Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, a Democratic candidate for L.A. mayor, replied this morning to my mention of him in this column about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Garcetti counters that he has "worked 80-90 hour weeks for over a decade now, the overwhelming majority of which is district specific, constituent-focused work." He lists some examples of his efforts:
* Since I was elected, I have walked a new neighborhood every month with a dozen to two dozen volunteers, going door-to-door proactively. We have done this over 100 times and talked to over ten thousand constituents that way. This is the best way to get the suggestions, complaints, ideas of my constituents without waiting for them to come to me.
* Since I was elected (probably from my years as a teacher), I pioneered office hours weekly or bi-weekly, where constituents can meet with me face-to-face for hours at a time (usually a two to three hour block--appointments suggested but not necessary). I have done this a few hundred times since being elected and had the opportunity to meet with almost 5000 constituents in these face-to-face meetings to problem solve.
* We pioneered an academy called the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, which has graduated more than 1000 constituents (not a bad number considering I have a district of 250,000 people) in Government 101 (how City Hall works), Planning 101 (how land use decisions get made), Planning 102 (Parking), Planning 103 (Housing), and a few other courses to give folks the tools to advocate for their interests at City Hall. Both Planning 101 and Government 101 have gone citywide as a result of our work.
* We have the highest rated streets (I am passionate about streets--potholes included and I agree we still have too many, though pothole filling is short-term, repaving is long-term) of any of the 15 council districts in the city. You can check this with the Bureau of Street Services. We have about an 82 out of 100 in a city where the average is a 62 out of 100.
* We reduced graffiti by 80% (and we count it each year in an open process with dozens of people to keep ourselves accountable) by developing a program called UNTAG (www.untagla.com)--Uniting Neighborhoods To Abolish Graffiti--with Chief Bratton and we have over 400 block captains engaged and involved in this.
* We developed the city's first smartphone app--Garcetti 311 (you should download it)--to take in constituent requests using camera phones and the GPS in our smartphones. We have taken in thousands of requests this way. It takes about 20 seconds to send in a pothole, graffiti, a couch on the street, etc. and we can send folks a report that their concern is taken care of.
* We tripled the number of parks in our district--from 15 to 45--over the last decade. Half of the parks built in the city have been built in one of fifteen districts, the one that happens to be the smallest in terms of land, no easy feat.
The list goes on. I'd love to chat with you further face-to-face.
I have left Los Angeles and as of this writing reside in Alexandria, Virginia, where the real money is. Because of the very odd shapes of L.A.'s council districts, Garcetti's 13th contains a hodgepodge of neighborhoods, so my experience as a resident of flat Hollywood may differ from that of a person living in Glassell Park or Rampart. As I wrote, I was describing my own experience, which is that my neighborhood moved sideways at best over the last half-decade, that by the time I moved out even the laundry room of my building had been tagged, and that the only positive political change in L.A. during that period was the abolition of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles — which was Gov. Jerry Brown's doing. The grand vision for Hollywood proposed by Garcetti and Villaraigosa will not, in my opinion, make the place any better. But that plan is now law, so although I'm giving myself the last word in this post, it is Garcetti who will get the last word in reality.