LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eric Garcetti will take the oath of office Sunday to become Los Angeles’ 42nd mayor, with a promise to do the basic things right while getting the city’s economy rolling again.
The 42-year-old Ivy Leaguer who often talks of the simple pleasures of growing up in the city’s San Fernando Valley — little league baseball, riding bikes and eating ice cream — officially takes over the job leading a sprawling city of nearly 4 million people on July 1.
He replaces fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, 60, who exits after two terms during which he pushed to improve schools and expand rail lines in a city notoriously choked by cars.
The early evening inaugural will include some celebrity sparkle, with Jimmy Kimmel and musician Moby scheduled to participate in the festivities.
“This inauguration won’t be highlighted by a black-tie gala. We’re having a party in the park. We want this day to be about celebrating Los Angeles,” Garcetti said in a statement.
The new mayor takes charge of a city with problems all too familiar: knotted freeways, an unemployment rate hovering around double digits, many struggling schools, battered roadways.
Garcetti has said he will focus on the economy “like a laser beam” and try to recover jobs lost in the recession. His goals range from getting all city workers to contribute to costly health care to dealing with long-standing gripes about potholes and cracked sidewalks.
“We have to fix the basic things,” he says.
He will be the city’s first elected Jewish mayor, and his background reflects the city’s diversity: he often refers to his Italian and Mexican roots. Garcetti has a temperate, wonky style — he was a Rhodes Scholar, after attending Columbia University — that will be a change from Villaraigosa, who was known for his outsized personality and ability to make headlines about his nightlife and dating.
It also will be a generational change. Garcetti is just a few years older than Villaraigosa’s eldest daughter.
Garcetti was elected with a yawn from most residents — not even one in four voters cast a ballot in his May runoff against Controller Wendy Greuel. Los Angeles is known for mostly ignoring the scrum of local politics.
That means he takes office with many residents having no idea who he is.
A Los Angeles Times editorial Sunday acknowledged city government can be “remote” from the people it serves, and reminded residents of the obvious: the changing of the guard at City Hall “affects everyone who lives, works, learns or shops in Los Angeles.”
Garcetti was able to defeat Greuel, a fellow Democrat, by depicting her as a pawn of utility union bosses in a city long friendly to labor, an outcome expected to echo beyond California as unions nationwide face threats to their clout.
The budget was a central issue. Bankrupt Stockton and other California cities are in worse shape, but spending in Los Angeles is projected to outpace revenue for years and rising pension and retiree health care bills threaten money that could otherwise go to libraries, tree-trimming and street repairs.
He’s also facing a new round of labor contract talks.