A Chicago Sun-Times reporter has heard that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will be leaving the Obama cabinet in a few months. Kitty Felde, KPCC's reporter in Washington, connects the dots and sees an opportunity for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, "should his personal life survive the vetting process." She analyzes that Villaraiogsa would not be a good fit at either EPA or Labor, which both have openings. But Transportation — maybe.
Against all odds, Villaraigosa convinced Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate — as well as his fellow mayors across the country — to back his America Fast Forward plan. In L.A. it was known as 30-10— get the federal government to give or lend the money it would take 30 years to raise from a voter-approved sales tax and build transportation projects in a decade.
Republicans liked the idea that it was self-sustaining: the sales tax ensured a steady stream of income to repay the loan. Democrats liked it because it put people to work immediately at a time when unemployment was hovering at double digits. Late last year, Congress passed a two-year transportation bill. It included a billion dollars a year for America Fast Forward transportation loans.
Villaraigosa also served as chairman of the MTA board three times. And if you ever make the mistake of asking him about a transportation project, he'll bend your ear for half an hour.
Felde goes further and predicts it will happen: "As Charlie Sheen's tweet of the Mayor partying in Baja fades from memory, and the pressure from national Latino groups for the White House to name three Latinos to the cabinet continues, and Villaraigosa continues to find a national media appetite for his opinions on everything from immigration to gun control that keep him in the public eye, come spring we'll get the official word that all those trips to D.C. have paid off." Links added by me.
Photo: MSNBC screen grab