Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was running late. His "State of the City" address, which took place at the Balqon Electric Truck Factory in Harbor City, a community of middle-class and lower-income neighborhoods in the South Bay, was supposed to start at 3:30 p.m., but by four o'clock in the afternoon there was still no sign of the mayor.
Instead, L.A. Cityview, the city's public access channel, showed images of what appeared to be some kind of party inside a truck warehouse, with L.A. City Council members Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry, and Bill Rosendahl, among others, shaking hands and patting each other on the back. A high school band played up-beat, jazzy tunes, and the only thing that seemed to be missing to make the Election Night-like festivities complete was an open bar.
Before Villaraigosa finally took the stage at a little after 4 p.m., L.A. Cityview, which is financed by the public, aired what amounted to an infomercial for "green" trucks -- which just happens to be the kind of truck the Balqon company makes -- and the mayor's environmental policies. In his seeming desire to run for governor, it appeared Villaraigosa would undoubtedly spin his questionable environmental record into something bright and shiny.
Although the mayor's vocal delivery was a bit choppy and strained, Villaraigosa sounded, once again, like the greenest, most optimistic mayor to ever hold office.
"The future is not a self-fulfilling prophency," he said at one point. "It's what we say yes to." He also promised to create a "green corridor" in L.A. that would lure "from around the world" the best minds in "green technology."
Villaraigosa's speech was full of buzz words: "green collar jobs," "subway to the sea," "maximum impact," "reform campuses," and others. For his theme song, he even selected the Sly and the Family Stone song "Everyday People." It was a slick show, with the mayor wearing a dark suit and silver-colored tie as two American flags stood behind him.
Last year, Villaraigosa's "State of the City" address emphasized the need for more cops and more gang intervention. This year, Villaraigosa was still hitting that point, but with a twist: Despite the bad economy, he said, the city must "keep a compact" with the public and go forward with hiring more cops.
L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti, who has a big say in hiring those cops, was quick with his own blog posting today that backed up the mayor, saying that despite any other problems the city may face -- crumbling sidewalks, higher unemployment, housing foreclosures -- "Our top priority is keeping communities safe, and even as we work
to close a large budget gap we will strategically focus our resources
so that we don't lose momentum on the dramatic decrease in crime Los
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Angeles has experienced in recent years."
Villaraigosa, in other words, has already lined up the big political guns to stick with his police hiring agenda, which will become another focal point of his gubernatorial campaign if he decides to run.
By the end of the address, Villaraigosa smiled, asked God to bless everyone, and then worked the warehouse crowd as if he were running for -- or from -- something. The politicians in the audience stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Everyone was smiling, but the city still faces a nearly $500 million budget shortfall.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
(Correction: A previous version of this post was not accurate. This year's budget shortfall is nearly $500 million, not "nearly $1 billion." The city may face a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the 2010/2011 fiscal year.)