Editorial: VILLARAIGOSA FOR MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
In this city of dreams, none burns brighter than that of AntonioVillarai= gosa.
From the East Los Angeles barrio to the mansions of theaffluent West Side= , his vision for the City of Angels has inspired,united, renewed and lifted= us, revitalized our decaying democraticprocess, and offered meaningful cha= nge to a population that has heard itpromised many times but now has a real= opportunity to see it come.
Born here to a poor, hard-working immigrant mother and abusive, alcoholi= c Irish-Mexican father, he found his dreams extinguished in his sophomore y= ear of high school when doctors discovered a tumor on his spine that paraly= zed his legs and kept him from playing high school sports. Soon after reco= vering, he felt his future slipping away and dropped out of high school.
But that would not be the end of Antonio Villaraigosa. Urgedforward by = his mother, he returned to study at night and finish his senioryear. There was no stopping him after that. He headed the UCLA chapterof the C= hicano activist group MEChA, got a law degree from theAntioch-sponsored Peo= ple's Law School, became head of the local ACLU,married a teacher and becam= e lead organizer for the United Teachers of LosAngeles, and then got union = support to get elected to a hotly-contestedseat in the California State Ass= embly.
Once there, watching the dramatic turnover occasioned by the advent of t= erm limits, he seized the opportunity to run for Speaker.
Thus, just three years after first getting elected to office, he becam= e one of the four most powerful people in the State of California.
In the Assembly, Villaraigosa built coalitions from the most unlikely co= mbinations of interests the hidebound California Assembly had ever seen. F= ar-right Republicans joined with far-left Democrats in support of legislati= ve proposals he pushed for school bonds and parks -- bills that not only be= came law, but have begun to transform at last the barren landscapes of educ= ation and parks in California.
Villaraigosa's most important challenge as a democratic leader came when= he was asked to support a bill that would make it possible for the San Fer= nando Valley, part of which was in his district, to break away from the pre= sent City of Los Angeles by removing the absolute veto the Los Angeles City= Council then had over secession proposals.
His suppoort was critical to passage of the legislation, but Villaraig= osa encountered heavy opposition from entrenched city interests -- much of = it from the politicians whose support would be crucial in any future legisl= ative or municipal race.
The former Speaker later explained at a mayoral debate sponsored by The = American Reporter that he was committed to a democratic process, and that t= his meant allowing people to vote on issues whether or not he agreed with t= heir point of view. To us, that is the missing ingredient in American publi= c life today: the inclusion not just of ethnically diverse but politically = diverse points of view in the mainstream democratic process. Achieving that= could well make the difference between dissidence in our present and civil= strife in our future.
At a personal level, Villaraigosa freely admits his personal and politic= al mistakes; to us, that is a refreshing and hopeful quality. But it is no= t his mistakes or apologies that inspires us to endorse him for Mayor of Lo= s Angeles on June 5.
We believe that Antonio Villaraigosa is an accident of history, one of t= he million-to-one shots who come along once or twice in a centuryto offer l= eadership of such breadth, intelligence and compassion that ittruly transfo= rms the people and place it serves.
Villaraigosa's energy, his winning enthusiasm and genuine warmth, his = understanding of democratic inclusion and his proven ability to deliver on = large-scale promises can reignite the aspirations of Angelenos and remake t= heir future in a way his rival cannot match.
We heartily endorse a man who is of the people and for the people for el= ection by the people: Antonio Villaraigosa will make a great Mayor of Los = Angeles.