Where's Antonio? Chatting with Obama, Hanging with James Cameron

It was a big week for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who gave his annual "state of the city" speech on Tuesday, even though he said it wouldn't be that kind of speech. Instead, the mayor largely talked about his proposed budget and the Los Angeles of his youth.

Villaraigosa didn't have much of a choice to go off-topic, really -- the state of L.A. is far from rosy.

By the end of the week, though, the mayor continued to do a good job at something he seems to have a special talent for: Getting face time, with cameras often present, with very powerful people.

In this case, they were President Barack Obama, LAPD chief Charlie Beck, and the King of Hollywood, James Cameron, who directed the MEGA-hit Avatar.

On Monday, April 19, Villaraigosa's week started off with the 9:30 a.m. announcement at City Hall that yet another person was going to take the reigns at the Department of Water and Power.

This time, wealthy businessman Austin Beutner is the nominee to be "interim general manager." Beutner makes for the third DWP general manager in six months.

On Tuesday morning, Villaraigosa was up early to meet President Barack Obama, who lost his cool the previous night with gay rights activists, at Los Angeles International Airport. The mayor asked Obama for $2 billion for his legacy project, "Subway to the Sea."

"He started laughing and gave me a hug cause he said I was indefatigable and I won't take no for an answer," Villaraigosa told City News Service about his encounter with Obama, "but he didn't give me the money."

Then Villaraigosa was chauffeured in his SUV to downtown L.A. for the 4 p.m. "state of city" address in the auditorium of the new police headquarters, which L.A. Weekly's Dennis Romero reports about here.

Villaraigosa talked about L.A.'s future and past -- his proposed budget (future), his Grandpa Pete (past), and his time as shoe shine boy in downtown (past, again) -- but there wasn't a lot of focus on the current state of city.

On Wednesday, Villaraigosa teamed up with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck for a 10 a.m. press conference at City Hall, where they announced a Domestic Violence Initiative.

Coincidence that this happened the day after his big speech on Tuesday? Probably not. Villaraigosa has long made it a habit to look to an LAPD chief for political cover.

On Thursday, the mayor was back on the public relations circuit with a 9 a.m. tree planting at Griffith Park, a 10 a.m. Earth Day "kick-off" event with Academy Award-winning director James Cameron at the Nokia Theatre, a 3 p.m. Earth Day awards ceremony with Cameron, and then a 7:30 p.m. speech at an event for the Community Arts Partnership's 20th anniversary.

Villaraigosa also attended the mandatory meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors, which took place at 10:30 a.m. in downtown.

Today, Villaraigosa will wrap up his week with another media blitz.

At 9 a.m., the mayor will hold a press conference at the Bethel AME Church to announce the second gun buy back program. At 10:10 a.m., Villaraigosa will make remarks at an L.A. City Council meeting for Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Then at 12 p.m., the mayor will hold a press conference at City Hall to proclaim Friday as "Ozomatli Day."  Ozomatli, the top-notch, L.A. band, is expected to join the mayor.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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