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Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tom Sherak, SOTU, earthquake safety and more

Eric Garcetti in DC

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, outside a reception room in the U.S. Capitol where he met with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer about the L.A. River restoration project.

It's been nearly seven months since Eric Garcetti took office as the city's mayor. Needless to say, he's had his hands pretty full. 

He joins the show to talk about the President's State of the Union address, the latest in politics and the passing of a man he appointed to be L.A.'s film czar.

Interview Highlights:

On how he plans to address income inequality:
"We're really looking at being smarter about how we address poverty. Somebody who is poor, who drops out of school, probably is experiencing that for a whole bunch of reasons. Unsafe passages to school in a dangerous neighborhood that he or she lives in, no after school programs, a failing school, maybe there's conflict at home, and health needs that aren't being met — mental and physical.

"We're looking at ways that we can invest in our youth to really break that cycle of poverty. This summer we'll have a 10,000-jobs program for our young people in Los Angeles, the most ambitious number we have ever done. But [we want] to get them into jobs in the summertime, give them those wraparound services that go throughout the rest of the year... give them the opportunity to be the next success story in America and to get those good jobs that are in L.A., but unfortunately are bypassing too many neighborhoods."

You mentioned the promise zones, which are the additional federal funds to help boost economic growth in needy areas. What do you hope to do with the additional money?:
"It doesn't guarantee any money, but what it does say is we're going to try to layer existing federal programs on top of each other. Let's say the Department of Transportation has something to improve public transit, let's say the Department of Education has help for after school programs, the Department of Justice has intervention programs to keep kids out of gangs and to reduce crime in neighborhoods. If we can focus those together, we really have a better shot at reducing poverty.

"We still have to apply to each of those grants, and the reason I say it helps other areas of the city is those grants will also be included. Our first one is a high school grant with the Department of Education to help prevent dropouts…in two schools in South L.A. and two in Central L.A. We're just trying to be smarter in a time of not having a lot of money. We're matching that money with local nonprofit community and private dollars. So I've gone to CEOs in the city saying, 'Look, can you hire a couple teenagers this summer, can you take ten in, can you teach them about work?' Because last summer 10,000 young people who wanted to work were turned away by this city. We're a great city. I love Los Angeles and we're headed for good days, but it can't be that your zip code determines the outcome of your life."

On increasing the minimum wage:
"Well, I've been supportive of that. I think that we saw in California and one of the inspiring things the president said [in the State of the Union] was, 'Don't wait for Washington to take action if you're a mayor or a governor.' And we certainly haven't waited. Here in California we raised the minimum wage. While I support that happening in some particular industries, I don't want it to be an effort that lifts just a few workers up. I think the minimum wage hasn't kept up with inflation.

"It's something that's supported by Republicans and Democrats, about 70 percent of Americans think it's a good idea. That means more money spent in the economy. When folks aren't earning such a low wage they're able to actually spend money, consumer spending goes up, our local businesses do well, that means more tax revenues for me and I can do things like pave the streets, keep them safe, keep them beautiful. So it's really a good cycle that happens when people aren't caught in that poverty, aren't visiting an emergency room for their healthcare, aren't on food stamps — which comes out of our pockets — but can actually support themselves."

On LA's earthquake preparedness:
"Well, since I took office, this is something that I have taken extremely seriously. Somebody asked me, 'Are we well prepared in L.A.?' Yeah, we're as prepared as any big city in America, which is to say that we're totally unprepared. I think no city has done a very good job, and it's one of the reasons that I've brought in, in a historic partnership, Dr. Lucy Jones, known as Earthquake Lucy whenever people see her on TV…We're going to spend this year listening to property owners, to stakeholders, to experts, to seismologists. The law is very clear. As we get new information from the state or federal authorities, we have to make sure that our zoning [and] permits adhere to those new maps and we cannot build right on top of fault lines."

Would he support an ordinance for earthquake retrofitting?
"I think there have been three or four different suggestions — from low-cost loans to a bond to just the requirement itself. I'm open to whatever way we can get there and I want to listen to our property owners to see what is best. But what I wont accept is doing nothing because to lose a life —  whether it's your employee, whether it's your brother or sister, mother or father or son or daughter — that is unacceptable. We all as a city have to recognize this, not just as a problem for a few property owners, but as a community problem, a city problem, a state problem. I think if we do that we can solve this together."

On the death of LA film czar, Tom Sherak:
"My heart is really heavy. I had a tough night last night. We knew that he had struggled with cancer on and off, but he beat it for ten years. If you have never met this man, he was literally the most universally liked man in Hollywood, which says something in that industry. Somebody that had a sharp sense of humor, who was brilliant, was charismatic. And I think the moment that sticks with me the most was actually a last moment we shared together. I don't think many of us realized — because he kept it from us — how accelerated things were in the final days.

On Friday we had our last meeting. He called in [and] said, 'I can't make it out of bed today.' But he insisted on updating me on what was happening with extending tax credits in this state to bring filming home and he showed a fighting spirit I don't think I've ever seen. He was going to get the job done to his very last day when he easily could have said no. But he loved this industry, he loved this town so much. And I just share a huge sense of loss in his passing. "


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