Politics

Antonio's hundred days

Mayor Villaraigosa visited USC this morning for the school's 125th anniversary and talked up his own first hundred days in office. It's been a theme this week. He has already sat down with staffers at the Times, Daily News and La Opiniůn for embargoed discussions pegged to Saturday's hundredth day. At USC, he made it known that he admires the school despite close ties to a certain cross-town rival:

It is an honor beyond words to be asked to address an audience as distinguished as the one gathered before me--and on a day as important as this. On behalf of nearly four million Angelenos, I want say how lucky we are to live in a city that is home to a university like USC. It may be an understatement to say--but there is no institution in the City of Los Angeles that has played a more important role over such a long period of time in shaping our past and making our future.

And, folks, you can definitely take my word on that. I went to UCLA.

His remarks at USC on the first hundred days follow. If the City Hall gossip is correct (often is, sometimes ain't), when Villaraigosa meets the media at 2 pm he will finally unveil his city wide planning commissioners, possibly including former councilman Mike Woo.

Congratulations and Happy 125th Birthday to the entire USC family!

In the City of LA, we're approaching our own milestone this weekóeven if it is a far less momentous one. Saturday will mark the first one hundred days of my administration. I want to take this opportunity to thank the many USC graduates and faculty members who have helped us to accomplish so much in so short a time.

Thanks to their hard work--and to the work of countless others--in our first hundred days, weíve laid the foundation for the thousand days to follow.

We have worked to rebuild trust at City Hall. We passed ethics reform during my first week in office. We kicked lobbyists off of city commissions. We appointed a chief ethics officer in the Mayor's Office. And we required that all employees abide by an ethics pledge.

And we have strived to do more. I have always believed that you can only build genuine trust by the example you set for others. I want you to know that my staff and I are working hard each and every day to lift the lid on expectations in city government, to reach out people in every community, and to instill the idea the City of LA should work for every Angeleno.

And, ladies and gentlemen, we all know that you canít lead without talent. You canít address the problems of a city as dynamic as LA without bringing together a diverse group of people with variety of skills and life experiences. And I am proud to say that we have assembled the most independent, qualified and diverse team of advisors and commissioners in city history.

In just three months, we've already begun to tackle our transportation problems by banning road construction at rush hour, leading a citywide campaign against potholes, and securing critical funding for the Gold Line and Interstate 405.

We are hard at work making LA a safer city. We are fighting in Washington and Sacramento for our fair share of homeland security dollars. Iím proud to have built a strong partnership with LAPD Chief Bill Bratton. We already have funding in place for 379 new police officers. And I have challenged all my department heads to find savings to fund our highest priority--providing full staffing and support to the admirable men and women of the LAPD.

My Council of Education Advisors is looking at what of the City of LA can do immediately to address many of the biggest challenges our young people face every day. To find ways to improve campus safety and security. To provide safe passages so that our kids can travel from home to school without the fear of violence. And to expand to the availability of after-school programs and options in a city where most parents work.

And we have put environmental leaders in positions of power at the port, the airport and the Department of Water and Power. We have sewn the seeds to make good on the promise to plant a million trees and to make LA the greenest big city in America.

But like USC's story, the story of the last three months can't be expressed in a list of accomplishments or litany of policy initiatives. It is in the expanding sense of energy and possibility you get traveling around the city. The palpable sense of resolve and purpose that you can touch and feel and hear in every community in every part of LA. Itís the feeling that the climate has changed. And, let me tell you, this change is far bigger than any mayor.

When we brought labor and management together to settle the hotel strike, there was a willingness on both sides to work together that I havenít seen before.

When the news of the London subway bombings reached LA, I thought that it was important to immediately hop on the train and to send the message that our transportation system was secure. And, you know what, I was the one who was reassured by the people I met there!

But you donít need to ride the train to find examples of this resilience and spirit. Just pay a visit to the 61st Street Elementary School in South LA.

Just a few blocks from here, it's located in the heart of one of our city's most underserved communities. Its student body is composed entirely of Latino and African-American kids. And every single student on the roster qualifies for free or reduced lunches.

I went there in August to get to the bottom of one of the most compelling stories in Los Angeles. How had the 61st Street Elementary managed to transform itself into an island of success in a larger a sea of struggling schools?

What had this school done, with so many obstacles in its path, to raise its Academic Performance Index by an amazing 50% in just five years?

What accounted for the fact that its halls and classrooms are so clean and inviting even though they are not newly built?

And what miracle had occurred on 61st Street to disprove the insidious assumption that poor and minority children canít be expected to succeed and excel?

When I got there, I found a dedicated principal named Elsa Guarneri. Let me tell you, Elsa Guarneri is one serious person. She directs nearly every aspect of her schoolís maintenance. She instills a sense of accountability in her staff. She oversees the tracking of individual students' performances from year to year, and she holds teachers responsible for results. And she stays on top of what is happening in every classroom on her campus.

As we walked along the halls, I realized that, a long time ago, when I was a union leader, Ms. Guarneri's school had been one of the schools in my area. And I remembered she had a reputation for being tough and demandingÖ.Some people thought she was too tough and too demanding.

And I realized as I toured this school that the critics couldnít have been more mistaken. We need more principals like Elsa Guarneri. We need more community leaders like Elsa Guarneri. We need more Elsa Guarneris; more people with the audacity to demand and expect excellence.

And at the end of my visit, I had pleasure of reading a book to one of her classes. And as I did, I experienced one of those moments where you have to pause and collect yourself because you find that your heart is rising to your throat. Because looking out across that room of students, I couldn't help but see myself and my classmates looking back through their eyes, and imagining the possibilities.

Ladies and gentlemen, the LAUSD is in crisis. We are failing our kids. And we have to fix these schools. And we have to get it right.

I share the sense of urgency for reform. I understand people's feelings of frustration and impatience. But we canít afford to set back the cause of reform by settling for easy answers or quick fixes. We have got to get it right. And I want you to know we are hard at work. We are evaluating reform models around the country. We are looking at what can work in LA. And I am committed to fighting--and building a consensus--for fundamental change.

Friends, this is great day for USC. And we should all be proud. But letís not just mark the milestone today. Letís not just dedicate monuments to the past. Letís do what USC's sons and daughters have always done. Letís dedicate ourselves. Letís dedicate ourselves to inventing a future in which every child in LA has a shot at attending a great university like this one. Letís dedicate ourselves to a future in which every Angeleno is pulling together to lift this city up. Letís dedicate ourselves--all of us--to making Los Angeles a City of Purpose.

Thank you inviting me to share this special day with you. Happy anniversary! And God bless you all.


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