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Is Eric Garcetti mayor yet?

June 30, 2013|By Robert Greene
  • President Obama walks with Los Angeles Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti after arriving aboard Marine One in Santa Monica on June 7, 2013.
President Obama walks with Los Angeles Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti after… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)

Eric Garcetti was sworn in as mayor on June 28 in a private but “official” ceremony in Echo Park. So doesn’t that mean he’s mayor? Why not? Since when does somebody get sworn in to be some kind of public official and then still have time to wait around before taking office?

He’s getting sworn in again this evening just after 6 p.m., ceremonially but “unofficially.” Will he be mayor >then?

Nah. Not until midnight.

Pull out your Los Angeles City Charter (you have one, right?) and check Section 205. City elected officials begin their terms on the next July 1 after they were elected (unless they’re filling a vacancy). The oath’s magic words won’t make Garcetti mayor, at least not by themselves. We’re waiting instead for the magic clock and the magic calendar. At midnight, when June 30 turns into July 1, it’s a done deal.

But wait -- the oath is still required. It says over in Section 215 that he and every other elected official must speak the magic words “before entering upon the discharge of the duties of office.” See? “Before.” It doesn’t say how long before. He could do it right before, or he could have done it a month ago, apparently, and that still would have covered him. It seems that he has to have the magic clock, the magic calendar and the magic words, although not necessarily all at the same time.

Presidential succession also has its quirks, but at least the magic clock goes off not at midnight, but at high noon, allowing the president to take the oath at just about the same time his term begins by operation of law without having to get up (or stop partying) in the middle of the night, the way the mayor does. If the presidential oath happens a few minutes before or a few minutes after noon, who’s to object?

Except that four and a half years ago, as you may recall, Barack Obama was sufficiently concerned about Chief Justice John Roberts blowing the oath-giving that they did it all over again afterward. This year, Obama also took the oath twice: once, for real, at noon on Sunday Jan. 20, when his term began, and again the next day, because a tradition has developed that presidents don’t do their fancy inaugurations on Sundays.

Garcetti is likewise officially covered, whether tonight’s festivities go on or not.

Still, the real sign of mayoral succession is when they take down Antonio Villaraigosa’s picture at the airport and put up Garcetti’s. Or maybe when Villaraigosa’s voice on the message when you dial 311 -- “all of our operators are serving other customers right now” -- is replaced by Garcetti’s.

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