Dante Alighieri’s poem, The Divine Comedy, refers to Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride as “the seven deadly sins.” In those days, people believed these sins, if not forgiven, would mar a person’s relationship with God.
In City government, Angelenos might list any number of performance failures that could wreck an elected official’s career. Thus, this column cites seven serious failures that, according to many observers, have soured the relationship between the outgoing Mayor, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, and his constituents.
- Violating the City Charter. Section 230 of the Charter requires the Mayor to devote his entire time to the affairs of his/her office. Yet during his first 6 months in office, Villaraigosa criss-crossed the country on behalf of a presidential candidate. And that was not his only violation of Section 230.
- Eroding Accountability. Charter Section 541 vests the Board of Civil Service Commissioners with the power and duty to make and enforce the civil service rules and to establish and maintain the civil service system. But Mayor Villaraigosa has not allowed the Board to do what the Charter requires it to do. That diminishes department managers’ accountability to the people of Los Angeles.
- Usurping Powers Vested In the Board of Civil Service Commissioners. By handcuffing the Board and down-sizing its role, Mayor Villaraigosa leaves City Service with no one who’s authorized to enforce the rules and oversee the civil service system. He seems to be claiming those powers for himself.
- Refusing to Use His Management Authority. Charter Section 231(a) vests the Mayor with management authority over virtually all City departments. But instead of using that authority to improve civil service, Villaraigosa allows each department to manage — or mismanage — itself.
- Misleading the Public. The most recent example of this failure involved the effort to raise the sales tax in Los Angeles. Initially the Mayor did not support Proposition A. Then, he said he might be persuaded to support it. And as the election date neared, he said the additional revenue was needed to close a $220M budget gap. But two days after the measure was defeated, the Mayor said the budget gap might be only half as big as had previously been predicted. But he knew that before the election!
- Inviting Corruption. During Villaraigosa’s first term as Mayor, a major newspaper in Los Angeles reported that in his first two years, the Mayor had collected nearly twenty million dollars from wealthy donors, many of whom have business with the City. At the very least, that creates the appearance of corruption. In some cases, it may actually have resulted in preferential treatment for those donors.
- Limiting Voter Participation. On at least two occasions, Mayor Villaraigosa acted as if the people of Los Angeles should have no say in matters that affect them. For example, the people should have been allowed to vote on the “Living Wage” issue. They were denied that right, apparently, because the Mayor didn’t trust the voters to support his position. Similarly, the people should have been allowed to vote on proposals to put the City’s school system under the Mayor’s control. But instead of asking the people to support his plan, Villaraigosa took the “Lone Ranger” approach, shut the people out and, subsequently, politicized the Board of Education.
This column represents the views of a former Villaraigosa supporter. It reports a few of the Mayor’s most glaring failures. It’s submitted as that Mayor nears the end of his career, but before his replacement has been elected. It is, of course, an evaluation. But hopefully, it will also be viewed as a cautionary note to the two candidates who want to be the City’s next Mayor: If you want the people to trust you, you must prove that you are worthy of their trust!
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