Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Congratulations Antonio Villaraigosa

Last night the City of Los Angeles re-elected Antonio Villaraigosa to four more years as LA Mayor. Whether or not he will run for Governor is still to be determined. Words cannot express how overjoyed I am to see such an accomplished Mayor get re-elected by such a mandate. He truly has turned the City of Los Angeles around and has gotten major projects moving.

Rail projects such as light rail to the airport, a subway to the sea and a rail to East Los Angeles are all seeing the light of day. The Green Line will no longer be the railway to nowhere, it will finally end at two major destinations. The stupid ban on subways to the Westside has been lifted. This mayor has delivered on his promises.

The city is safer than ever before. Unlike certain elected officials in Santa Ana, Villaraigosa was not afraid to admit LA had a gang problem. He admitted it, and then, working with Chief Bratton, he tackled it head on, hiring more police, cracking down on the thugs running the streets. There are still some thugs roaming the streets, but now they are facing a police force, a mayor and now an inspired populace out to take back those streets.

I have noticed more libraries than ever before. When I worked in LA, I would sometimes go to Happy Hour at a restaurant called Taix in Echo Park. Next door to it was an old, run down building. In 2007, after many years of not visiting that restaurant, that run down building was now a LIBRARY. In Panorama City, where my in-laws live, there was an abandoned bank building, that building is now a LIBRARY. In four years, Villaraigosa saw the opening of Libraries in inner-city communities, giving children a place to go to educate themselves and get respite from the mean streets of LA.

Villaraigosa has also worked to improve the education system of Los Angeles and has sought to create a workable LAUSD. Of course the status quo fought back, but did he back down, no not him. He worked to ensure he got control of some of the schools, and as a result, those schools perform higher than other LAUSD schools, they have more parental involvement and are considered safer. The schools he chose to change were in the neediest of areas, not on the periphery of the city among the most privileged of residents. The Charter Schools he helped create, they were in areas like WATTS , meant to bring in the students in the inner city. He refused to strong arm the school board to approve Charter schools formed to segregate his friends’ kids from the community at large, much like another inner city has done. Villaraigosa has tried to influence the LAUSD in order to better the lives of all Angelinos, not just the lives of his affluent neighbors and contractor buddies.

When communities did have spikes in crime, caused by gangs trying to hang on to their dwindling power, Villaraigosa did not hide in LA’s most affluent neighborhood or Tennis Center. Instead he went to those communities, he faced angry residents and sought to resolve their concerns. He is more than a Mayor, he is a fine example of a Public Servant.

Just yesterday I found an article (Which you can read HERE) on the amount of change that has come to the community of Wilmington, including a major 30 acre park for this once underserved community. I remember horror stories that would come out of a section of Wilmington called Ghost Town. Now the gangs are on the run. This is what happens when you have a Mayor and a Councilwoman (Janice Hahn) who work together and are on the same page to turn a community around. Wilmington is not unlike Santa Ana, yet the future looks bright for Wilmington and they did it by listening to the residents, by encouraging home grown businesses from its many young residents. They worked with the residents to create a vision and then implement it instead of listening to a few people in an inner clique and bureaucrats who think they know what is best for all the peones and treat the city like their personal hacienda.

Last of all, I challenge anyone to take a look at Downtown LA. If anyone remembers the 80’s, Downtown LA became a graveyard after 5:00 P.M. Now it is a vibrant and active place, and has become a major nightlife destination. All this under Villaraigosa’s watch. But the best is yet to come.

I look forward to the world class zoo finally reaching completion with the new Elephant Exhibit. I look forward to the new rail projects reaching completion, making LA a much more convenient place to get around. Villaraigosa may have his faults when it comes to his marriage, but the City of LA elected him to turn their city around, not to be their husband. He has delivered on what he was elected to do and will continue to deliver. More Mayors need to look to Villaraigosa as an example of what a mayor should be and what a mayor should do. He has shown that it does not take decades to get things done, like certain mayors claim, he managed to do so much in less than half a decade and has accomplished more in 4 years than some have in 14.

Congratulations Mayor Villaraigosa, keep up the good work!

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