- Written by Ken Alpern
01 Feb 2013
GETTING THERE FROM HERE - The mayoral era of Antonio Villaraigosa has a last few exciting months to go, but it’s obvious that a new focus on his next political gig will be a hot button issue for the political junkies and the talking heads.
It wasn’t a stretch, however, to guess last year that “Mr. Villaraigosa goes to Washington” would be a theme if President Obama got re-elected.
Well, President Obama just finished his inauguration, he’s always wanted more transportation funding, and his outreach to Latinos and his addressing comprehensive immigration reform all point to a no-brainer of a new Cabinet member: Antonio Villaraigosa for Transportation Secretary.
The Democratic National Convention was a political success by any measure, and Mr. Villaraigosa certainly has to be credited for that. There was one moment of uncertainty, which came when addressing the God/Israel items on the Democratic Party platform—and despite the controversy, Mayor Villaraigosa rammed the right message through a group of left-wing delegates who clearly didn’t represent the party.
(I wonder how the GOP National Convention and the subsequent election process would have fared had a similar effort occurred to find compromise and inclusiveness while addressing certain pro-choice/pro-life issues over the screaming of right-wing delegates who clearly don’t represent the entirety of the party…but I digress.)
As I’ve stated before in previous CityWatch articles, Mayor Villaraigosa has had his share of wins and losses—probably something that can and should be said for all politicians. His losses aren’t that hard to decipher and opine upon, and I suspect the mayor privately regrets his losses as much, if not more, than most of us realize.
In particular, he’s been “too little, too late” with balancing the city budget and confronting the unions who have and still unceasingly threaten our budget process…and who’ve steered road/sidewalk/utility repair and new infrastructure funds into early/overblown retirements of a few thousand City workers gaming the system thanks to their horrifically-self-serving union leadership.
I also personally wish the Mayor had had the courage to unify the City with respect to certain ethnic divisions—in particular, it’s best if white and black Angelenos reach out to Latinos by learning more cultural and linguistic knowledge (especially a better knowledge of Spanish), but that all Latinos need to better engrain themselves into the American tapestry and economy by becoming proficient in English.
(Of course, I was naïve enough to fight for the creation of the Expo and Crenshaw Lines in part to encourage more unification of different geographic and ethnic portions of our “enlightened” city, but racial division and balkanization is a drug that’s too addictive for our “open-minded” politicians to ignore…however, again, I digress.)
Yet the Mayor’s safety/security record, his confronting the education system and ossified/entrenched regressive education unions in LA, and especially his ability to lead on transportation clearly makes his role in LA history a more successful one than his predecessor, James Hahn:
--And with the departure of current Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, it’s very hard to ignore the ability of a man like Mr. Villaraigosa, who’s had experience herding cats both as Speaker of the Assembly in Sacramento and as the force behind the successful Measure R.
● And although former House Representative James Oberstar (a true transportation champion if ever there was one) and others make good alternative choices, it was Mayor Villaraigosa who turned the nation’s attention to LA both by passage of Measure R and his dogged pursuit of the America Fast Forward initiative.
● And Measure R and the America Fast Forward Initiative, an expanded federal loan system designed to expedite and cheapen transportation projects, both enjoyed extraordinary bipartisan support in an era of remarkably partisan divisions in our state and nation.
● And at the risk of sounding as race-obsessed as some of the political games which I despise so much, the addition of Antonio Villaraigosa to the White House Cabinet wouldn’t hurt an Obama Administration who’s been a bit less diverse and a bit less successful in outreach to Latinos than the President would probably have preferred.
This is a trend that many believe includes finding a way to fix the Metrolink disconnect between Ontario in order to make it as accessible as Burbank Airport (Bob Hope Airport), the latter of which is currently in the process of finding ways to not only exploit its current Metrolink connection but to create MetroRail connection.
It’s no secret that Mayor Villaraigosa has championed a LAX/MetroRail project to connect the current Green Line and future Crenshaw/LAX Line to LAX. Up front and behind-the-scenes negotiations has brought this exciting (but agonizingly overdue) prospect to a virtual fait accompli in future transit planning, and having a champion like Antonio Villaraigosa in Washington would likely do two things:
1) Reduce federal roadblocks to both funding and FAA obstructionism--the REAL reason the Green Line to LAX connection never occurred…and not the taxi cab company urban legend!
2) Increase federal funding and loans to overdue rail projects, such as the Downtown Light Rail Connector, Wilshire Subway and the MetroRail/LAX connection projects.
Meanwhile, as the California High Speed Rail project creeps along, and as it becomes more promoted towards an expansion of the successful Southern California Metrolink and Northern California Caltrain networks, with high-speed links to each other, to Las Vegas and to our state’s airports, perhaps a reasonable and rational rail/airplane cooperative network can be built to benefit everyone.
With a Transportation Secretary like Antonio Villaraigosa, this network would be an exemplary model and process that would please local counties and states throughout the nation, as much as the all-too-removed federal government trying to make political points with its constituents in as cost-effective a manner as has ever been attempted with Villaraigosa’s America Fast Forward initiative.
And there’s the ultimate reason to support Mayor Villaraigosa as our next Transportation Secretary: it’s not like they don’t already know Mr. Villaraigosa in Washington, already—he’s already got the frequent flyer miles and bipartisan transportation support figured out.
Vol 11 Issue 10
Pub: Feb 1, 2013