Disappointed in the Antonio record

Illustration by John Ritter, in the LA Times Magazine

In the course of advising Los Angeles what it needs to become a super-city like London, New York or Shanghai, Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne (in the Sunday magazine) ponders aloud a "sharp sense of disappointment" in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as a leader.

When Villaraigosa took office in July 2005, he looked for all the world like the newest member of the Dynamic Mayors Club: a young, ambitious Latino leader for a young, ambitious Latino city. He appeared poised to build on the advantages L.A. has always had--a global brand name, an idyllic climate, a diverse economy with a workforce to match....

Nearly three years into his tenure, though, the mayor's grandest plans have barely inched forward. Instead, he has fallen into the politically expedient trap of pushing for wider freeways and streamlined traffic on the city's major boulevards....

Among planners and architects, a sharp sense of disappointment in the Villaraigosa administration has become both widespread and impossible to ignore. The skidding economy and the city's budget shortfall have made the outlook only gloomier.


Even on a rhetorical level, though, Villaraigosa has squandered valuable political capital. When he returned, wide-eyed, in 2006 from a two-week tour of Asian cities and wondered why L.A. couldn't have a skyline like Shanghai's--instead of pining for, say, a public transit system like Hong Kong's--his star was already dimming. And after he suffered his Monica Lewinsky moment, admitting to an extramarital affair with a TV reporter, he did what many politicians do when hit by scandal: He retreated into a shell, concentrating on career survival.

Hawthorne lets Villaraigosa off the hook a bit with the "not enough power" fallback, but Villaraigosa took office armed with more charter powers than any L.A. mayor in a long while.

Also in the magazine: Patt Morrison talks hats (and models them in a video), city traffic engineer Benjamin Chan calls the Wilshire/Veteran area the worst traffic spot in L.A., and book-to-movie agent Ron Bernstein tells (briefly) how he does it.

Illustration (cropped): John Ritter / Los Angeles Times

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