Tue, May

The REAL State of the City: We Need a MAYOR, Not a DICTATOR, To Succeed "Boss Villaraigosa"


ALPERN AT LARGE - As someone who thrilled to the election of Antonio Villaraigosa eight years ago,

and as someone who admired his efforts to pass Measure R and fight the LAUSD stranglehold over our children's educational process, and as someone who remained a Villaraigosa supporter for years despite my neighbors' increasing dislike for the man, I can honestly say I now deserve the right to loudly proclaim:  ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, PLEASE GO AWAY AND LET LOS ANGELES RECOVER FROM YOUR DICTATORSHIP. 

Last week, I noted in CityWatch that the problem with electing state leaders such as Antonio Villaraigosa and Herb Wesson to lead Los Angeles, they transfer the leadership paradigm they learned in Sacramento to be Bosses and not locally elected leaders in touch with their constituents 

This is particularly true in the last few lame duck months in office, where the Sacramento/Gray Davis/Arnold Schwarzeneggar example of rewarding one's political donors takes sway over representation of the citizenry. 

The fact remains that Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council continue to struggle with the potential to lead from behind and achieve consensus with both well-funded/connected lobbyists and ordinary citizenry alike, because they neither respect nor appreciate the "people power" and community organizers that can lead people to the polls and appreciate their City. 

The fact remains that Antonio Villaraigosa is one of the most blatant violators of the democratic process in City government we've ever had--particularly with the City Commissioners who were only appointed after they signed undated resignation letters that could be dated any time they dared to have an opinion different than that of the Mayor.   

The result:  a few connected developers and public union leaders (think the IBEW and SEIU, who often are as regressive as the UTLA with respect to planting their boots on the necks of City taxpayers) owned this City and have driven it to near Bankruptcy. 

And the fact remains that Antonio Villaraigosa has left this City in fiscal and spiritual flames by leaving us more divided than ever with respect to geographic, racial and class division.   

Villaraigosa's "leadership" with respect to development and rewriting Planning and Transportation policy is more akin to Fidel Castro than to John F. Kennedy, and the flood of zoning and densification variances (not just compromising variances, but monstrous megavariances) granted to his developer donors have the potential to transform the City into a third-world slum instead of a first-class metropolis. 

Villaraigosa had the opportunity to more closely link the Westside and the Eastside, and the West and East Valley, by encouraging white and black Americans to learn more Latin American and Asian culture while encouraging Latinos (both here legally and illegally) to speak the English spoken by, and use their renowned work ethic to compete academically with, their white, black and Asian (and native-born Latino!) neighbors.   

The Expo and Eastside rail lines could have, and should have, been an opportunity to reduce racial and class divisions...but Villaraigosa has blown the opportunity to redefine L.A. as an all-American, mixed culture, melting pot City. 

Villaraigosa had the opportunity to utilize Neighborhood Councils as a vehicle to get the citizenry in open-door discussions with public sector employees to create a sustainable budget that held everyone's feet to the fire (civil servants, homeowners, businesses and lobbyists alike), but Villaraigosa blew that opportunity as well.  And we're more divided and fiscally beaten-down than ever, with Winners and Losers and a whole lotta lawsuits, hurt feelings and unhappy Angelenos as a result. 

Villaraigosa's last few months in office has been a flood of rammed-through developer-enriching megaprojects and City policy change by fiat that have appalled environmentalists and mass transit advocates--from the very conservative to the very liberal--and offer very little with respect to affordable housing and transit-oriented development, and absolutely very little with respect to "elegant density". 

So after resisting the entreaties of my neighbors who kept telling me I was giving him too much forgiveness, and too little scrutiny in my CityWatch articles, I've earned the right to say--following his ridiculously-optimistic State of the City speech--to please just go away, Mr. Mayor. 

The take-home message of eight years of "Boss Villaraigosa", and with an ongoing working paradigm of a City Council that thwarts, and doesn't lead and represent, its citizenry, is that more Charter Reform and/or a borough system, if not dissolution of the City altogether, is in order. 

Antonio Villaraigosa did not take us away from a City in chaos, but has opted to represent only a few well-monied interests and has a City more Divided than ever. 

And for those of us who remember the Antonio Villaraigosa-Jack Weiss-Wendy Greuel troika of years past, I urge all readers to (as either our best hope or the lesser of two evils--it's your call) vote for Eric Garcetti as the best way our City can really heal its Villaraigosa-era divisions (which, in all fairness, was inherited but not fixed from the Hahn and earlier mayoral eras). 

We need a City where: 

1) Neighborhood Councils are promoted and respected for the volunteer/grassroots entities that they are, and as first-rate laboratories to learn the sentiment and concerns of voters and taxpayers. 

2) No major budgetary decisions, or utility rate-impacting decisions, are made without Neighborhood Council and civil servant presence alike...and in equal numbers...to assure the best, most sustainable and most consensus-building policy possible.  The citizenry and the civil servants need not be at each other's throats, and looking at the other as an enemy when they should be in alliance at all times. 

3) Reconsideration of a borough system, and/or major diplomatic and representative links between City regions, are pursued to reduce--and not exploit--racial, economic or cultural divisions.  We should be one City, not a City with constant and ongoing balkanizing forces that are exploited for the personal and political gain of a few. 

4) We have City Commissioners and civil servants who aren't all political appointees, or who can be fired for speaking Truth to Power.  It's a better  working paradigm to allow whistle-blowers and independent thinkers to be able to say what needs to be said for the benefit of all, and with a leader who can learn from the grassroots, than the current Dictatorship we've suffered under for the past eight years. 

There's a reason why I fear Greuel--who's promoted endorsements and social/national issues but who has NOT reached out to ordinary Angelenos--as a "Villaraigosa the Second" in heels and skirts, while I endorse the same person that former mayoral contenders Perry, James and Pleitz have all endorsed: the remaining runoff candidate,  Eric Garcetti. 

And I've no doubts that Mr. Garcetti (who's responded to me personally in response to previous CityWatch articles) will be ready to speak with anyone in a friendly, bridge-building manner who asks him for such a meeting, while Ms. Greuel has only learned that the Villaraigosa model of smashmouth, special interest politics is the way to win. 

So we have a choice:  another Dictator, or a Mayor.  

Mr. Villaraigosa, please just go away.   

Mr. Garcetti, please keep bridge-building and win the upcoming May elections and lead our City to a happier, more inclusive and representative future.


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected].  He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)






Vol 11 Issue 30

Pub: Apr 12, 2013 




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