Los Angeles Mayor Vows To Work With Trump, But 'Stand Up' For City's Residents
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene in Culver City, Calif. Fair or not, this state has been labeled by some as the hub of resistance to a Trump presidency. And California's governor, Jerry Brown, this week seemed to embrace that.
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JERRY BROWN: California's not turning back - not now, not ever. His truth is marching on.
GREENE: California does seem ready to push back against Trump's efforts to change course on immigration, the environment and other issues. Yesterday, we spoke with Eric Garcetti. He is the mayor of California's largest city, Los Angeles. And I asked him if he feels the same way as Governor Brown.
So do you share Jerry Brown's worry, anger - I guess you could say - there?
ERIC GARCETTI: Well, I think that we are, of course, concerned with the great economic progress that we've made in this state and in my city - the almost-record low crime levels, the reduction in unemployment and all of the innovation that we share with the world and export as a great American state. We also don't think of ourselves as any different than the heartland. In the past when we lost manufacturing jobs - Los Angeles is the manufacturing capital of America. And we saw car factories shut down here, too.
We have the same concerns and worries about economic success in the future. We've just chosen to take a pathway that is inclusive, that's innovative as a way forward. And we want to make sure we work with this administration to protect those values and, if necessary, defend them.
GREENE: So do you embrace this narrative of being sort of the center of the resistance? Or could it actually become problematic if you want to work with this White House?
GARCETTI: I look forward to working with the White House in areas like infrastructure, where President Trump says he wants to spend a trillion dollars. Great - we'd love to start right here in Los Angeles. He's been very supportive of our Olympic bid. But we're also going to stand up for our families not to be divided. We're going to stand up for our economy, where 61 percent of our main-street businesses are started by immigrants and making sure that we can continue to tell the practical and the human story of why it is so important for America to remember that history, to engage with it and, yes, to work with this administration on fixing what's broken, an immigration system right now that works, really, for nobody.
GREENE: So you're saying immigration is broken, in your mind. Do you feel like you have a partner in President Trump to find a solution? Do you feel like you have his ear?
GARCETTI: Well, time will tell. We spoke - we've had three good and constructive conversations since he was elected president. And I think we have, you know, to a businessman, a great economic case to make. For instance, just under the DACA program, which was - gave legal status to youth who were brought here to this country who are great students - they had, on average, a 40 percent increase in their wages.
And I told the now-president, you know, we don't want to push those people back under the table working for illegal wages, less than minimum wage. That hurts everybody. The native-born American has her or his wages go down when we don't give legal status to folks who want to and are contributing to our country.
GREENE: Los Angeles is a sanctuary city. I mean, this is a place where Donald Trump has said, if your city does not cooperate with rounding up people in the country illegally, Trump has threatened to withhold federal money. I mean, Justice Department, Homeland Security funds - couldn't this be a real problem?
GARCETTI: Well, two points - one, we've never declared ourself a sanctuary city; I'm still not sure what one is. And a study of so-called sanctuary city - counties shows lower unemployment, safer streets in areas that have welcomed immigrants, and we're certainly a welcoming city.
But second, you hurt America when you withdraw funds from Los Angeles. Take the Port of LA. Forty-three percent of all the goods that come into America come through the twin Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Withdrawing federal funds to prevent radiological or biological terrorist attack, that doesn't just hurt Los Angeles - that hurts America.
GREENE: There are many people in California who did not vote for Donald Trump. What would you tell a resident of your city who would say to you - Mayor, please don't try to work with him? We want you to be a hub of resistance. You know, fight on. Fight hard. What do you tell a resident like that?
GARCETTI: Well, I would reassure them that we absolutely will fight on and fight hard for the values every single time anything from Washington under any administration or Congress threatens those. We will never back off of that. But I also have a responsibility as a mayor to make sure we reduce traffic, that we keep our streets safe.
You know, I've worked well - long before this president with people on both sides of the aisle. But it is the responsibility, I think, of anybody in elected office to look for opportunities to help serve their people. And we have to think less about who is the most powerful person in this country and think more about who's the most vulnerable. And where I can find those opportunities with anybody, including our new president, I will do that. But I won't let anybody, even the most powerful person in this country, trample our values or our Constitution. And no matter who's in the White House, I am incredibly vigilant about that and will continue to fight that fight.
GREENE: I do love that you can talk to the mayor of a small town or the mayor of a massive city and the conversation probably won't end without either potholes or traffic coming up. I like that.
GARCETTI: Exactly, always.
GREENE: All right. Mayor Garcetti, always great to talk to you. Thank you so much.
GARCETTI: Wonderful to chat with you. Thank you.
GREENE: That is Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.