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City Hall's your port now, Mayor Garcetti

L.A.'s mayor is in training for the Navy Reserves — a noble task, but not appropriate for the highest office in the city.

August 21, 2013|By The Times editorial board
  • Eric Garcetti is seen wearing his US Navy camouflage while speaking at an event in 2012. The now-mayor of Los Angeles has given the military notice that he would move to inactive status, Garcetti announced Tuesday.
Eric Garcetti is seen wearing his US Navy camouflage while speaking at an… (Los Angeles Fire Department )

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is in the middle of appointing city commissioners, considering applications from roughly 30 department chiefs who are trying to keep their jobs, negotiating a labor contract with the union for Department of Water and Power workers — and engaging in military maneuvers in his role as a reservist for the Navy.

OK, no, he's not exactly on maneuvers, he's in his annual training. And it's not on a ship in the Coral Sea or even off Catalina. It's in the city of Bell, just a few miles southeast of City Hall.

And all credit to Garcetti for volunteering and serving. Military service provides valuable experience and certainly perspective, something that can help round out the worldview as well as the resume of a political figure with a progressive bent. It's something that he was able to meld easily with his duties as a city councilman.

And besides, he looks smart in his crisp Navy whites.

But he's the mayor now. It's a full-time job, requiring his full-time attention. When his current stint is up at the end of this year, he should put his military career on hold and go inactive. During the campaign, he said he wanted to re-up, but on Tuesday, he gave the military notice that he would move to inactive status.

That's the smart move. As it stands now, he is required to give the Navy 40 days a year and could be deployed overseas at any point. To his credit, he chose that option. He doesn't have the special status sought by some elected officials that allows them to avoid being called up.

It's hard to imagine a real-life scenario in which a mayor of Los Angeles must don his military uniform in an emergency, although it does sound like a plot destined for cable. A call comes in from San Pedro that the Martians have come ashore. Or the Russians. Or the Hessians or the Cardassians. Or the Kardashians. The mayor is torn: He's under naval orders to report for duty to help repel the assault, but his city needs him. Which responsibility does he accept and which does he abdicate? If he heeds his military obligation, does Herb Wesson take over in City Hall, and do voters then take revenge against Garcetti for going AWOL? If he stays on the job, does the military police arrest him in the Rotunda and escort him to the SS Lane Victory and then to a court-martial?

No, not going to happen. And yet — Garcetti does have an outside job that, however honorable, has been keeping him from devoting his full time to the high office he sought and to which voters elected him. He's the mayor. He's needed on the job. He can return to active military service when his civic mission is complete.

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