Villaraigosa’s Lasting Legacy: You Fail Sometimes

Politics Comments

In his final State of the City address last night, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa diverged from prepared remarks filled with praise and tenderness for his performance these last eight years to answer a few of those detractors who might say he fell short. “You fail sometimes when you swing for the fences,” Villaraigosa said, going off-script. “You fail sometimes when you dare to dream. When you fight, even when you fight alone.”

I have been one of those detractors. In 2009, at the end of his first term, I wrote Los Angeles magazine’s “Failure” cover story on Villaraigosa. Recently I’ve been asked if I still stand by the statement four years later. Aside from the strides that the mayor has made in promising that L.A. be coal-free by 2025, and lobbying for a congressional legislation that will accelerate public transit construction, I do stand by the assertion that this mayor’s legacy is one of so much promise yet so much disappointment. All things considered, the off-script remarks in his address last night could more appropriately have gone like this:

You fail sometimes … when you spend much of your eight years in office chasing photo ops around the world and doing whatever it takes to get your face in front of TV cameras, campaigning for your political future instead of governing your city.

You fail sometimes … when your smiling portrait greets travelers at LAX, presiding over domestic terminals whose shabbiness and disarray comprise the first impression thousands of tourists have of the city.

You fail sometimes … when you accept tens of thousands of dollars in free tickets, food, and drink from arena owners doing business with the city without disclosing them as gifts, then claim you attended such events as a Spice Girls concert and an American Idol finale on official city business, then are forced to pay the highest-ever fine under the state ethics law.

You fail sometimes … when Charlie Sheen tweets a photo of you and himself at a hotel opening in Cabo San Lucas just as your name is being bandied about as possible U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

You fail sometimes … when you explain to the media that you hung out with Sheen for three minutes, and Sheen tells his followers you partied hard with him for two hours, and somehow Sheen’s explanation carries more credibility.

You fail sometimes … when you announce you have withdrawn your name for consideration as Secretary of Transportation, sparing the No Drama-Obama administration any future such embarrassments.

You fail sometimes … when the greatest risks you take in office stem not from political courage, but from an inability—personally and politically—to curb a crying need for instant gratification.

You fail sometimes … when you come into office with a unique capability to span the city’s divides, connecting Angelenos in Boyle Heights with those in Bel-Air, and leave office with the chasms between the city’s richest and poorest neighborhoods wider than they’ve ever been.

You fail sometimes … when your final State of the City speech is a nonstop celebration of you personally and the only explanations you can offer for your shortcomings are clichés like “swinging for the fences” and “daring to dream.”

We didn’t see swinging for the fences in his first term, or his second. Instead, we watched the spectacle of our mayor repeatedly shooting himself in the foot. Half the populace did, however, dare to dream when they voted for Villaraigosa. Hopefully L.A.’s next mayor will have more respect for those dreams.

RELATED: Watch Ed Leibowitz discuss Villaraigosa’s legacy on KTLA News:

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  • J. From BC

    -I think you are shooting the wrong people in the States…

  • db


    PHILIP J. LANCE, Episcopal minister; Founder, President and Executive Director of PUEBLO NUEVO DEVELOPMENT [a nonprofit community development corporation]; CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF CAMINO NUEVO CHARTER ACADEMY, MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA’S PRIZE EDUCATIONAL MODEL [a California Distinguished School given control of two schools under LAUSD’s Public Schools Choice Initiative]; owner and/or manager of at least one apartment complex since 2006, etc., IGNORED a January 2012 MOLD REPORT DOCUMENTATION OF HIGH LEVELS OF MOLD SPORES in one tenant’s apartment, then, illegally, retaliated forcing that approximately 30-year tenant and her family out of the apartment.

    Out of an eleven-unit apartment building all of the apartments appear to have some kind of “dust” problem, with doctor recommended air purifiers in a minimum of three apartments for: (1) a tenant who was having allergic reactions; (2) a tenant who had heart surgery; and, (3) the health of a newborn baby. In at least two apartments there are tenants with asthma problems, and, to say nothing of the other tenants, at least one other tenant appears to have some kind of health problem. Two new sets of unsuspecting tenants arrived in 2012 after Philip J. Lance became aware of this particular mold/mold spore problem. March 2012 the above-mentioned 30-year tenant was diagnosed with the irreversible “Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”, a major killer of Americans, and, advised to move out of her apartment. One of her dogs died April 2012. Her mold reports include the deadly Rhizopus and Aspergillus among the many mold spores identified: “Some Aspergillus spp. produce various mycotoxins. These mycotoxins, by chronic ingestion, have proven to possess carcinogenic potential particularly in animals.”

    Before the end of November 2012, the offices of LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL President Herb Wesson, County of Los Angeles Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and County of Los Angeles Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky had been contacted about the COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH and the LOS ANGELES HOUSING DEPARTMENT, all TO NO AVAIL.