By Jennifer Bihm
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised American mayors for moving their cities forward despite the chaotic politics in Washington D.C. during this year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors on January 24. Right now, he pointed out, there are two Americas, “Washington and the rest of us”. He urged citizens to remember the nation’s constitution and bring “power to the government” rather than the other way around.
“In 1961 when President [John F.] Kennedy challenged us to put a man on the moon, we launched more than Neil Armstrong. We launched investments in schools, in science and infrastructure. We secured decades of American leadership and secured a future for our kids,” Garcetti said.
“Today, that’s what other countries are doing but unfortunately we are not anymore. America right now is crying out for leadership.”
Fundamentally, he said, that is what government is supposed provide.
“But, can we count on Washington to adapt quickly enough as we prepare for the future,” Garcetti asked the audience of fellow mayors during his address.
“How are we falling so far behind? If you believe television, you would believe we are two Americas: red states and blue states, rural or urban, immigrant and non immigrant …”
But that’s not the real America, Garcetti explained. The real America is where he and other mayors reside in cities across the country, where teachers and other workers need to be paid living wages and fire departments need to be equipped and where infrastructures need to be properly maintained. That’s what real Americans care about, he said.
“As 60,000 teachers and their supporters were walking through my city in the pouring rain, their courage and enthusiasm led me out to the streets to start talking to some of them,” recalled Garcetti, as he spoke of the recent teachers’ strike and other protests in L.A.
“I took five teachers out to lunch, and one of them was telling me she was a thirty-year veteran, teaching in one of the poorest schools in one of the poorest neighborhoods next to a public housing project in Los Angeles. She said, ‘I still love being a teacher.’”
“’But with everything that’s happening in this country, and cut backs in our schools, I don’t love coming to work anymore. Some days I even hate it.’ I was so inspired to see those teachers out there and the Women’s March and the March for our Lives…
“But something is seriously wrong when hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Americans, are taking to the streets to demand leadership from our nation’s capital. The thing that that teacher told, me is a fitting metaphor for our country right now. I’ve never loved this country more than I do right now but I hate what its political system has become at the national level.”
But he urged mayors to keep moving their cities forward. At this year’s conference, Garcetti received a $150,000 grant as the winner of the USCM’s top award in the large cities category for his Universal Play program. The program is to promote health and fitness among L.A.’s children. His aim, he said, is to make L.A. one of the “healthiest cities in America.”
This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel.