Tue, May

The Tragic Ballad of Tony V


LATINO VOICE-Antonio Villaraigosa’s great expectations of his political career were to become another story of the American Dream, but could it be that instead his life has collapsed into an American Tragedy of Shakespearian proportions? 

For how does a rising political star so beloved just a few years ago, when Los Angeles voters made history by electing him the city’s first Latino mayor, fall so far so quickly that his last hurrah may already be behind him? 

The political love for Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, the base of whatever future he had, is gone — and now he is even being begrudged his new home. 

So much so that last Tuesday, as Los Angeles voters went to the polls for their local city election, Villaraigosa — without meaning to — stole the thunder. And he wasn’t even on the ballot. 

Villaraigosa, though, was the story almost everyone was talking about as news broke that he has just bought a $2.5 million Hollywood Hills home with “every iconic LA view” of the city – and now has everyone wondering in envy and curiosity as to how a politician who has seemingly always lived off other people’s money pulled this off. 

“How does a politician who left office in 2013 with his friends saying he had no assets to his name buy a $2.5 million home?” asked Los Angeles author and historian Kevin Roderick, whose LAObserved.com some Angelinos consider the conscience of LA. 

“That’s a big down payment or a big mortgage or both.” 

Antonio Villaraigosa goes from rags to riches? 

Indeed, for even his close friend and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez had recently recalled that Villaraigosa “left the mayor’s office with just the clothes on his back, literally.” 

The stunning purchase of a $2.5 million Hollywood Hills house is just the topping on the disillusionment and disappointment with Villaraigosa that built up over failing to meet expectations he had raised in Los Angeles along with his extensive absences from the city and the self-promotion. 

At one point in his tenure, Los Angeles magazine published Villaraigosa’s photo on its cover with superimposed big lettering that read: Failure. 

Villaraigosa’s personal finances have long been a source of speculation and interest, and the purchase of this house is likely to only spark more questions, especially juxtaposed against his surprising announcement last week that he would not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from which incumbent Barbara Boxer is retiring. 

The 62-year-old politician was considered the Latino candidate with the best chance of winning, especially with a high profile in the state’s largest media market and his national base of donors he would need to run a campaign likely to cost at least $20 million and possibly twice that much. 

What wasn’t known when Villaraigosa announced he wasn’t running for the senate is that he was in the process of closing escrow on the three-bedroom, four-bath contemporary house with 3,600 square feet  and what the real estate listing boasts as having a panoromic view of Los Angeles.   

But on Tuesday The Associated Press story on Villaraigosa’s house purchase was almost as cruel as it was telling in its opening paragraph that read: 

“Antonio Villaraigosa turned his back on Washington and now he’s headed for the Hollywood Hills.” 

LA Weekly was even more to the point, reporting: 

“It’s entirely possible that the mortgage is one of the reasons he decided not to run… 

“Depending on the down payment, Villaraigosa is likely paying at least $10,000 per month, possibly more. Even factoring in his pension, he probably does not have the luxury of turning down paid work for an extended period while he runs for office.”

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How did he afford his house?

Unfortunately for Villaraigosa, not running for the U.S. Senate won’t stop the questions about how he could afford his Hollywood Hills house. 

They will continue and intensify should he get a Washington appointment in a Democratic administration, should there be one, or if he decides to explore running for governor in 2018. 

As recently as 2013, Villaraigosa was reportedly close to being broke as he prepared to leave office without a house or car to his name, according to an investigative report by LA Weekly. 

“He didn’t save any money … we got his required economic interest reports where you see all their stocks and bonds and property,” LA Weekly managing editor Jill Stewart told an interviewer. “Nada. 

“His friends are so concerned because he’s lived so flamboyantly and spent basically so much of other people’s money on a very, very costly lifestyle.” 

Since then, Villaraigosa has taken on several private-sector positions, including an advisory role at Banc of California and a consulting job for Herbalife, a company mired in legal battles and controversy for allegedly being an herbal supplement pyramid scheme. 

He also collects a $97,832-a-year pension from the city. 

And now Villaraigosa has a millionaire’s house worthy of a star lording over Hollywood. 

“Post-mayoral life in private sector,” tweeted Los Angeles Times political writer Seema Mehta, “is good apparently.”


(Tony Castro is the author of the newly-released "The Prince of South Waco: American Dreams and Great Expectations," as well as of the critically-acclaimed “Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America” and the best-selling “Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son." Castro writes for voxxi.com  where this piece was first posted.)





Vol 13 Issue 21

Pub: Mar 10, 2015







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