Frankly, I don’t give a damn about Antonio Villaraigosa’s latest seduction. It’s the corruption that bothers me and the failure of his political machine to deliver what the city needs.
Sure, the mayor loves hanging out with beautiful dolls like KTLA anchor Lu Parker and appear in the pages of Playboy, run up huge tabs at Mozza and other fancy dives where he indulges himself in fine wines and his fantasies of glamour.
That’s his business as long as he can pay the bills. (How does he afford his luxuries when he can’t afford to finalize his divorce from Corina?)
A friend notes the
Mayor’s top ally, the LA County’s Federation of Labor, is now asking its
members to flood LA Magazine’s website with a defense of Villaraigosa over its cover calling him a “failure period” and sees a parallel to the Taylor Machine in
Frank Capra’s “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.”
In that movie, the innocent Mr. Smith (Jimmy Stewart) faces removal from the U.S. Senate over trumped-up charges inflamed by the Taylor Machine into a public frenzy with its stooge Sen. Paine (Claude Rains) leading the charge.
Personally, the parallel I see is from real life, New York’s playboy Mayor Jimmy Walker , a the puppet of the Tammany Hall political machine in the Roarin’ 20s.
Like marijuana dispensaries today, speakeasies proliferated under Walker who dumped his wife for a string of chorus girls. (Are women TV anchors the new chorus girls?)
He was the toast of New York and won re-election to a second term but was brought down by the Great Depression, forced from office and fled to Europe until the scandals surrounding his administration died down.
Today’s economic meltdown is doing the same thing to Antonio, exposing the corruption in the emerging public employee pension fund scandal and the failure of the City Hall political machine to serve the public interest as well its own interests.
Questions arise about who really runs this machine: Antonio? Maria Elena Durazo of the County Federation of Labor? Some behind-the-scenes players close to Antonio like Ari Swiller or Keith Brackpool?
It is one of the wonders of the City Hall political machine that came together in the latter years of Tom Bradley’s reign and evolved under the passivity of Jim Hahn before taking firm control in the Villaraigosa ear that nobody really seems to be the Boss.
And maybe that’s what is wrong with it.
When the Daleys are running the Chicago machine, the city thrives and regenerates despite the back room deals, sweetheart contracts, graft and corruption. When they’re not, the snow doesn’t gett plowed, cultural monuments don’t get built, neighborhoods deteriorate.
When Jimmy Walker fell from grace in New York, Fiorello La Guardia was elected mayor on a “Fusion Ticket, an anti-corruption coalition the Italian-American Republican put together with the city’s civic elite and ordinary citizens. He got rid of the mob, the machine, corruption and revived the fortunes of New York.
I think LA’s civic elite and its strengthening grassroots political movement could well take a lesson from that history and begin to come together into a force that can take back control of CIty Hall.
It’s a “field of dreams” scenario: If we build that coalition, a leader will come forward..