Today, July 1, Los Angeles gets a new mayor.
Just in the past, pre-inaugural week, Antonio Villaraigosa has been working, and getting some anticipatory scolding. First he helped broker a compromise between management and striking workers of local hotels, winning praise for being hands-on and helping people reach consensus. Now, on inauguration day, the LA Times and the LA Weekly both point out how much it would cost to keep some of his campaign promises, such as adding more cops to the force and extending the rail system.
Though he has a track record as Speaker of the State Assembly and as a city councilman, some of the eagerness with which Villaraigosa has been greeted locally comes from the contrast of his energetic footsteps and pats on the back with reserved James Hahn's perpetual monotone. It's only reluctantly that we acknowledge that charisma, which does not in itself guarantee any kind of results, is often a key quality in a politician.
The times we've crossed paths with him, Villaraigosa has demonstrated that, in addition to the charm, he knows how to get things done. At a 2001 event for nonprofit organizations, held during the last campaign, he was the only candidate who showed up, and he proceeded to answer detailed questions from the audience about their particular fields, from environment to education. Last year when the Cultural Affairs Department was nearly eliminated, he found money that was going unspent elsewhere and helped get it transferred over. Now, as mayor, he'll have many more people and systems to try to balance. Can he persuade voters to accept more taxes in order to pay for the services they want, or find programs to cut without causing uproars and pain? Can he make unpopular decisions if he has to and regain his popularity? It's inauguration day; there's nothing to say but the cliché: it remains to be seen. Welcome, Mayor Villaraigosa.