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Mayors and their cell phone apps

When mayors of global big cities get together, why do they immediately whip out their cell phones? To compare apps, it seems.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was in Mexico City this week, and he dropped in on his counterpart, Miguel Mancera, at the capital’s imposing colonial City Hall.

“It was very funny,” Garcetti recalled. “I mean like the first two minutes, we started comparing apps with each other. Thats what mayors do now. Like he was, ‘Heres my app. I can tell you in real time what the air quality is.’

“And then (I was saying), ‘Here’s an app to take pictures of the potholes.’ He’s like, ‘Heres my app to tell where the protests are at any given time.’ I gave him an app that has real-time parking on it,” Garcetti told a small group of U.S. reporters.

Asked who won the app contest, Garcetti said, “I think it was a real draw. He can’t tell you whether there are parking spaces in real time, and I can. But I can’t do air quality.”

Garcetti, who took office last July 1, chose to make his first foreign trip to Mexico, and now says he’ll come back every year. Despite having a metropolitan population that is nearly half of Mexican origin, Garcetti said Los Angeles has not actively recruited Mexican companies and tourists enough.

“A lot of other cities have hustled quite a bit more in Mexico,” he said.

As it is, 1.6 million Mexicans travel to the L.A. area each year, but 80 percent are on family visits, he said. “One of my goals is also to promote Mexicans who don’t have family to come to visit. Instead of going to Orlando, they can come to L.A.,” he said.

Within three or four years, Garcetti envisions Los Angeles and Mexico City arranging a variety of sports and museum exchanges (think Dodgers), greater university exchanges, more investment from L.A. companies in Mexico, and more flights, perhaps “half a dozen new flights coming back and forth between Los Angeles and Mexican cities.”