finally clear: All the world is a stage for a ham like Antonio Villaraigosa -
it’s just that the stage of Los Angeles isn’t big enough anymore, the role of
mayor of the nation’s second largest city just isn’t worthy of his talents
isn’t the failure as mayor as so many have concluded. He checked out because he
was bored with such a two-bit part in a town out in the desert somewhere far
from the real action.
he’s stepped onto the larger stage of political theater, lecturing the governor
and legislators in a Sacramento speech a few weeks ago about how to fix the
state’s budget problems by gutting Proposition 13 and eliminating taxes for
two weeks ago, he escalated his campaign for undisclosed future offices by submitting a
letter to Congress and delivering a rousing speech (Transportation9-6-11.pdf) about he has transformed Los
is a model for of how America can move forward and put people to work, how in
just six short years he has built a great transportation system, how he has brought
intelligent planning to create livable sustainable neighborhoods using
renewable energy and reformed a badly broken school system.
how last month he “called for fixing California’s busted budget and tax
systems,” he chastised Congress for having “dithered enough over deficits and
debts” and urged the President to “take the money that was used to build
democracy in Iraq and now use it to build the bridges, the schools, the rail
lines we need here at home.”
cannot keep living on the investments our parents and grandparents made. If we
want to get people working again … If we want to secure a better future for
the next generation … We must reject the politics of cut and cap. And embrace
the politics of create and collaborate. “
nation “will look to Los Angeles and Southern California”
for inspiration from what he has achieved, he said.
our new subways, rail-lines, roadways and
busways, they will see one of the largest, most innovative infrastructure
projects of the new century. America will
look to Los Angeles and see a new type of leader. They will see a region that
leads in transit ridership, not gridlock ... And that leads in sustainability, not smog.
have accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time. But let us pledge
to do more.”
days after this remarkable, incredible really, speech, he was in Washington to
lobby for transportation funding to deliver on his promises.
he sat with the First Lady up front at a joint session of Congress as President
Obama eloquently laid out his plan to put America back to work.
president of the 165-member US Conference of Mayors, he
warned Congress that two million jobs were “on the line” at a time of “historic
unemployment across the country” so they should act immediately to extend the
federal transportation law and provide funding (ConferenceMayors.rtf).
“There is no more time to waste. We need Congress to act now.
The clock is ticking and if an extension is not signed by the President before
September 30, the entire program will be suspended and threaten the loss of 1.8
million jobs. That is an additional blow that our workers, our
economy, and our crumbling infrastructure cannot bear. “
He was back in Washington Monday when the President offered his
“Buffett Rule” soak-the-rich tax hike and deficit reduction.
He also spoke as a leading school reform leader to the
right-wing American Enterprise Institute where he was honored with the 2011 “Champion for Charters” award
from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
the event AEI said he “earned a reputation as a hard-charging and outspoken
champion of school improvement … shut down failing schools, created new
opportunities for alternative school providers, and navigated around
complicated union contracts … Join us for a conversation on what Villaraigosa
has learned from his efforts in Los Angeles, what it takes for mayors to impact
public education, and how policymakers and reformers can help drive urban
AEI’s report on the mayor’s appearance, written by Bridget
Johnson, a former staffer at the Daily News and frequent Op-ed contributor,
picked up on the mayor’s criticism of teacher unions.
probably terrorize them more than people on the right,” Villaraigosa said after
noting that the union hadn’t budged a bit on reform initiatives during his six
years in office. “I’m unabashedly pro-union but I’m pro-kid.
am not anti-union but I do take umbrage with some of the issues they’ve gotten
behind … they’re too focused on rights and not responsibilities. We need union
contracts that provide us flexibility to innovate.”
said the tenure system is “broken” and seniority should not be the deciding
factor in teacher assignments, salary, and the like. “Nobody has a job for
Villaraigosa said more Democrats need to
challenge the powerful unions while Republicans should acknowledge that money
is part of the answer.
schools are badly broken. Our schools are starved for dollars and cents; our
policies are starved for common sense,” the mayor said.
proudly touted that the LAUSD has more charter schools than any other district
in the country and the “vast majority” of them are high performing. He didn’t
mention that the charters he controls directly are underperforming LAUSD
schools and most other charters.
is a busy few days for the mayor with meetings with national teacher union
leaders, members of Congress and the Obama Administration, pushing for transportation
and job creation programs.
For Antonio, politics always has been more theater than substance. So what is he auditioning for by playing the part of a leader of substance and vision on the state and national scene?
Does he think Sen. Feinstein will retire and he can take his rewritten narrative of time as mayor and win the Senate seat? Does he harbor hopes that Obama in a second term will make him Transportation or Education Secretary, maybe even reach out to him a possible Vice President candidate to replace Joe Biden and help bring home the growing Latino vote?
Wouldn’t that be something?