LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Critics are saying that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is spending too much time on his side projects and jetting back and forth to Washington D.C. than he is handling his duties here in Los Angeles. But the mayor dismissed those comments as idle chatter.
The reality is that Villaraigosa is riding high on the national stage as chair of this year’s Democratic National Convention and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
But, in L.A., he has recently come under fire for the Fire Department response time controversy. He’s also been criticized over a report from the non-partisan Urban Institute that concluded that there’s no evidence a multimillion anti-gang program has had much effect on crime.
There’s also the complaints of some city workers angry over the prospect of more layoffs.
City tree surgeon Art Sweatman said Villaraigosa has been missing in action.
“We see the mayor jet-setting everywhere, planning a party right now for the Democratic National Convention. We see him doing all kinds of other things. We don’t see him doing his job here in Los Angeles. And the people have elected to be mayor of Los Angeles, not run around jet-setting and preparing for whatever his next move is going to be after office,” Sweatman said.
Sweatman said he and other city workers have been making concessions for years, including delayed raises, more furlough days, making an 11 percent contribution to their pension plans and 2,000 workers going into early retirement.
Villaraigosa said he hopes that his tough stance against unions shows that, given the choice, he’ll take a tough stance against his friends to do what’s right for the city.
“I’m not interested in talking about legacy — I want to do my job, and I hope you put that in this response. I’m going to do my job and I’m going to make the tough calls. I’m going to say no to my friends when I have to. I’ll say yes to people I don’t agree with when I think they’re right,” Villaraigosa told KCAL9 political reporter Dave Bryan.
Los Angeles Times editor at large Jim Newton, who has written extensively on the mayor, said Villaraigosa’s record looks better on the national stage than here in L.A.
“I think the mayor is neither doing as well as some of the national observers would have you believe nor as poorly as some of the local critics would have you believe. But, clearly, he’s wrestling with some issues locally that just haven’t filtered out into the national analysis of him. So I do think the picture is rosier the further away you look at him,” Newton said.
Newton went on to say that Villaraigosa is better at starting projects than finishing them.
The mayor brushed off the criticism and said his focus remains on the bottom line and results.
“Look, it’s all a bunch of chatter. At the end of the day you get judged by what you’ve done over a period of time,” the mayor said.