Garcetti’s travel story

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

It’s not that Mayor Eric Garcetti left town on the eve of the Po­lice Com­mis­sion meet­ing this month, at which the panel was to de­ter­mine whether the po­lice shoot­ing of Ezell Ford, an un­armed African Amer­i­can man with men­tal health prob­lems, was jus­ti­fied. The Ford killing last sum­mer was one of nu­mer­ous such deadly po­lice en­coun­ters that have raised ten­sion and anger across the na­tion and led to ri­ot­ing in Fer­gu­son, Mo., and Bal­ti­more, and the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment was con­sid­er­ing a city­wide tac­ti­cal alert. But Garcetti was back in town in time for the com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion.

It’s not that Garcetti looked less than leader-like in video shot by protesters at his home the day be­fore the meet­ing as he poked his head out of his car win­dow, plead­ing with protesters to stop block­ing him so he could make his flight to Washington to get fund­ing for con­sti­tu­tional polic­ing, vet­er­ans’ home­less­ness and other pro­grams. Los An­ge­les needs its mayor to travel, es­pe­cially if it’s to bring back money or other re­sources to sup­port the city. He could have got­ten out of the car to speak; he could have cho­sen to ad­dress the protesters be­fore the trip to the air­port in­stead of dur­ing it. But those are mat­ters of im­age and public re­la­tions more than sub­stance.

Nor is it that the mayor’s trip to Wash- in­g­ton in­cluded a Georgetown po­lit­i­cal fundraiser for his 2017 re­elec­tion cam­paign. Nor is it, re­ally, that the fundraiser was the main event, with his cam­paign pay­ing for the trip, and that a cou­ple of White House meet­ings were added later.

The prob­lem with Garcetti’s trip to Washington is that he didn’t come clean about it be­ing for a fundraiser un­til af­ter Times re­porter Peter Jami­son found out about it. Los An­ge­les, at a sen­si­tive time, wants to know its mayor is on the job, on the spot and, most im­por­tant, that he is be­ing forth­right about his ac­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties.

Garcetti’s ex­pla­na­tion — that it’s his pol­icy not to talk about cam­paign busi­ness while do­ing his may­oral du­ties — just doesn’t wash.

Did he lie? No, but he was weaselly about the truth. “I did see friends” af­ter the White House meet­ings, the mayor said, and it’s cer­tainly within a broad def­i­ni­tion of “friends” to in­clude peo­ple pulling out their credit cards to make po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions. Later, his aides said he was re­fer­ring to a so­cial en­gage­ment and not to the fundraiser.

But why couldn’t he just be straight­for­ward about the pur­pose of his trip? Was it be­cause he feared that leav­ing town for a fundraiser the day be­fore the Po­lice Com­mis­sion meet­ing might make him look bad? And how does he think he looks now?

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