Eric Garcetti Q&A: On Election Day, Mayor Looks to a Second Term

Eric Garcetti
Shawn Thew/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Today is Election Day, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti appears to be cruising to a second term, backed by sky-high support from the entertainment community. Last month he attended a fundraiser at Michael Eisner’s house. “It was packed,” the former Disney chief says. “I think he’s one of the best mayors for the industry we’ve had in a long, long time.”

Variety asked Garcetti about California’s film tax credits, his hopes for hosting the 2024 Olympic Games, and more.

You recently spoke about increasing the film tax credit by several hundred million dollars. How do you convince stakeholders that California needs to go way beyond what any other state is doing?
I think the proof has been in the pudding. People have seen [that] not only did the sky not fall fiscally, but we had a huge boost economically, and not just in Southern California but collectively in the state. We believe we’ve made money off this. That, to me, means we should build on our success. We should be targeting the special-effects houses, the musicians, all those places that are getting vertically integrated in places like Atlanta and Canada.

Can California do anything to get the mega-blockbusters back?
My dream one day is for there to be no ceiling on this and have some sort of universal credit, but that takes many years and a lot of building of confidence in what we’re doing. But nobody can look at the last couple years and not be more confident about tax credits today than they were before.

Staying on taxes — you got a 16% cut in the topline gross receipts tax rate. Is there any prospect for further reduction in the second term, or at some point going to zero on that?
Absolutely. I think this apple is going to be eaten many bites at a time. I have some targeted industries in the second term that I want to take on, like apparel — bring it down to the lowest level like we did with digital technology companies, which has helped us see this Silicon Beach boom that we’re experiencing. It is absolutely my goal to get rid of this tax. We need some champions on the city council, frankly. If I can’t find that on the council while I’m mayor, it’s something we could take directly to the voters as well.

The MPAA has been asking for some leniency around fire inspections at location shoots, and they’ve run into some obstacles from the rank-and-file at the fire department. Are you going to be pushing that?
Yes, Obviously life and fire safety are incredibly important to us, especially after tragedies like we what we saw up in Oakland. We want to make sure that all locations are safe and secure and that we avert tragedies. But we want to be business friendly and we want to be filming friendly. So I’ve asked Kevin James, the film liaison for the city, to sit down with the fire department and see if we can start speaking each other’s language.

The International Olympic Committee chooses between Paris and Los Angeles in September. How do you see the next six months? Are you going to be on the road quite a bit?
I will be spending some time between now and September trying to rustle up a majority. I think we can make a case, especially in these times, that America and Los Angeles need to connect to the world more than ever before, rather than retreat from it. I want my daughter who will be 13 in 2024 to have the same experience that I had when I was 13 in 1984. I think L.A. is really well poised to not only reboot the Olympic brand but to reconnect it with a global audience.

Do you have to send a message to the IOC of, “Hey, I’m the mayor of Los Angeles, and I’m going to be here with you guys” — reassuring them that you won’t jump ship and run for governor?
No, no, no. Look, the bids are never about a mayor. I can articulate the city’s bid, but this is a bid of the entire community and the entire people of Los Angeles. I see my role as making the case and bringing the Olympics, and then getting out of the way to let professionals who know how to run the best Games we’ve ever seen get the job done.

Your first campaign was largely about confronting public employee unions. Would it be fair to say that you’ve made your peace with them?
I’ve always been extremely close to city employees, even through the last election. Just because a couple union leaders didn’t back me, the next day I was busy at work with them representing the taxpayer and negotiating fairly with them. You can never negotiate just by decree. It requires collaboration, and that very much reflects my style. I think people say, “Have you been strong? Have you been tough?” And they’re looking for blood on the ground, but I’m looking for results on the street, and I think we’ve gotten them.

Speaking of blood on the ground, the presidential election certainly changed the calculus in terms of what your job is. Do you see yourself as part of a broad nationwide resistance?
I think we do have to stand up aggressively for our values. At the same time, I have a responsibility to bring home tax dollars from Washington. And that’s no different with a Republican president than it was with a Democratic one. I will not retreat from defending our city and our nation’s diversity, its openness, its international ties, and the progress we’ve made here in California.

I believe you were at the Oscars.
I was.

What was your experience watching “La La Land” win best picture, then lose it?
It made for an exciting show. I loved “Moonlight,” but I was 100% behind “La La Land.” I joked that I was the mayor of “La La Land.” I think we can hold our heads high. They [the “La La Land” filmmakers] were very classy about the whole debacle.

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