"“The difference is that when you’re Mayor… you’re more focused on practical solutions to problems than you might be if you were working in a state capital or national capital.” -- Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa, Jr.
Summary: Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa, Jr., the current Mayor of Los Angeles, discuses his role and his plans to shape the city’s future.
A long history
For Antonio R. Villaraigosa, the city’s Mayor since 2005, the opportunity to lead the city in which he was born represents a dream come true.
“My grandfather arrived here 100 years ago,” he says. “I love what I do. I embrace the challenges that come with this job, particularly during the worst economic crisis since the Depression. I embrace the challenges without reservation; this is a great city and I feel very fortunate to be in this job.”
Local service, visible results
He is clear, though, that the position of Mayor is unrivaled.
“The difference is that when you’re Mayor, you are up close with the people, you are in the neighborhoods. As a result, you’re more focused on practical solutions to problems than you might be if you were working in a state capital or national capital,” says Villaraigosa.
LA’s geographic location and ability to act as a hub for goods and people is also crucial, he adds.
“We are the Venice of the 21st century; the largest port in the United States of America, the world’s busiest origin and destination airport; a portal to the East and South. There was a real opportunity for us to take our rightful place as a city of America’s hope and promise.”
Lowering the crime rate
Upon his election, Villaraigosa made public safety one of his top priorities.
In 2005, LA’s police force of approximately 9,100 officers was tasked with patrolling a city with approximately four million residents and, with this in mind, the Mayor has sought to recruit 1,000 more police officers, creating the largest police force in LA’s history.
“Crime is down every year since I’ve been Mayor,” he says.. “When I was elected, the homicide rate was 488 homicides; last year, it was at 287.”
Asked to pinpoint the main factors behind this success, he highlights the community involvement. “Our police force’s motto is ‘To protect and serve’,” he replies. “We put as much effort into ‘serving’ as we do the ‘protecting.’
Education, though, is the Villaraigosa’s top focus..
“Since I’ve been Mayor, we have doubled the number of charter schools [independent public schools that are free to be more innovative and held accountable for improved student achievement] in the city of Los Angeles, and we have more than any other school district in the country.”
Los Angeles used to be synonymous with smog. Not anymore.
“Five years ago, we said we would make LA the cleanest and greenest city in the country,” Villaraigosa says. “We’ve gone from 3% renewable power to 20%. We recycle more trash (65%) than any city in the United States, we use the same amount of water as we did 32 years ago, and we conserve 19 times the energy we did five years ago.”
“Our effort to clean up our port is the most far reaching in the world: we have reduced diesel emissions by trucks by 80% and we met the Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gases four years ahead of schedule. So there are a number of areas where LA is absolutely leading the way.”
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