PASADENA (CBS) — Sparks flew at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive committee meeting Thursday with a heated exchange between L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, culminating with Villaraigosa storming out.
The subject of the controversy was Measure “R,” which raised the sales tax a half cent temporarily to fund what the mayor calls desperately-needed transportation projects.
When Antonovich said that passing the measure was when the voters were “gang raped,” Villaraigosa objected, sparking off a bitter exchange of words.
Antonovich was demanding that the mayor’s plan to extend the Measure “R” sales tax and speed up transportation projects, be fully vetted with complete input from local county officials.
“So we are able to have that information in a timely manner to make a timely, wise decision, unlike last time, which was a gang rape,” Antonovich said during the meeting.
“That kind of terminology is unacceptable from a board member, sir. That kind of terminology is unacceptable,” Villaraigosa retorted.
Listen to audio of the exchange.
We spoke with the mayor following the meeting.
“What he said should be offensive to you, it should be offensive to anybody. That’s not the kind of thing you ought to say in public, in private, but certainly in the civic discourse. That just not… I don’t think you’ve ever heard me in the heat of passion use terminology like that. It was offensive,” Villaraigosa said.
The mayor added that he was so shocked by the language that he walked out of the meeting to cool down for a few minutes.
“I said, ‘What did you say?’ And he said it again. And when he said it again, I realized that it would be better if I just walked out for a bit,” Villaraigosa said.
On Wednesday Villaraigosa made it clear that extending the Measure “R” sales tax was his top legislative priority. But if the events that unfolded Thursday were any indication, it could be a hard campaign ahead.
The Metro board did go on to pass the resolution extending the tax on a vote of three to two — Villaraigosa’s vote being the deciding factor.
Supervisor Antonovich was unavailable to do an interview, but his office said that what he meant by saying that voters were “gang raped,” was that those who put together Measure “R” disregarded local officials and local communities. They said he hopes it will be different this time.