Villaraigosa’s Rising Profile Shadowed by Problems in L.A.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is storming the national stage like never before, rebutting GOP talking points in Tampa, Fla., during the Republican convention, becoming a fixture on Sunday morning talk shows and preparing to open next week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where he will play a key leadership role.
Written off by some after a much-publicized extramarital affair and a scandal over free sports and concert tickets, Villaraigosa has emerged as a major figure in the Democrats’ efforts to get out the crucial Latino vote and is again being talked about as a future governor or senator. He’s even coyly danced around questions on CNN about a possible White House bid.
But as his national political star rises, the nagging financial crisis at City Hall could complicate that ascent. Back home, key Villaraigosa allies are warning City Hall is on the verge of going broke. Complaints from neighborhood activists over reduced city services are growing louder.
And public employee unions, a force at next week’s Democratic convention, are increasingly hostile to Villaraigosa. Some, angry over the mayor’s efforts to roll back pension benefits, have likened him to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a lightning rod of anti-union fervor and a target of Democratic Party ire.
Last week, former Mayor Richard Riordan — a Republican who has endorsed Villaraigosa three times — raised new alarms about spiraling pension costs, declaring that L.A. is headed “deeper into financial disaster.”
The mayor’s top budget analyst warned that record-high staffing at the Los Angeles Police Department — a signature achievement during Villaraigosa’s first term — is in jeopardy unless voters pass two new tax increases.