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However, in the 10 weeks reviewed by the Weekly, Villaraigosa did give rare one-on-one time to Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary/treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; Tim Sands, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (one of the city’s most powerful government-employee labor unions); and Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. The latter group, though purportedly nonpartisan, is, in fact, tightly tied to Democratic Party leaders, and took media hits for peddling a $30 Villaraigosa bobblehead doll on its Web site.
ONE OF THE MOST telling pieces of information in Villaraigosa’s schedule is what doesn’t appear in its 22 pages. Between May 21 and August 1, the mayor seems to have rarely met with Angelenos who do not represent racial, ethnic, lobbying or labor groups.
Jack Humphreville would love a few minutes of the mayor’s time. A member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, Humphreville sits on a group whose name is a mouthful — the Department of Water and Power’s Memorandum of Understanding Oversight Committee, ordinary citizens who watch over DWP’s rate hikes.
When the DWP, whose top managers and powerful, politically appointed commissioners all work at the pleasure of the mayor, was pursuing huge, controversial rate hikes and rate restructuring in May, June and July, Humphreville both called and wrote to Villaraigosa, but to no avail.
In the scheme of things, Humphreville is an unlucky Angeleno who can’t do anything personally for Villaraigosa. He doesn’t raise any political money for him, he can’t introduce him to powerful players, and he can’t drum up union members to get out the vote for Villaraigosa next year. All he can do is act as a citizen voice, questioning massive utility hikes and quiet surcharges that are pushing average household electric bills to almost $800 a year by 2010.
“We’ve found the mayor’s office to be nonresponsive,” Humphreville says, making it clear that he was speaking only for himself and not for the committees on which he serves. After he was shut out by the bustling mayor during that key debate, “Nobody on the City Council and nobody in the mayor’s office did a real analysis on the impact of the [rate] restructuring plan on single-family homes.”
By the same token, Humphreville, who’s active in the neighborhood-councils community — a growing, grass-roots force in city life that is mostly absent from the mayor’s packed calendar — says, “The only time I’ve seen the mayor with the neighborhood councils is at the groups’ fests, where the mayor comes in, makes a speech and leaves.”
Humphreville may have rubbed Villaraigosa the wrong way when he asked DWP officials for a full financial breakdown of the mayor’s recent trip to Israel, which, oddly in the view of some critics, the DWP paid for. Villaraigosa says he was learning green technology and airport security from the Israelis, justifying the cadre of 19 City Hall politicians and staff who accompanied him. But in the two months since that pricey trip, the DWP has not released those details, says Humphreville. “We haven’t seen squat.”
When told about how the mayor spent his time this summer, Humphreville responds, “What’s wisely? His goal is to be re-elected and raise a lot of money. He’s doing what’s best for him, although he likes to spin it another way.”
Throughout May and June, Villaraigosa was said to be gearing up for the July 1 takeover of 10 low-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District through his Partnership for L.A. Schools program. But in fact the record shows the mayor was busy visiting New York City and Israel between June 9 and June 17, and he was holding 16 fund-raisers that month. Even so, Bill Ring still hoped to hear from Villaraigosa. “We were never contacted,” says Ring. The father is the former chairman and active member of the Parent Collaborative, a group funded by LAUSD that brings together all the major parents’ organizations in the nation’s second-largest public-school system.
The Parent Collaborative is considered by many to be the key resource for parental feedback, especially for Villaraigosa, now that he is apparently making decisions at 10 troubled schools about how to educate people’s kids. Ring says Villaraigosa has never asked to meet anyone from the Parent Collaborative, although they have sent the mayor letters.
Marshall Tuck, CEO of the Partnership, met with Ring and another Parent Collaborative member in the fall of 2007 — almost a year ago — but, Ring says, “Nothing came out of it.” He isn’t expecting to hear from the mayor soon. “I think there’s a perception that the mayor has other things on his mind,” says Ring.
In June and July, Villaraigosa did have the time, however, to send out two letters to solicit his latest round of campaign contributions. The June letter said he’d moved Los Angeles “forward in becoming the greenest and most efficient big city in the world.” The July letter boasted about how he was transforming “L.A. into the cleanest and greenest big city in America.”