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Garcetti is Biden’s choice of ambassador to India

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has led the city during a period of booming development, a worsening homelessness crisis and a devastating pandemic, is President Biden’s candidate to become ambassador to India, the White House announced Friday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Garcetti would become the first LA mayor to voluntarily leave office before the end of his term of more than a century. He was originally scheduled to resign in December 2022, as he would have completed another term, which was extended by 1

8 months as the city changed the election calendar.

In the announcement, the White House emphasized Garcetti’s extensive responsibilities and the global role of Los Angeles, highlighting the mayor’s oversight of the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere and one of the world’s busiest airports. Garcetti is also networking with colleagues across the globe to push for stronger policies on climate change, including in India.

Garcetti said in a statement about his appointment that he loves Los Angeles and “will always be an Angeleno.”

“I have committed myself to serve – as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval employee, as a civil servant, and if confirmed, next as an ambassador,” he said. “Part of that commitment is that when your nation calls, you answer that call.”

Garcetti’s nomination appears to signal that Biden White House is willing to look past the high-profile allegations that have engulfed the mayor’s office over the past year.

Garcetti and his team face allegations that they did not address sexual harassment from an aide in his office – which they deny – while Garcetti’s chief of staff is on leave following revelations about her involvement in a private Facebook group.

Garcetti, who was first elected mayor in 2013, is poised to leave office as the city continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed many Angelenos out of work and forced countless small businesses to close. While shops and restaurants have opened, there are still questions about how quickly the city’s tourism industry will recover and what the future holds for downtown, Hollywood and other business centers.

An ambassadorship in the Biden administration gives Garcetti a new career path away from election politics. But it also opens him up to criticism that he is giving up Los Angeles as it struggles with an unmanageable homelessness crisis and rising gun fire.

A Democrat, the mayor has fought for liberal causes, such as increases in LA’s minimum wage and local voting measures that created billions of dollars to build homeless housing and transit lines.

Still, critics saw him as someone whose personal ambitions – he spent two years hovering over a possible presidential candidate – at times darkened his focus on the city.

During Garcetti’s term, the city’s policy shifted with voters supporting several progressive candidates in the November election, which many took as a sign of LA’s shift to the left.

Son of former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, Eric Garcetti has a long history with Biden. The mayor urged Biden to run for president in 2016 and served as co-chair of his presidential campaign in 2020. The nomination is likely to be seen as a recognition of the mayor’s loyalty.

Garcetti, 50, has repeatedly declined in recent months to discuss his chances of being Biden-appointed, calling the possibility “speculative.” Yet he acknowledged that he saw a connection between the work of City Hall and the nation’s diplomatic corps.

“The skills you learn as an elected official are daily diplomacy,” Garcetti said last month. “It’s about resolving conflicts. It’s about bringing cultures together. It’s about making sure you build coalitions. It’s about trying to get people who are sometimes at odds with each other to get on together. ”

Garcetti holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and also studied international relations as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Before entering politics, Garcetti briefly taught diplomacy and international relations at Occidental College and USC.

An ambassadorship in India would allow Garcetti to work on such issues as pandemic relief, climate change, trade and immigration and offer him new foreign policy experience. The job would also let him move on to a new government position without having to run for a state office in California, which several mayors in LA have tried to do and failed.

Still, a post to India was confusing to some.

“Why India?” Steve Erie, professor emeritus of political science at UC San Diego, said in an interview in the spring after it was first reported that Garcetti was being considered for the position. Mexico, where Garcetti’s grandfather was born, would have made more sense, he said.

“India is a bit out of the left field,” Erie said.

Garcetti has not been shy about his interest in politics at the national level. He flirted with the idea of ​​running for president for two years, only to decide on a long-running campaign in 2019. At the time, he said he believed that “whenever possible, you should quit the job you sat down for you. “

Last year, he left the door open to join Biden’s cabinet and then announced he was sitting just as the city was gripped by COVID-19’s brutal winter shock.

Garcetti’s nomination will have to go through the U.S. Senate, where he may face questions of allegations of sexual harassment against Rick Jacobs, one of his former advisers. A Los Angeles police officer suing the city said he was harassed by Jacobs and that Garcetti failed to stop it. Jacobs has denied the allegations.

Garcetti has denied having seen inappropriate behavior. One of his other aides, Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero, was put on indefinite leave last month in the wake of a scandal over derogatory remarks she posted in a private Facebook group.

Garcetti, who lives in the official mayor’s residence on Windsor Square, was first elected in 2001 to serve on the city council, which represents neighborhoods from Hollywood to Echo Park. While in this position, he served several years as chairman of the council when the city faced a major budget crisis triggered by the recession in 2008.

During his time as mayor, the city continued its recovery, adding shiny new high towers, museums and sports facilities. In 2017, he stood on the field at the StubHub Center, as it was known at the time, to announce that LA had signed an agreement to host the 2028 Olympics.

At the same time, Garcetti presented a construction boom in transportation with new light rail and subway lines being built in some of the city’s densest neighborhoods. But despite all the focus on growth, the number of people living on the streets also grew steadily, underscoring the feeling of a growing economic divide.

LA is locked in a fight with a federal judge demanding city leaders move homeless people out of the slippage by October. The city is also facing a major increase in killings and shootings so far this year.

Development at the center was also at the heart of a federal investigation into bribery and dismissal that led to criminal charges against former Councilman Jose Huizar and one of Garcetti’s former aides, deputy
Mayor Raymond Chan. Huizar and Chan have pleaded guilty.

Garcetti’s nomination also sets the stage for the city council to address the question of who should end the rest of his term.

If Garcetti is confirmed, his successor would have to oversee the city’s continued efforts to recover from the pandemic. City Hall remains closed to the public and restaurants and other businesses are still struggling.

Meanwhile, the city’s economic future remains shaky, even with a huge infusion of help from the Biden administration.

Smith reported from Los Angeles and Megerian from Washington. Times staff writer David Zahniser of Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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