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Voters Return Villaraigosa to City Hall

Los Angeles Wave, News Report, Alice Walton Posted: Mar 04, 2009

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday was gearing up for another four years at the helm of the nations second-largest city, assuming he does not cut his term short to run for governor in 2010.

The incumbent mayor cruised to victory in Tuesdays election, easily beating a field of nine challengers, thanks to a $2.9 million campaign war chest and a lack of serious competition.

None of the challengers stood much of a chance against Villaraigosa, despite uncertainty about whether he would serve the full term or run for governor. So far, he has been cagey about answering that question definitively.

At a briefing Wednesday, Villaraigosa said that he, like anyone with the chance at the highest office in state, would consider a run.

If you were confronted, be honest, with the possibility of serving as governor of the state of California, would you not consider it? he asked, rhetorically. Anybody would consider it. This is a big thing.

The low-key campaign leading up to Tuesdays election contrasted sharply with the bitter 2005 race that pitted Villaraigosa against then-incumbent Jim Hahn.

Attorney Walter Moore, who received 2.77 percent of the vote in the 2005 primary, raised $208,122 for his race, making him the most serious of the nine challengers facing Villaraigosa. But he finished a distant second with 26.27 percent of the vote.

Villaraigosa won a second term with 55.56 percent of the vote.

When you think about the fact that there were nine candidates in the race, that it was a low-turnout election, its about what we expected. No candidate got more than, I think, 25 percent of the vote so it was a win. A win is a win, the mayor said.

At the Bonaventure hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Villaraigosa thanked his supporters for their support and forgiveness a apparent reference to an affair the mayor had with a television news reporter that led to his divorce not long after he was first elected mayor.

I stand before you all humbled tonight, humbled by your support and your confidence, Villaraigosa told his supporters at the Bonaventure hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where he watched the election returns. Im humbled by your continued trust and your continuing forgiveness.

I know these are tough times for many of our families, he said. You see, Ive traveled around our city for the last few months, and Ive witnessed the anxiety rising. Ive seen despair in the faces of families underwater, their mortgages, just a paycheck away from losing everything. And I have a simple message for Los Angeles tonight: Were going to rebound from this economic crisis and we will emerge stronger than ever.

The mayor admitted that he has made my share of mistakes, but he added, I have never lost my focus on the task at hand.

Former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson introduced Villaraigosa, touting the citys low crime numbers and investment in public transportation and schools, issues the mayor has frequently highlighted as among his accomplishments.

My friend Antonio is a man of action, Johnson said. He is the hardest working mayor in the country, and he fights for every single person who lives in Los Angeles, no matter rich, poor, middle class. Hes fighting for all of us.

Also on the mayoral ballot were David Hernandez, who led the fight against a city measure that extended term limits for council members, and David Zuma Dogg Saltsburg, a gadfly who typically has attended council meetings in an oversized white T-shirt, black sunglasses and a knit cap but who began wearing a suit once he qualified for the ballot.

Saltsburg was briefly questioned by LAPD detectives last week about threats he allegedly made against fellow candidate Craig X. Rubin. Rubin lodged a complaint, but Saltsburg vehemently denied making threats and was released after the questioning.

The remaining candidates on the ballot were Carlos Alvarez, Gordon Turner, Phil Jennerjahn, James Harris and Bruce Darian.

In the last four years, Villaraigosa has made public safety, education, transportation and the environment the major focus of his administration.

Four years ago, he pledged to increase the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department by 1,000 officers. To pay for those new officers, the city trash-collection fee was increased from $11 to $28 over a four-year period. The fee was increased again last year to $36.32 a month for single-family households and $24.33 a month for apartment buildings.

The LAPD now has 9,895 officers, an all-time high for the department and a net increase of 756 since Villaraigosa took office.

During the same time, crime has dropped throughout the city. There were 381 homicides in 2008, 15 fewer than the previous year and the lowest number since 1969, when there were 377 murders.

Villaraigosa experienced setbacks in his bid to take control of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The mayor successfully pursued Assembly Bill 1381, which shifted decision-making authority from the LAUSD board to a district superintendent and gave the mayor of Los Angeles a significant role in managing the countrys second-largest school district.

But the courts invalidated the bill, making the victory short-lived.

During the 2007 school board elections, four candidates backed by Villaraigosa were elected to the board, and last year Ramon C. Cortines, seen as an ally of the mayor, was hired as LAUSD superintendent.

Villaraigosa was also given control of 10 of the districts lowest- performing schools through the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

In November, the mayor scored a victory on the transportation front with the passage of Measure R, a half-cent sales tax that will generate an estimate $40 billion over the next 30 years for transit projects in Los Angeles County.

Since 2005, the city has synchronized traffic lights, increased enforcement of parking restrictions during rush hour and deployed traffic officers to congested intersections.

On the environmental front, Villaraigosa has repeatedly said he wants to make Los Angeles the nations greenest city. His goal is to provide 20 percent of the citys energy through alternative resources by 2010.

A major part of that effort is the Solar LA plan, which would allow the Department of Water and Power to meet 10 percent of the citys energy needs with solar power by the year 2020.

Last year, the mayor announced a $1 billion, 20-year plan to meet the citys long-term water needs.

The plan calls for a six-fold increase in the DWPs recycled water use and upgrades to the Tillman Wastewater Treatment Plant and Hansen, Tujunga and Pacoima spreading grounds.

Additionally, Villaraigosa has warned Angelenos they will be asked to ration water this spring.

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