Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti stumped in San Pedro on Saturday morning, saying the community that has long felt neglected by the city of Los Angeles has been vital to its economic growth and that he would insure City Hall was responsive to its needs.
“A lot of people call this area the tail,” said Garcetti, standing in front of a longshoremen’s union hall. “I say a different image that I shared a while back – if the city of L.A. is like a kite, this is the anchor. You see, that long arm that stretches up, what San Pedro and the harbor area does dictates where we go, how we fly through the air. Bringing the sea to the city, the city to the sea, it started here. The growth of this town began because this harbor was dug.”
“I want to be mayor for Los Angeles because I want L.A. to work again,” the city councilman said. “I want us to have jobs for our children and our children’s children. And I want City Hall to work for you again, to return your phone call, to fix your problem, to answer your question.”
The words were designed to resonate with a populace that has long felt geographically and culturally removed from the downtown power structure, about 26 miles away. Garcetti’s opponent in the mayoral runoff on May 21, City Controller Wendy Greuel, beat him here in the primary by six points.
Without mentioning Greuel by name, Garcetti attacked her for not working enough to fix the city’s problems.
“We’re not running on rhetoric, we’re running on results,” he said. “We’re not running on identifying problems, we’re running about answering and solving the problems of everyday people.”
In recent days, the Greuel campaign has questioned Garcetti's claims about job creation and the revitalization in his council district, arguing that he is taking credit for economic growth he did not cause, and blaming him for job losses that occurred citywide while he was president of the council.
Garcetti and the other speakers pointed to the revitalization in his district, including Hollywood and Silver Lake, as proof positive of what he would do for the city if elected mayor.
“You can see the results that we’ve done. You know, I’ve been attacked this week, I was told by my opponent that I caused the recession,” he said, and the crowd chuckled. “Last time I checked we were No. 1 in job growth in the midst of a recession, adding jobs while we were losing jobs elsewhere."
Greuel’s campaign responded by arguing that Garcetti has used his office for personal gain, highlighting international trips paid for by taxpayers and city ethics fines he paid for accepting free admission into the Governor’s Ball following the Academy Awards, as well as for failing to submit campaign literature to the city Ethics Commission.
“The record is clear: Wendy Greuel fights for taxpayers, while Eric Garcetti fights for Eric Garcetti," said John Shallman, Greuel's chief strategist.
The controller, who did not hold public events Saturday, has taken domestic trips paid for by taxpayers.
The race in San Pedro and other Harbor area cities is in part a test of the politicians who represent the area. Greuel is backed by Rep. Janice Hahn, whose family has deep roots in the area, notably her father, the late long-time county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and also her brother, former Mayor James K. Hahn.
Garcetti has the backing of area City Councilman Joe Buscaino, a newer political face whose parents immigrated from Italy four decades ago to work in the fishing industry. Buscaino, a retired police officer, spoke alongside Garcetti and several leaders of unions for workers at the Port of Los Angeles who have endorsed Garcetti.
Despite the fact that San Pedro is part of the nation’s second largest city, it is a close-knit community and home to many working-class families with ties to the port, and many Italians, Croatians and Latinos. Garcetti highlighted family during his remarks, pointing to his parents, former L.A. County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti and Sukey Roth.
“A week ago at St. Joseph’s Day here in San Pedro … we were marching through the streets and we came to the hall afterward and a great band was playing ‘That’s Amore.’ Joe and I both picked up our daughters and just started twisting around and dancing,” Garcetti said. “And his great video crew of course captured it and I played it over and over and over again, not only as a new father so proud to be with his beautiful daughter, but seeing what family is and what it means. You see, here in San Pedro and the Harbor Area – Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, Harbor City, up in Watts – the 15th District, no one has to tell folks what family means because you live it.”
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Times staff writer Ben Welsh contributed to this report.