I was wrong about everything, Antonio told me so.
The freeways aren’t clogged. The roads aren’t rutted. The schools have never been better. The workers never happier. Nowhere is a city greener or more prosperous or so lucky as to have someone in charge like Antonio.
And here I thought we were at the brink of a calamity and it was my duty to yell “Fire! Fire them all!”
I was wrong. Life is good. Poverty isn’t soaring. The rich aren’t getting richer at the public expense. Things aren’t going to hell. The mayor’s cheery words told me so last night in his State of the City speech.
How can you not love the guy, he lives in a world of dreams.
I too have a dream. It’s a lot like his, a world where everybody has enough, none too much, none too little, a world where hopes are fulfilled and reality is better than fantasy.
The mayor set forth last night the fantasy of his legacy, promises of things to come far more than things that are. I wish it were true. I wish I could still believe. But I have lost my faith.
It’s a delicate thing, faith. So much goes into it to be able to make that leap. You got to believe, to believe without conditions, with certainty. The only certainty I see is things are getting worse and a lot of people are going to get hurt before they get better.
But I am wrong, the mayor told me so. He swore the paltry deals he’s cut with the unions will fix the perpetual budget crisis someday, somehow. He promised to reopen the libraries and restore parks programs and the he and he alone has fixed the harbor and airport and building trains and subways and gleaming palaces for pleasure — all clean and green.
I loved it when he paused and beamed his biggest and best smile and told us he had heard what us little people want, all we really want, is more potholes filled and crumbling roads slurry covered so we won’t have to replace our shock absorbers more often than our oil.
Mostly, he talked about how he’s going to tear up the teachers’ contract that he blamed for the failure of the schools and find so much money for education they won’t get laid off. There will even be enough to pay the best teachers what they are worth.
There are always naysayers.
The press ignored almost everything he said as just more bloated narcissistic rhetoric except for the promises he made about education.
The unkindest cut of all, a cheap shot really, came from Channel 7, which cut from the end of the Mayor’s speech to two stories about bloody gang violence in the city, one of them more than a month old.
But one of his harshest critics, God love her, the LA Weekly’s Jill Stewart opened her critique with nothing but “kudos” for Antonio and suggesting he “deserves
major credit for two seldom-seen qualities tonight in his 2011 State of the City address: 1) He’s got an attention span,
focused on LAUSD’s awful schools … 2) He’s
displaying heroics against teachers unions.”
Sure, there is a dark shadow hanging over the city, and it isn’t smog. It’s the danger of Los Angeles becoming “a post-millennial Detroit.”
“Villaraigosa had to be scared — cold-sweat scared — when he saw the
new 2010 U.S. Census numbers showing the first, unmistakable signs of
mass rejection of Los Angeles as a place where people clamor to live . .L.A. has had anemic, tiny growth over ten years . . . That’s a strong rejection of the luxury condo/Dwell
magazine/live-work vertical development ethos.”
It’s hard to please everybody in a city of malcontents and discontents but the Mayor does have some true and faithful friends thanks to his support for tax holidays and subsidies for developers and businesses and union-only contracts on everything the city gets involved in.
“L.A. is and will continue to be open to business,” the Mayor said, sounding like Herbert Hoover during the height of the last Great Depression.
Maybe that’s enough to spare him serving out his last two “tumultuous” years as Mayor, maybe the great achievements he boasted about will catapult him into the U.S. Senate next year and get him back on track to living his dream.
I, for one, am on his side. Let the good times roll.