Jimmy Hahn was no glad-handing politician. He suffered from a phobic
distaste for anyone actually touching him, which goes a long way to
explaining why his lackluster pay-to-play service as mayor lasted only
Antonio Villaraigosa suffers from a different malady. He is the epitome
of the glad-hander but is totally out of touch with everyone except that
small cadre of money-grubbers and power-mad mediocrities who surround
him and flatter his needy ego endlessly.
Many of those who have known him longer and better than I say he always
lacked the attention to detail and the brain power to get atop the horse
of power and really be a leader.
I don’t believe that from my own experience during occasional rambling late-night
phone conversations or numerous more public engagements.
It’s a mystery to me how he could go so wrong as mayor.
Maybe it’s no more than he loves the limelight and the good life of
wine, women and wealth more than he cared about the work of being mayor,
more than he cared about anything or anyone else.
Yeah, but … that doesn’t explain to my satisfaction how it has all gone so wrong.
I believed from the bottom of my heart that despite all his flaws, Antonio represented the best hope for LA to discover a new spirit that would bring us together as a city, help us find a vision that transcended our vast differences in backgrounds and stations, bring to life the myths of unlimited freedom and possibility that are at the heart of my own love of LA.
I was wrong.
The opposite has occurred. We are more divided than ever, more fragmented, more in conflict with each other. We have reached the point of no return on the road to the dark side of the destiny of LA, a city of rich and poor, of spectacular displays of wealth and horrifying conditions of poverty.
LA is a city of light and dark and the dark side is winning.
Under Antonio’s leadership, City Hall has become nothing more than a conduit for dispensing of the public wealth to a variety of special interests without regard to public benefit. It is held together by segmenting the population into narrow interest groups and pandering to them with flattery and favors.
The insider dealing that long greased the skids of City Hall turned into outright corruption under the passivity and aloofness under Hahn. Today, the entire system of government is corrupt with commissioners and department heads reduced to being little more than stooges, brow-beaten and threatened to the point where there are no safeguards for the public interest.
Public policy under Antonio is nothing but a series of slogans about sharing the dream, taking over the failing schools, 30-10 plans to fast-track the subway-to-the-sea, the lockbox for green energy.
We have reached the point where we all know the dream is over, where the schools are not only failing but firing teachers and shortening the school year, where the cost of the subway is gutting the DASH system and raising fares for the poor even as traffic congestion worsens, where there is no plan at all to give us cleaner energy.
Antonio’s failure of leadership in the budget crisis has led to one decision after another that only makes things worse and perpetuates the crisis of reduced services for years, decades probably, to come.
In the space of barely two weeks, he has changes his position and the storyline on green energy and DWP rate hikes five times and still his only support comes from the unions and renewable energy industry that stand to profit and the environmentalists who are so disconnected from the reality of the city’s four million people that you might think they are living in another world than the rest of us.
I have no better answer to why Antonio is floundering so badly and has lost all credibility than this: He suffers from the disease of our time, narcissism and has so fallen in love with the image of himself in the mirror that he disdains everyone else.
Like Narcissus, he doesn’t realize the reflection is his own. Narcissus perished staring at the reflection he loved so much, unable to move forward. And so it is with Antonio, he is perishing and so are our hopes for a greater LA.