Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elections in LA: Not a great day for Antonio V

Antonio Villaraigosa won reelection as Mayor of Los Angeles yesterday. Good news for him, but bad news in the results - he only won 55% of the vote. I was joking yesterday that the only question in this election was whether he was going to get 70, 80, or 85% of the vote. Ooops. He had nine opponents, but none of them were serious candidates. One of them was listed on the ballot as having the nickname "Zuma Dogg." That was actually on the ballot, with two "g's" in "Dogg" (only in LA, really - Zuma is the name of a beach in Malibu). Only 15% of the electorate turned out. That ain't much of a mandate. He pushed hard for Measure B, a proposal for solar energy in LA, but it looks like it might not pass. Which would be a good thing - I voted against it.

I still like Antonio, I still think he's doing a good job as mayor. But I agree with the LA Times that Antonio and his allies need to do some deep thinking. Democrats run LA with virtually no interference from Republicans. That can be good and bad; good, because there isn't much opposition. Bad, because there isn't much opposition. That's good because it makes it easier to get things done, but bad because getting things done easily sometimes means you start to get sloppy without someone asking hard questions.

It is entirely possible that the lack of serious opposition is starting to go to Antonio's head. And the heads of those around him. Power corrupts, guys. Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call. Antonio has done a lot of good things, and he hasn't made any horrendous mistakes. Most of what he has done has been largely invisible; from what I can tell, he's appointed very good people. He has gotten a lot of good things going, and there are many things going well under him that started out under people before him; the subway is one, cleaning up the ports is another. Let's hope he learns the lesson of this election quickly, and let's hope this is one trend that starts and stops in LA - thank goodness there are enough Republicans in Congress to at least pretend to be the loyal opposition. Antonio has hit a lot of singles, maybe a few doubles, but no home runs. He needs to hit something out of the park.

My suggestion would be LAX. Something needs to be done with the major entry point for millions of people to LA. It needs to be seriously redesigned, and there needs to be good public transportation there, ideally light rail. There were some good proposals floating around several years ago, but I haven't heard anything basically since Antonio took office. My impression is that there have been many minor changes at the airport, but nothing major. Even if he proposes a sweeping overhaul tomorrow, nothing will be visibly different by the time he's running for his next office, whatever that is. Antonio opposed the last major overhaul of the airport; that was one of my points of disagreement with him. Reviving that proposal - or any proposal - would be a good way to generate the kind of attention he wants and needs to be governor. Someone get this man a cup of coffee so he can smell it.

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