Los Angeles has been going round and round with the Army Corps of Engineers about how best to restore the L.A. River. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says he's made headway with federal officials, persuading them to not slam the door on the more comprehensive — and more expensive— plan preferred by the city and environmental groups.
Garcetti met Friday in Washington with the President's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, along with the assistant secretary of defense who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as officials with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget.
Garcetti says as the river project got kicked up the food chain, "people got sticker shock." His message this trip: you "don't have to fully fund the plan tomorrow, but don't close that door."
The mayor’s preferred plan has a price tag of a billion dollars — more than twice the amount of the scaled-back version preferred by the Army Corps of Engineers. Garcetti says he argued, “Simply because the price of real estate is more in Los Angeles, it's not a reason to punish young people and their families who live along the river who are working class and don't have green space."
And when a plea for poor children isn't enough, try upping the ante. Garcetti offered to increase the local share of funding the project. Instead of the usual split where the federal government pays for 65% of infrastructure projects, Garcetti offered to split the cost 50/50. "If you approve the wrong plan," he says, "you can never make it right."
The mayor moves up the Atlantic coast Monday for meetings with his New York City counterpart, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and with bank officials from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to try persuading them to help fund Garcetti's summer jobs program for youth.
Saturday night, he'll attend his first White House Correspondents’ Dinner — better known in D.C. as the “nerd prom.” Garcetti is a guest of The Washington Post.
Garcetti laughs at how D.C. is all “abuzz” with the celebrities coming through town for the event. “That’s just an average lunch in L.A.,” he notes. Garcetti says he was told by the dinner's emcee, Joel McHale of “Community” and “The Soup,” that the mayor's job at the event is to pick up the slack whenever jokes fall flat, laugh loudly and say, “That’s really funny!”