Three days after Barack Obama was elected the nation’s next president, he announced an economic transition team to advise him on strategies to turn the country’s desperate economic picture around.
Filled with some of the most experienced business, economic policy and labor leaders in the country, the Transition Economic Advisory Board includes Warren Buffett, four former cabinet members, a former chairman of the SEC, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the chairman and CEO of Google. And Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The selection was slammed by Gawker and many others, and L.A. Weekly took to the streets to find out how Angelenos would vet Villaraigosa’s economic qualifications.
Martha Cisneros, legal secretary: “He’s everywhere where he shouldn’t be. I don’t know if he’ll be able to help Obama. I was a little disappointed to hear that he was part of the economic transition. I mean look at the city; it’s a mess. What’s he going to offer?”
Bill Perell, retired from a career manufacturing aerospace component parts: “I don’t really understand how he would be qualified to sit on that [board]. He’s way over his head as far as the economy of the country is concerned. “As far as the economy of the city where he is mayor, I think he has probably done a fair job. An adequate type of job.”
Colette Bailey, manager of technical services for a large clothing company: “I can’t believe somebody who has not a clue of what to do for the city of L.A. is on that team. What kind of experience can he offer that group of people, given the failures at our city government and the lack of fiscal responsibility that goes on here in L.A.? Maybe he can raise garbage fees for the whole nation.”
Bill Fairweather, retired from the tennis-paddle manufacturing industry: “I don’t know what expertise he has in that field. He’s not an economist, is he? What’s he done? He’s always off gallivanting somewhere else ... [but] he’s been an improvement over some of the mayors we’ve had in the past. We’ve had some pretty bad ones here in L.A., going back to Mayor [Sam] Yorty.”
Tshombe Samtson, lawyer: “I guess, as a public official of that large a city, he may have some input as to how his city is doing economically. [But] I don’t think he’s going to contribute to a solution in any way.”
Victor Liebman, finance industry: “I think it’s just simply politics. [He’s not] comparable to Zuckerman and Bloomberg out of New York — U.S. News & World Report and Bloomberg News — in the sense that these are men who know the economy, are absolutely completely knowledgeable. You could make a line of people who were more qualified.”
Vicente Victorin, barber: “I remember last year he was in Israel promoting tourism and now he’s going to be in Washington, D.C., so maybe it [would be] better that he’s here in Los Angeles.”
Soccoro Gallegos, administration and bookkeeping: “I think it’s a wonderful idea. I do respect Antonio Villagaigosa. I do think that he’s very qualified and I’m very thrilled that a Hispanic will be part of [Obama’s] advisory committee.”
Rhoni Epstein, photographer’s agent: “On one hand, I think it’s great that Barack has got somebody who is Mexican-American, I think [that’s] very important. On the other hand, I really don’t know how he got there, I really don’t know what he did, what he did for L.A.”
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Will Grover, caterer: “I think Villaraigosa wants to be governor of the state. I don’t think he wants to go to Washington and get into the cabinet. So I would rather see him stay here and work toward becoming governor. I think he would be a great governor.”
Bernardo Charca, architect: “Obama must see L.A. as a rich ground to enact his infrastructure and green-jobs policies. We have a limited public transportation system, in need of funding and expansion. And L.A. is at the forefront of green design.”
Lewis Briggs, clothing industry: “I don’t really know much about Mayor Villaraigosa at all. I come from New York. I knew Guiliani, I knew Bloomberg, Koch — those guys all seemed to be [more effective].”
Jason Weber, hairstylist: “It was ridiculous. He doesn’t know anything about finances, and the only thing that he’s proven to me that he knows how to do is to make it to every photo op in town on a daily basis.”