projects with the caveat that east-county residents also endorse a line to LAX (finally) and a subway along Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood.
“Long gone are the days that say a subway is stealing money from the Valley or vice versa. I am fighting as hard for your transit plans as the ones we have in the city of L.A,” he said.
Perhaps Garcetti is echoing the late Rodney King who once said: “Can we all get along?”
The California water wars are back. But we may be seeing an end to the transit wars.
Steve Scauzillo covers transportation and the environment for the Los Angeles News Group. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.