Mayor Eric Garcetti on what a Biden presidency will mean for coronavirus relief, immigration and housing in LA

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visit the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 10, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Ringo Chiu

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is a close ally of Joe Biden’s. He endorsed him early during the presidential race. He was the campaign’s national co-chair and helped lead the vice presidential search committee.

Garcetti tells Press Play what the Biden administration would mean for Los Angeles, which is facing big economic problems due to COVID-19:

“It's been active warfare from the White House against American cities for the last four years. And so whether it's on immigration, or housing and homelessness, on our climate, on so many things, I expect an administration that will not only listen to cities, but take the lead from cities, as well as assist us through the greatest crisis of our lives and as COVID pandemic.”

When it comes to immigration, President Barack Obama was called the “Deporter in Chief.” Garcetti says it was a miscalculation 12 years ago that getting tough on immigrants would yield legislation leading to more people becoming citizens.

“Joe Biden has been extremely clear. And I've helped him write some of these policies that he's promised in the first 100 days, to not only have Dreamers and DACA reinstated … but for all those immigrants that are not qualified under DACA, to have comprehensive legislation introduced and hopefully passed,” says Garcetti.

He continues, “I think what you'll see is just a sea change from a president who ran on the backs of immigrants, who called Mexican Americans murderers and rapists, to an administration that will very clearly not only put immigrants at the table again, but look at these pathways to citizenship that are about rewarding those workers that are getting us through the pandemic.”

If Biden offered Garcetti a position on his cabinet, would the LA mayor take it? He says he’s just savoring this moment and monitoring COVID-19 numbers to get a relief bill.

“There's such immediate things to tackle. … I'm not looking for a new job. I'm happy here. This is the honor of a lifetime and until December of 2022 to serve. So I'll always talk to Joe, and I want to support him no matter where I am.”

Meanwhile over the summer, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer alleged sexual harassment in a filed a lawsuit against Garcetti’s top aide and close friend Rick Jacobs. Jacobs just stepped down last month. Garcetti was criticized for not reacting sooner. So why didn't the mayor ask for Jacobs’ resignation, or at least for him to step aside pending an investigation when the allegations first surfaced?

Garcetti says he takes any allegation seriously, and nobody should ever be subjected to a hostile workplace or sexual harassment. He continues, “I called for and there is one — not reporting to me — an independent investigation, which is the highest standard, and that always needs to be followed. To be clear, he doesn't represent me. He's not somebody who I'm working with. When the allegations come out, those have to be treated extremely seriously, and I do take them seriously. And both the accused and accusers have due process that they should meet, and we'll make sure that happens.”

Another big issue in LA continues to be homelessness. U.S. District Judge David Russell wants encampments by freeways gone. Garcetti says he’s open to discussing that with Russell, and it’s important to house those with the highest needs.

“Sometimes you can divert resources to a place [where] you see a lot of homeless people. But that means people close to death won't get the resources they need. And we do actually have a vulnerability index of who's closest to dying. It’s a very kind of morose thing to talk about, but I do believe we should go to the neediest as much as possible first. And then you have to balance that with where we see places that have been in camps for too long and give people real options, ” he says.

Garcetti says he does not believe that a local government can solve this on their own, and it requires a commitment to a right to housing.

“One of the things I had Joe Biden promise me, the only thing I asked for when it came on to his campaign, was to make housing a human right and to look at making Section Eight vouchers something more universal. And I intend to be a very loud voice in Washington and to help Joe Biden deliver on that promise,” he says.

— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Rosalie Atkinson