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LA Mayor Garcetti creates nonprofit to raise money for city projects

Eric Garcetti speaking with reporters about requiring general managers to reapply for their jobs. July 9, 2013.
Frank Stoltze
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is turning to private donors to advance his agenda, including the L.A. River revitalization project and job creation efforts. He has created the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, "focused on creating partnerships between the City and the private, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors," according to a Fund statement.

The Fund has a high-powered board that includes Governor Brown’s sister Kathleen, an investment banker, and Marc Stern, the chairman of TCW Group Inc. The Los Angeles-based asset-management firm oversees $130 billion. One of the mayor’s closest aides, Deputy Mayor Rick Jacobs, also sits on the board.

The fund intends to raise money from people who may never have been involved in civic projects, Jacobs said. “There’s a lot of financial capital that’s never been asked."

"Public-private strategic partnerships are the future of civic ventures around the globe," said Deidre Lind, the group’s acting president. "As an umbrella organization, we can be agile and responsive."

There are other advantages to raising money through a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Unlike political committees established by candidates and elected officials, nonprofits are not required to disclose all of their donors. Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the group would nonetheless honor requests to do so.

A statement from the organization said it plans to work closely with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships.  That may also force the fund to disclose some of its activities and communications, under the California Public Records Act.

The fund’s initial donor list includes major corporations like the Southern California Gas Company and the Walt Disney Company, as well as donors to Garcetti’s political campaigns.

The fund temporarily operates under the aegis of the California Community Foundation.

"Partnerships that link the public sector and private resources have the power to bridge even our greatest challenges in our community," said Antonia Hernández, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation.  "The California Community Foundation is proud to lend its support to the Mayor's Fund."

The Fund already has raised money for some projects, including the Summer Night Lights parks program for kids, according to its statement. The fund lists a range of other priorities on its website, including creating jobs, improving the Fire Department and revitalizing the LA River. Recently, Garcetti announced a deal with the U.S. Army Corp of engineers that requires the city to raise $500 million to match federal funding for the effort.

"This fund allows Garcetti to experiment and try things quickly," said Fernando Guerra, who heads the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University and sits on KPCC’s board. "It’s a great idea."

Guerra said other political leaders have established nonprofits, but usually to work on only one project. The Mayor’s Fund of Los Angeles has a more wide-ranging agenda.

Similar funds exist in New York City and Philadelphia.

"Great cities benefit from visionary leaders who understand the exponential power of collaboration," Wallis Annenberg, Chairman of the Annenberg Foundation, said in a statement.  "The Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles will become a powerful tool for Mayor Garcetti and the Mayors of the future to leverage real change across the City."  

A mayoral spokesman said the Fund is designed to outlive Garcetti and be a tool for future mayors.