Some of us are rooting for the mayor. He's struggled under a crumbling economy, a weak-mayor city council structure and a school district that, despite his promises, is clearly out of his hands. In 2005, a time that seems so go-go compared to today, Antonio Villaraigosa sat in the mayor's chair with the kind of mystical promise that surrounds President Obama today. Liberal Westsiders would have given Villaraigosa the Nobel Prize if they could have.
And now, you all know the rest of the story: He has stumbled. The city has faces a possible $1 billion dollar deficit, those potholes he promised to fill keep opening up, and his vow to lasso the school district was not exactly fulfilled. Not to mention his personal life, including an affair with a television reporter and subsequent split with his wife. The missteps and bad luck have derailed the Villaraigosa express, and his aspiration to become governor has been sidelined. We're sure Team V is working hard to find an issue — any issue — that the mayor can grip and trumpet with a fist of victory. He needs a political gravy train to get his career back on track.
Yesterday the mayor held a press conference announcing his “launch” of the Loan Modification Scam Alert program, which will roll out across the nation. The program offers a website (loanscamalert.org) and a toll-free number (1-888-995-4673) for homeowners who have been scammed or who are wary of a loan-modification agent. It offers a place to report shady businesses and a pulpit for information on how to avoid scams.
Good issue. As the mayor notes, Los Angeles has the highest home-foreclosure rate in the nation. And California is a hot zone for loan-modification scam artists who promise to renegotiate and reduce mortgage payments for owners desperate to keep their homes. Often they don't deliver, long after upfront fees have been paid.
Problem is, the industry has been festering since before the great recession began. Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running for that governor's gig that Villaraigosa has had his eye on for so long, has been all over it. Some purported victims are even allegedly taking the matter into their own hands. Loan-mod scams might someday be seen as one of the great swindles of the new millennium.
So, thousands of people have been losing their last dollars to scam artists and surrendering their homes to the banks since 2007, and the mayor does a news conference, in late 2009? To be fair, Villaraigosa has put the issue on his map before: In April he endorsed a city council ordinance that penalizes loan-modification scam artists.
But if we were to grant ownership to this issue, it would have to go to Brown. As for Villaraigosa, complete this sentence: The mayor of Los Angeles owns this issue, and that issue is _____.