Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Villaraigosa's Decision is Good for a Green LA

If you believe the pundits, the political career of Antonio Villaraigosa is finished.

So let me remind them of what His Honor said to a packed room of Green LA Coalition activists last week (for those of you who don't follow my @ArroyoLover tweets): "I remain committed to building a progressive LA." Those don't sound like the words of a man running for Governor.

Here, then, are my top ten GREEN reasons why the Mayor knows his destiny rests in LA:

10. Sacramento. This is a man who knows his way around the State Capitol but he doesn't have to live there to have influence. How quickly everyone forgets that Antonio was Assembly Speaker just a few years ago. I haven't...and the smart money hasn't either.

9. CEO Hiring Decisions. The seeds have been planted. While everyone has been 'dissing' His Honor, Villaraigosa has made progressive key staff hirings to head the Departments of Planning, Housing, and Water & Power. He now has the chance to finish creating a team of department heads who understand that the 21st century challenges facing Los Angeles requires team playing, not territorial protection (see #7)

8. Security. While everyone else is playing musical chairs, Villaraigosa is not going anywhere. As the Los Angeles City Council sees leadership changes (already accomplished in CD5 ~ soon to be seen in CD2) coupled with a new Los Angeles MTA CEO and a new Caltrans head in Sacramento, Antonio is still Mayor. There's something to be said about stability in a time of crisis, especially when you have a Chief of Police who's doing a good job and has popular support.

7. Kobe Bryant. I remember not so long ago when lots of pundits thought Kobe was washed up, too. What a difference a few years and an NBA Championship Ring make! This win is just the type of spark to bring more attention to the Staples Center and LA Live, just the shot in the arm that downtown real estate needs right now (see #1). The Mayor also hangs out with that other comeback kid, Bill Clinton. His Honor and the William J. Clinton Foundation announced in February a plan to install 140,000 LED streetlight fixtures in LA over the next 5 years, the most ambitious program of its kind in the country.

6. The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP). Yes, a river runs through LA and the LARRMP in conjunction with the related US Army Corps of Engineers special study, ARBOR (Alternatives for Restoration and Opportunities for Revitalization), offers the Mayor a chance to work with environmentalists, neighborhood leaders, LADWP and the Dept of Sanitation to create a showpiece urban river greenway. Anchored by the California State Historic Park (The Cornfields) on the south (see #1) and following upriver to a broad open Arroyo Seco Confluence ending at the El Rio de Los Angeles State Park, this green footprint connects to the innovative LEED Neighborhood Development Cornfields-Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP), currently undergoing EIR review. CASP will create one of the most ambitious 'green street' neighborhoods of its kind, anchored by two Gold Line Stations, with mixed use green collar manufacturing, retail and housing.

5. The California High Speed Rail Project. With the blessing of California voters and extra federal stimulus funds, the High Speed Rail will run through downtown with a stop there as well as in Sylmar, a vital connection for Valley residents. My crystal ball tells me this means plenty of jobs. (Note to Mayor: Please coodinate the LARRMP, Downtown Community, Boyle Heights Community, and Northeast LA Community Plans with the Rail Authority's suggested 'alternative downtown depot' to ensure that all the good green work done so far is not undone).

4. The political will to support mass transit on LA's Westside. Finally, the traffic mess in West Los Angeles has become so unbearable that the Mayor, in his role on the MTA Board, can make some real progress on the 'subway to the sea' and the Expo lines. (Note to Mayor: Please throw the Gold Line extension communities support to get their shovel ready project done. These are vital votes for the time when you do decide to run for Governor.) More transit = less cars on the road = better air quality.

3. Hollywood. This is a show biz town, for goodness sake, and our guilty pleasure is having a movie star Mayor who is less than perfect. With all due respect for both Mayors Hahn and Riordan, weren't their Mayoral tenures a little boring? Angelenos like it spicy and Villaraigosa delivers! (OK, that's not really a green reason, except that I hope His Honor will use his Hollywood influence to get show biz to start acting sustainable. Enough with all those plastic water bottles and Esplanades!)

2. Water. California Water World is at a major crossroads. The City of LA and its Department of Water & Power have always been the powerful municipal water broker that could make or break regional and state water policy. Already, the City has shown leadership by biting the bullet on rate hikes for infrastructure support and the passing of a significant emergency water conservation program to wake up Angelenos to an increasingly dire water shortage and inadequate state infrastructure for California's 21st Century population. I'm confident that we'll see Mr. Mayor's influence in cobbling together a new state water bond plan next year which, in my opinion, leaves a much more exciting and long-term legacy than being Governor (see #10 above).

1. The Clean Tech Corridor. Just two months ago, Villaraigosa announced CleanTech LA, a world class partnership involving the City of Los Angeles, UCLA/USC/CalTech, and area business leaders which creates one of the world's largest clean technology research, development, and manufacturing corridors that will run from the Los Angeles State Historic (Cornfields) Park southward through downtown towards the already 'greening in process' Port of Los Angeles. (Please review items #2-10 above). Mix in federal stimulus funding and it's impossible to think that this won't ultimately bring the Mayor his own Championship Ring.

Why be Governor when you can re-invent Los Angeles? The Mayor has made the right call....but clearly not for the shallow reasons mainstream media would want you to believe.

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