By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Kaye’s and Villaraigosa’s definitions of “work” differ greatly. The mayor’s schedule — which was provided to the Weekly with fat chunks blacked out, despite his 2005 campaign vow to establish a new kind of “transparent” administration — clearly shows a man who’s infinitely more preoccupied with his career and his press coverage than with shaking up the ossified City Hall bureaucracy or fighting threats to the quality of life in L.A.
“My reaction [to the schedule],” says a former mayoral-administration official in Los Angeles, who requested anonymity, “is that he’s someone who’s looking for his next job.”
Villaraigosa clearly disagrees. Spokesman Szabo told the Weekly that Villaraigosa didn't have time to discuss the issue, suggesting the paper try to “catch up” with the mayor at one of his upcoming public relations events. Szabo issued a statement declaring: “Los Angeles has one of the hardest-working mayors in America, and one who understands that it is more important to be out in the community he serves than to remain ensconced in City Hall's downtown offices.”
Kaye, who published sharply worded and widely read editorials about Villaraigosa when the editor ran the show at the Daily News, says, “After three years, it’s pretty clear how Antonio has used the office. For him, it’s ceremonial, and he’s the public face of City Hall, instead of being a guy who rolls up his sleeves and gets down to the nitty-gritty. He made the wrong choice. He made the choice to look after his own interests.”
From his agreement to sit on a giant turntable for a wax-museum sculpture of himself to his pursuit of fluffy media interviews and out-of-town political cash-gathering, Villaraigosa tends to spend his days on things that have the potential to benefit him. A 55-year-old politician who likes to consider himself a man of the people, Villaraigosa is instead turning out to be the All-About-Me Mayor.
ON JUNE 25, VILLARAIGOSA rode the Metro Red Line subway from Union Station to the San Fernando Valley with several journalists in tow. During the half-hour trip, the mayor worked his charm, yelling out several times to nobody in particular, “I love my job!” At one point, he walked up to a black passenger, gave a soul shake of sorts and called him “brother.” The mayor was ebullient, even offering to hold a nearby reporter’s digital tape recorder while the journalist tossed him questions. It seemed a polite gesture, but then Villaraigosa glanced around at the other journalists to be sure his act did not go unnoticed. “See? I’m a nice guy,” he announced. “I’m a nice guy!”
At the end of the subway ride, during a heavily produced media event, he and MTA officials announced six new Rapid Bus lines crisscrossing the Valley. The mayor then posed for photographers while sitting at the wheel of a shiny red bus, dubiously shouting out, “This is the best innovation the MTA has ever come up with!”
But a reporter had a different question, asking Villaraigosa why he goes on so many out-of-town trips. In a standard reply, he claimed he has to go to Sacramento and Washington to “get money for L.A.” (He reiterated this claim when pressed about his travel by Warren Olney on KCRW in mid-July, saying, “That’s where we get our money.”)
This mayor likes moving around with an entourage. (At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, one of Barack Obama’s superdelegates tells the Weekly, Villaraigosa was constantly accompanied by a photographer and a security detail — in one of the most heavily secured arenas on the face of the globe — and landed himself on TV by sitting just behind Bill Clinton. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, moved easily through the crowds without bodyguards.)
On the subway train in L.A., Villaraigosa’s large group included several aides, two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, a few MTA officials and a handful of reporters. Three of those journalists had flown 7,257 miles from China to speak with him. But, one mayoral aide told the Weekly, Villaraigosa had canceled on them the day before.
Now, with the mayor temporarily captive on the same subway car, the Chinese reporters intended to carry out their job.They approached him, offering traditional bows and smiles. The woman and two men had traveled from Guangzhou, a major city in southern China, on assignment for an article on how to build a global 21st-century capital, and Villaraigosa was their prized interview.
The mayor, dressed in a dark suit with a gold tie, looked hesitant after one of the Chinese reporters explained in English that it was time for their scheduled chat. “Well, why don’t you walk with me and ask your questions as I meet with the people?” the mayor offered.