[Hpn] L.A.'s Mayor elect Faces Challenges Head On

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Wed, 15 Jun 2005 23:48:48 -0400

I apologize for the double send,my index/trigger finger twitched/spasmed on 

In The Struggle

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "William Charles Tinker" <wtinker@metrocast.net>
To: <hpn@lists.is.asu.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 11:42 PM
Subject: [Hpn] L.A.'s Mayor elect Faces Challenges Head On

> www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-06-15-villaraigosa_x.htm
> L.A.'s mayor-elect faces challenges head-on
> By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
> LOS ANGELES  The day after he won election as the first Hispanic mayor 
> here
> since 1872, Antonio Villaraigosa started getting calls about running for
> state and national office. "I just laughed," he says.
> Villaraigosa: "Any continued national prominence will hinge on how
> successful I am as mayor."
> By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY
> Villaraigosa's May 17 victory vaults him into the top tier of Hispanic
> Democrats, along with statewide officials such as New Mexico Gov. Bill
> Richardson and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar. But he knows his star will fade
> unless he proves he can manage this huge, unwieldy city. "Any continued
> national prominence will hinge on how successful I am as mayor," he says.
> To say the job is tough is an understatement. This city, the nation's 
> second
> largest at 3.7 million, is plagued by school violence and transportation
> problems, racial and ethnic tensions, poverty and homelessness, and 
> periodic
> attempts by various communities to secede.
> Though he doesn't take office until July 1, Villaraigosa is already 
> dealing
> with problems such as an imminent hotel labor crisis. He's winning praise
> for his visibility in a city craving public leadership after four years of
> Mayor James Hahn's reserved, bureaucratic style.
> "This is a hands-on guy. He jumped right in," says Joe Cerrell, a veteran
> Democratic consultant close to Hahn.
> Villaraigosa took a break Friday for a rare sit-down interview. He'd had
> three hours of sleep after a late-night-to-early-morning negotiating 
> session
> with hotel workers and managers. He would later restart the talks and push
> them through a sleepless night.
> But for this 45 minutes, Villaraigosa discussed his life and hopes in ways
> that underscored his blend of street and elite. The product of a broken 
> home
> in a poor Hispanic neighborhood, he talked of shining shoes and bouncing
> back after hard knocks.
> As he sipped green tea for his hoarse voice ("I do it like the English do,
> with a little milk and honey"), he also talked of the Mexican-American art
> on the walls of his City Council office and his vision of Los Angeles as
> "the Venice of the 21st century." The 15th century trade crossroads of the
> world, that is, not the nearby beach town.
> Villaraigosa wanted this job so much that after a stinging loss in 2001, 
> he
> ditched investment banking and, to the dismay of his friends, decided to
> start over again. That meant running for city council, a comedown after a
> stint as speaker of the California Assembly and temporary stardom as the
> surprise winner of a multicandidate mayoral primary in 2001.
>  The Antonio Villaraigosa file
>  Age: 52, born Jan. 23, 1953, in East Los Angeles.
>  Education: B.A., University of California, Los Angeles, 1977; J.D.,
> People's College of Law, Los Angeles, 1985.
>  Political career: Los Angeles City Council, 2003-present; lost runoff 
> for
> mayor of Los Angeles, 2001; member, California Assembly, 1994-2000 
> (Assembly
> speaker, 1998-2000).
>  Family: Married, four children.
>  Notable: First Latino mayor of Los Angeles since 1872.
>  Quote: "I'm a big believer that, rather than looking so far ahead that 
> you
> trip over your feet, instead do your job. Do a good job at the job that 
> you
> have. And things will take care of themselves."
> - On his future in national politics
> Source: The Associated Press, Marquis Who's Who , USA TODAY research
> Hahn halted Villaraigosa's ascent back then in a runoff, beating him 
> 53%-46%
> after running an ad that linked Villaraigosa to a convicted drug dealer. 
> But
> the reticent Hahn proved to be "a better mayor than politician," in his
> friend Cerrell's words. This year, with investigators looking into whether
> Hahn's donors received city contracts, Villaraigosa won the primary again
> and then went on to crush Hahn by 18 points in the runoff. He won 
> majorities
> of Hispanics, whites and blacks, according to exit polls and post-election
> studies.
> A former labor organizer and union negotiator, Villaraigosa encountered
> wariness from some in the business community. The Los Angeles Area Chamber
> of Commerce endorsed Hahn, but a week after the election, Chamber 
> President
> Rusty Hammer posted a column headlined "Congratulations Antonio." George
> Kieffer, an executive board member of the chamber, says Villaraigosa 
> already
> has been in touch with Hammer and shown a "healthy" inclination to take an
> active role in city affairs.
> Forty percent of people in Los Angeles are foreign-born, according to the
> U.S. Census. Nearly half the population is Hispanic; about 11% is black 
> and
> 11% Asian. The diversity of Villaraigosa's support has made him a poster
> person for racial healing. He's even been asked to do an interview for the
> upcoming DVD version of Crash, the film about brutal ethnic and racial
> tensions in Los Angeles.
> Villaraigosa's broad ethnic and racial coalition could serve as a model 
> for
> others, says Frank Gilliam, an urban politics expert at UCLA. The key, he
> says, is to lay a sound foundation. Villaraigosa's pledge to be "mayor of
> all of us" was credible, Gilliam says, because he'd been building bridges
> throughout his labor and political careers. "Antonio has really long and
> deep relationships" with black leaders, he says. "And he is clearly
> comfortable coming to the African-American community."
> Democrats have seen their majority among Hispanic voters erode 
> substantially
> in the past two presidential elections. Villaraigosa advises the party to
> "speak to America's heart" and redefine "family values" in a way that's
> meaningful to people's lives. Democrats can expand their appeal to Latino
> voters, he says. All it takes is work.
> Never give up
> Resilience has been Villaraigosa's hallmark throughout a life of adversity
> and wrong turns. He's been poor, a high school dropout, an unwed father. 
> He
> was partially paralyzed by a tumor during high school, arrested for 
> assault
> in his 20s, deserted as a child by an alcoholic father who underscored the
> abandonment when he later named another son Antonio.
> But Villaraigosa never stayed down or out for long. He started earning 
> money
> at age 7, shining shoes on a downtown corner. The tumor was removed and 
> the
> paralysis disappeared. He managed to finish not only high school but also
> college and law school.
> His trial on the assault charge  he was defending his mother against a
> harasser  ended with a hung jury.
> And though his two oldest daughters were born out of wedlock to different
> mothers, unlike him they had a father in their lives.
> At a time when it was virtually unheard of for men, before 1979's Kramer 
> vs.
> Kramer, he says, "I had joint custody of the children."
> The girls each chose to live with him when they turned 15. Now, 
> Villaraigosa
> says, all four of his children  ages 29, 27, 16 and 14  are so close 
> that
> "you'd never know my family was blended."
> Villaraigosa says he's been "blessed with a drive and determination that
> compels me to get up every time I've fallen down."
> But he pauses when asked if his life will be an inspiration to other
> children in difficult circumstances.
> "Yes, these young people need role models," he says. "But they also need
> concrete support  teachers with high expectations, high-quality 
> instruction
> and support at home to make them successful."
> A short honeymoon
> Villaraigosa is in that heady period of promise that precedes any 
> political
> administration. The realities of governing  such as having to say no 
> won't intrude until he's sworn in. In the meantime, he has already 
> signaled
> his activist approach to the job.
> Traffic and schools are Villaraigosa's most urgent problems. He is
> exercising his right as mayor to be board chairman of the Metropolitan
> Transit Authority, which oversees trains, buses, commuter lanes, traffic
> lights and highway ramps. He is hoping to persuade Los Angeles to emulate
> New York and Chicago, which have put their mayors in charge of city 
> schools.
> Villaraigosa's early advantage is his high profile around the city, even
> before he takes office. Steve Kinney, a Republican consultant here, says 
> the
> bully pulpit is a Los Angeles mayor's main tool in a town with a strong 
> and
> independent-minded city council. Villaraigosa has "tried to step out and 
> do
> some good positioning, some grandstanding," he says.
> Even as he attends elementary school celebrations and other events related
> to his city council duties, Villaraigosa is meeting with community 
> leaders,
> speaking to business groups and talking about ways to make more movies in
> Los Angeles and attract more high-tech media companies.
> When violence broke out recently at a school, Villaraigosa met with 
> parents
> and children. And just last weekend, on the brink of the tourist and
> convention season, he personally mediated the end of a 14-month labor
> dispute between hotel operators and their employees.
> The mayor-elect hosted a meeting of the two sides in his office Thursday
> night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, he called them back at 10 p.m. and
> assigned them to separate conference rooms. Then he shuttled back and 
> forth
> using the techniques he'd learned during his union years: guilt, charm,
> hardball. At 4:55 a.m., five minutes before managers planned to lock out
> workers at seven hotels, the parties reached agreement.
> Villaraigosa held a press conference, kept an 8 a.m. haircut appointment,
> did a 10:30 a.m. event in his council district, and kept going through an 
> 8
> p.m. speech to the Los Angeles Press Club. Only then did he go to sleep.
> "This would be work," he says, "if I didn't love what I do."
>  Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.