Politics

Obama and Villaraigosa are the not-so-odd couple

Cal State Fullerton scholar Raphael J. Sonenshein, in his Jewish Journal column, writes that it wasn't so strange to see Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sitting prominently near Michelle Obama at the president's jobs speech before Congress last week. The path that brought Villaraigosa "from an outspoken advocate in the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2008 (and, some say, the doghouse with the Obama team) to his prime seat in the Capitol offers an intriguing story of shared interests, coinciding ambitions and changing political dynamics." The story lines passes through Villaraigoisa's affair and divorce and Obama's flagging poll numbers to reach the bottom line: they need each other.

Villaraigosa has been a major advocate for urban transportation and has won support for it from key Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. His idea is to get a bridge loan for L.A.’s transportation construction from the federal government and to use the sales tax revenue voters approved in 2008, in a campaign he led, to pay it back. He has been seeking a federal commitment, to date with limited success. Now there is much greater incentive, and it looks like there is a confluence of interests.

With the president finally pushing an aggressive jobs agenda, fast-track transportation projects like those proposed by Villaraigosa can make things happen. Normally, cities don’t get much love from the federal government, but in times like these, there is no better place to quickly invest lots of jobs-producing funding than a metropolis with lots and lots of willing and able workers and big things to build.

If Villaraigosa (along with other local officials around the country) can help Obama restore a bit of his lost support, the polls and the president’s prospects could start to look better than they do today.

Read the rest over there.


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