We Fact Check Garcetti's Speech On The State Of LA: Schools, Homelessness, Climate Change And More
Note: Garcetti begins speaking at about the 20 minute mark in the video above.
In a State of the City speech that clocked in at about an hour, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti laid out ambitious plans for tackling climate change, homelessness, school financing, access to early and higher education, as well as generating jobs.
Some of the items are new ideas, others are not. Many of Garcetti's proposals and goals fall along timelines much longer than his remaining three years in office, and some are contingent on policies in various stages at the state and county level.
He delivered the speech at Lincoln High School, a Los Angeles Unified School District campus located in Lincoln Heights. The location is a departure from the last two years — when he addressed Angelenos from City Hall chambers. During the speech, Garcetti highlighted his role earlier this year negotiating the end to the first teachers strike in 30 years.
The mayor's address comes not long after he ended a year of speculation about whether he would run for president. He announced he would not run in 2020 in late January, saying he had important work to finish in L.A. Under his leadership, the city is grappling with a homeless crisis and racing to build affordable housing amid a shortage.
Among his biggest applause lines of the night was one that was not in the prepared script, when he said he wanted to make good on the promise of L.A. as "a city of angels."
He referenced the 1968 school walkouts — Lincoln High students were among the key leaders — as a inspiration.
"They weren't saying, 'We should be tolerated' or 'We celebrate diversity,'" he said. "They carried American flags high and signs that read 'Viva La Raza.' They said 'We belong.' We belong. To me, that's what distinguishes Los Angeles. It's why we are a city of sanctuary ... And on that point, I have a message for the president: Immigrants and refugees and asylum seekers are people, not pawns."
Here's a look at some of the key issues raised by Garcetti in his speech:
Garcetti said Los Angeles will end street homelessness by 2028, just in time for the city to host the summer Olympic Games. That's a tall order, mostly since more people keep falling into homelessness at a quickening rate because of high housing costs and low wages.
The mayor acknowledged though that conditions on the street may worsen before they can get better. He said it will take time for the city's strategies to have a visible effect.
He also announced a new city program that will offer free legal counsel to low-income renters at risk of losing their homes. It's not a new idea. Councilmember Paul Koretz first proposed a "right to counsel" program in August of 2018. — Matt Tinoco
Fact Checks and Analysis
Perhaps the most high-profile achievement in Garcetti's last six months was negotiating an end to a six-day L.A. teachers strike. He did that by convening talks between LAUSD officials and leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles.
During talks Garcetti urged LAUSD to take a "leap of faith"; to immediately promise increased spending on teacher demands like lower class sizes and more support staff, then work to find the money to pay for those promises later.
But that deal isn't fully-funded and LAUSD's regulators have cautioned the district is spending at an unsustainable pace.
LAUSD leaders have since put Measure EE on the June ballot, which asks voters to impose a parcel tax on most property owners that would generate more than $500 million each year for the school district. Garcetti touted the benefits of Measure EE in his speech. Its passage would vindicate the mayor's call for a "leap of faith." — Kyle Stokes
Garcetti said that addressing climate change is one of his top priorities. A lot of his "green promises" address different types of pollution. He detailed how the city might change its operations to be more environmentally friendly over the next 25 plus years:
- Eliminating straws, styrofoam and single use takeout containers by 2028.
- Zero trash sent to landfills by 2050.
- Emissions free buildings by 2050.
- Stopping reliance on coal power plants by 2025.
- Moving the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
Operating a carbon-free electric grid will require development of large scale battery options, for when renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, geothermal and hydro-electric are not available.
The mayor also announced the establishment of a Los Angeles Climate Emergency Council to lead the city's efforts. — Jacob Margolis
Fact Checks and Analysis
Garcetti announced an expansion of the LAPD's Community Safety Partnership program to the South Park neighborhood and San Fernando Gardens housing project.
President Obama recognized the program as one of the nation's leading examples of police officers acting as guardians who help communities solve problems as opposed to warriors chasing after criminals. Yet the department has been slow to expand the program, which started in four city housing projects in 2011, citing the costs of assigning a high number of officers to a relatively small area for five years.
In the San Fernando Gardens housing project, for example, ten officers and one supervisor will be assigned to patrol an area with 1,500 residents in a partnership with HACLA. Councilwoman Monica Rodriquez hailed the arrival of the program to her district, saying her office "is working with the residents to ensure that the activities and programs are designed by the community it serves."
Garcetti also said his budget will include $14 million for "tech upgrades" at the LAPD. He said officers who make arrests often spend the rest of their shift "processing that arrest on an old, slow computer."
Steve Robinson, "one of LA's most dynamic business leaders," will help enlist the private sector to help with LAPD tech upgrades, according the mayor. — Frank Stoltze
Fact Checks and Analysis
Garcetti said LAX is — belatedly — getting a people mover. Of course trams that connect transit, parking lots and rental car centers to terminals have been completely standard at other big airports for decades. The city's Board of Airport Commissioners in the past year signed off on the deals to finally build LAX's version.
Other large-scale projects include:
- Reducing the city's reliance on imported water supplies, by pushing the Sanitation Bureau to recycle all its wastewater by 2035. That involves cleaning the water that's treated at wastewater treatment plants, and putting it back into the water table to be pumped out and used years down the road.
- Capturing, cleaning and reusing stormwater. Last year, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and the county Public Works Department sponsored Measure W, a tax that will raise nearly $300 million a year to spend on big and small projects. Garcetti views this and other goals as opportunities to create good jobs. He also mentioned a new program at Los Angeles Trade Tech College to train people to build stormwater management projects.
- Not everybody is in favor of the Green New Deal at City Hall. Garcetti's speech was picketed by members of IBEW Local 18, which represents Department of Water and Power workers. The union says it supports moving away from fossil fuels, but not if it costs thousands of middle-class jobs held by IBEW members or raises utility bills for DWP customers.
Fail from last year: In 2018, Garcetti used his annual State of the City speech to announce that Elon Musk's company Space X was going to build its Falcon Rocket on leased land at the Port of L.A.
By January, that deal was dead. — Sharon McNary
Fact Checks and Analysis
Garcetti announced new initiatives to help community college students in the city's College Promise program, which waives tuition the first two years of school.
Currently 5,000 students at L.A.'s nine community colleges are enrolled in College Promise. Garcetti said the city will bring enrollment to 10,000 by 2022. Many of those students can't afford computers. The mayor said he's secured a foundation grant to give Promise students laptops they can take home.
Another new benefit for College Promise students — they will be able to ride DASH city buses for free beginning in the next school year. — Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
The mayor said he wants to make sure every child is ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. With that in mind, he pledged to train and hire 2,500 new early childhood educators by 2025.
Garcetti said the initiative will focus particularly on children living in poverty. The mayor's office is anticipating a bump in state funding following Gov. Gavin Newsom's January budget proposal to allocate $2 billion for early childhood initiatives.
Debra Colman, a senior program officer with First 5 L.A., praised the mayor's goal to train more early childhood educators.
"The fact that we're making a citywide investment in our early education workforce is a huge step in the right direction," she said. "The need is vast, but it's the beginning of a great journey to support education for young children."
It wasn't clear to Coleman where the money for this new training will come from. She said it was possible the mayor was describing an initiative that a previous proposal made by Gov. Newsom would fund — but she added it was also possible Garcetti had a plan to use local dollars to pay for the increase in training.
- Carla Javier and Kyle Stokes
Fact Checks and Analysis
Garcetti said Los Angeles will move forward with a Green New Deal, even if Congress won't.
He announced plans to form a new Jobs Cabinet tasked with creating 300,000 middle-class jobs over the next 15 years in sectors like renewable energy.
That breaks down to 20,000 jobs per year — a lot more than we've seen lately.
L.A. would need to triple its rate of recent green job growth. Back in 2016, the city created 7,464 new green jobs according to Garcetti's office.
It's an ambitious goal, and whether it's realistic is unclear. The state's Employment Development Department does say that solar panel installation is the fastest growing job in California.
Garcetti touted the city's economic growth in a recent Bloomberg Opinion piece titled "Los Angeles Is Having a Loud Economic Boom." According to Bloomberg's analysis, "Los Angeles has become the most productive of the five biggest U.S. cities," based on indicators like the growth of personal income, jobs, home prices and global trade.
Los Angeles may be outperforming other cities by some measures, but many Angelenos are probably not feeling very prosperous. Per capita personal income is still far below cities like New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The city's renters are the third most cost-burdened in the country, according to a recent Freddie Mac report. And Los Angeles County still has the highest poverty rate in California, which itself has the highest poverty rate of any state. — David Wagner
Fact checks and Analysis
7:30 p.m.: This article was updated a number of times with additional analysis and fact checks.
This article was originally published at 5 p.m.
READ THE FULL SPEECH