Why Antonio Villaraigosa, Barack Obama's Top Cheerleader, Has Been Deemed a 'Failure' in Los Angeles

With the Democratic National Convention now over, it's clear that President Barack Obama has chosen, of all people, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to be a high-profile cheerleader for his 2012 re-election campaign.

That decision has caused a lot of head scratching in Los Angeles. He was, after all, deemed a "failure" by Los Angeles magazine and the "All-About-Me Mayor" by L.A. Weekly.

Since American voters will be seeing a lot of Villaraigosa in the coming months, and he'll undoubtedly push for a high-level White House job if Obama is re-elected, here are some important things they should know about our mayor...

In 2008, L.A. Weekly published the feature story "The All-About-Me Mayor," in which we found that due to numerous trips out of town, self-promotion events, and other time wasters, Villaraigosa had over a ten-week period only spent 11 percent of his time on the nuts-and-bolts work of running the nation's second largest city.

That's right. Only 11 percent.

"No mayor has been out of town like Antonio, not in my time in Los Angeles," former Daily News editor Ron Kaye told L.A. Weekly. "And part of his game is to be buried in nonsense. ... He needs to get to work!"

In the 2009 L.A. Weekly cover story "Envirowimps: L.A.'s Big Green Groups Get Comfy," Los Angeles-area environmentalists grumbled that when it came to environmental issues Villaraigosa had a "lack of vision" and was "slow [to] action."

"We're 12 years behind New York in making L.A. a green city!" exclaimed Melanie Winter of The River Project.

In 2010, L.A. Weekly ran the story "Villaraigosa's Five-Year Free Ticket Spree," in which we found that the mayor had controversially accepted free tickets for 80 events worth between $50,000 and $100,000.

"Villaraigosa has very quietly accepted -- and even angled for -- free tickets to as many as 80 pricey events," managing editor Jill Stewart and reporter Tibby Rothman wrote, "then failed to report all but one of them, as well as failed to keep records of his actions or the sources of this largesse."

Vandalized Villaraigosa mural in East Hollywood
Vandalized Villaraigosa mural in East Hollywood
photo by Ted Soqui

By the way, folks in L.A.'s Latino community aren't too pleased with Villaraigosa. In September 2009, an East Hollywood mural of Villaraigosa was splashed with red paint and tagged with the word "vendido," which translated from Spanish essentially means someone who has sold out his people.

In the 2011 L.A. Weekly feature story "City of Airheads," we found that Villaraigosa-approved budget slashing had decimated Los Angeles' once-proud public library system -- and that no other major city except for Detroit had shuttered its libraries two days a week.

"L.A. is known as a city of airheads," Sara Ring, an L.A. writer and mother, told us. "Then we go and cut the library budget. It doesn't send a great message to the rest of the country."

L.A. librarian Elyse Barrere noted that the library closings impacted the safety of young people in tough neighborhoods.

"I just keep thinking about those kids," she said. "The library was a neutral territory where the gangs didn't really come in. It makes me worry about them. It could be a very bad situation."

In 2011, the L.A. Weekly story "Los Angeles: Broke and Broken" noted that while Villaraigosa was cutting the library budget and other city services, he maintained the largest mayoral staff in the city's history at an annual cost of $42 million.

"There's no kind of holistic or systemic approach to running the city," community activist Stephen Box observed. "We're not improving or solving long-term problems, just postponing."

There's more we could share with American voters, but we'll leave it there for now.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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