By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
DESPITE HIS RELUCTANCE to detail how he spends the purported 16-hour days that he chronically boasts about, Villaraigosa has attracted attention from the blogosphere and newspapers for his poor time management, and particularly for campaigning out of state on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
According to the calendar, Villaraigosa logged about 900 hours of work during a 10-week period from May 21 to August 1.
L.A. Weekly broke down those 900 hours into five categories. One category is largely ceremonial or public-relations: press conferences; public ceremonies; media interviews and tapings; and dinners, luncheons and awards. A second category is his blacked-out hours. A third category is gap time involving unlisted activities, such as continually moving from one event to another. A fourth category is his 10 out-of-town trips in 10 weeks. A fifth category determined by the Weekly is his time spent directly on actual city business.
Villaraigosa spent 88 hours on ceremonial and PR, or roughly 10 percent of his work time. His ceremonial time is spent on such events as dinners and luncheons with the Black Business Association and The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU).
His partially blacked-out trips to Israel, Miami, Hawaii, London, New York City, Chicago, Oakland, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco soaked up 310 hours, or 34 percent of his workload. Among those hours, he held fund-raising events in four other cities to raise cash for his 2009 mayoral bid, and took a red-eye flight on July 7 to Washington, D.C., to introduce Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at the League of United Latin American Citizens’ annual convention. His other heavily blacked-out events, which the Weekly has learned include 14 fund-raisers, accounted for 186 hours, or 21 percent of his workload.
Together, then, the mayor spent 804 hours, or 89 percent of his work schedule, on ceremonial/PR, travel, blacked-out activities, gap time, fund-raising, personal issues and undisclosed “security” issues. On direct city business — such as signing legislation and meeting with city-department heads — his schedule shows the mayor spent 11 percent of his time.
“The mayor flies around the world like he’s on a reality TV show,” says a former California Democratic congressional staffer, who, like many other insiders, is afraid to be quoted because of the mayor’s practice of cutting out those who criticize him.
He says that in contrast to the mayor, the 18 Congress members representing Los Angeles County typically spend 70 to 80 percent of their time on “hardcore” governing: talking with stakeholders, attending policy meetings, crafting legislation, holding public hearings and boning up on issues and studies, among other things.
One top aide to a former Los Angeles mayor says, “You have to be at your desk a lot. Otherwise, the general managers and the City Council are running the government for you. ... There’s no substitute for sitting with a general manager. You can review things on paper, but it’s not the best way. And you can manage to a degree on the telephone, but you can’t lead.”
Villaraigosa’s work ratio, it appears, is backward. Although he frequently talks with Chief of Police William Bratton, he only occasionally meets with other department heads.
Greg Nelson, former head of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and a longtime chief of staff to Councilman Joel Wachs, who served in City Hall from the time of Mayor Sam Yorty, says: “Other mayors spent greater amounts of time working on what fixes the city, or working with the public on what fixes the city. ... It’s amazing how little the public knows about what politicians do with their time. I’d like to see a law that lets people know.”
Eli Broad, one of the most civic-minded billionaires in Los Angeles and a supporter of the mayor, has been concerned about Villaraigosa’s work habits, especially his campaigning in overdrive for Hillary Clinton. “I hope he spends more time and energy on the city,” Broad told the Weekly earlier this summer. Broad, who’s involved in public-education reform in Los Angeles and nationally, added, “I think he’ll realize his political success in the future relies on the job he does with the city.”
All summer, though, Villaraigosa showed few signs of heeding Broad’s advice. During the long July 4 weekend, three days after the mayor threw another staged and fluffy press conference — this one designed to lavish praise upon his nascent Partnership for L.A. Schools program, which will attempt to fix 10 of the city’s lowest-performing schools in LAUSD — Villaraigosa very quietly hopped over to Hawaii.
The trip was not announced; the Weekly learned about it because another Weekly writer was returning from a European vacation that week, and happened to sit on an airplane next to a traveler who had just run into Villaraigosa — in Hawaii. As it turns out, it was yet another ceremonial event, honoring 125 graduate-school students at an exclusive gathering of the Academy of Achievement.
The event took place on the “idyllic beaches of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii,” the academy’s Web site reports. Political and cultural heavyweights included Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu, Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt, basketball legend Bill Russell, Dell founder Michael S. Dell, actress Sally Field, rockers Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson, Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern and others.
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