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A Lesson in Philanthropy for Villaraigosa

Over the weekend, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa flew into Denver for several days and nights of glad-handing and back-slapping at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. It'll be a good time for Villaraigosa to make new friends, assure old ones, and work on his status as a rising star in national politics.

But if the mayor wants to do some research for the city of Los Angeles, he should visit Eli Broad, one of the most civic-minded billionaires in the country who also happens to live in LA, at the 2008 Philanthropy Roundtable in Denver on Monday afternoon. It may be the kind of thing that'll inspire Villaraigosa to reach out to the rich and powerful for more than big campaign contributions.

Although a lot of big money in LA has lined up behind Villaraigosa and his re-election campaign, there still have been rumblings that the mayor hasn't always engaged them in a meaningful way. Eli Broad, for example, told me that Villaraigosa rarely calls him for advice, unlike former mayors Richard Riordan and Jim Hahn.

“Dick (Riordan) believed if people had certain talents and successes, you should tap them,” Broad said to me recently. “I don’t think Antonio has done that.”

I've heard similar complaints from other rich folks, although they went off the record.

In Denver, Broad will sit on a panel with Ted Turner, Google's Lawrence Brilliant, and others to discuss such topics as how philanthropy can cut through bureaucracy and be a driving force for change. That's important stuff, and something Villaraigosa may want to hear, especially since big cities like LA are mired in red tape. Now that the mayor will not be a prominent speaker at the convention, he'll have the free time to learn a thing or two.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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