City Hall

City Hall farewell emails: Dear Antonio, dear media


This is the final week of work at City Hall for lots of staffers in the offices of Antonio Villaraigosa, Carmen Trutanich, Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry, Richard Alarcon, Bill Rosendahl, Dennis Zine and Ed Reyes. The most interesting farewell emails I've seen so far are from Deputy Mayor Torie Osborn, who uses hers to defend Villaraigosa's legacy and call him a great mayor and the best boss she ever had, and from Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher, who addresses hers to the media that cover City Hall. Don't worry: it's friendly.

Osborn, you might remember, wrote a similarly analytical note when she left Villaraigosa's employ the first time, in 2008. Here's today's:

From: Torie Osborn
Date: Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 3:19 PM
Subject: Mayor Villaraigosa: Power in service of justice....parting words from a grateful staffer
To: Mayor Staff

Dear Friends:

I was privileged to serve on the Mayor's 2005 transition team, then be invited onto his senior staff, although I had never worked in government. I served for two years, 2006-2008, working on poverty and homelessness, and as liaison to philanthropy -- and was able to work with COS Robin Kramer to launch the Office of Strategic Partnerships now nationally recognized as a model. Then.....I came back this past year to help Mayor Villaraigosa "finish strong." My time in the Mayor's office has been thrilling, aggravating, inspiring -- and it changed my life. For one thing, as some of you know, I was inspired by being on Team Villaraigosa to make a run for the California Assembly, losing a year ago in the primary by 1%. But I threw my heart into it, learned to listen well to lots of different kinds of people, and ran a strong grassroots campaign. Why at age 60 did I take that potentially career-twisting risk? Because I learned that's what you do from Antonio Villaraigosa -- you take risks, you give it your all, and people who really truly care about government being an instrument of positive social change, along with service delivery, have a responsibility to step up and run.

In Mayor Villaraigosa, I have observed a living example of my favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. An excerpt: "Power without love is reckless and abusive....Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice." How many examples are there today of courageous and effective elected leaders who actually manage to make real, sustainable change on a broad set of issues through their public service?

Precious few, I'm afraid, but our Mayor has been such a leader. Contrary to the too-diminishing media portrayal of him -- which I am convinced is from a conservative playbook intent on undermining one of the most successful progressive elected officials in America.....Antonio Villaraigosa is the real deal. He magnetizes strong people to his team and insists on their best (you haven't lived until he disapproves of you and you discover you can perform even better than you thought you could!). He is utterly fearless about goring sacred cows if he believes it's right, no matter the political cost -- whether it's pension reform or Prop 13. He likes bold ideas: green the Port, coal-free by 2050, visionary food policy, remake poverty and job training systems. But, most of all, Mayor V. is "a believer" -- one who believes government should be about "implementing the demands of justice". Decades after moving beyond the grassroots movements that launched his activism, he carries their spirit into his work.

Yeah, yeah, I know: I sound like I drank some koolaid. So be it. I've known Antonio Villaraigosa nearly 25 years and am well aware of his foibles. So what? The naysayers have created an echo chamber; It's time to voice another view.

Nobody has been more active or committed to LGBT equality than Antonio VIllaraigosa. He has permanently institutionalized LGBT rights within City government, notably championing transgender rights -- not just marriage equality, although nobody was more outspoken against Prop 8. (Yesterday after DOMA and Prop 8 fell, he was trying to figure out who of his gay friends he could marry tomorrow before he left office!:)) And he still lights up every room -- as well as his own passions -- when he talks about advancing full citizenship for immigrants, job equity for South LA, a good education for those kids who, like himself, have troubled young lives. His environmental, transportation and gang reduction/public safety achievements are legion. Game changing. Transformative. I'm not shy to say it. Do I think he was a perfect Mayor? No. But I think he was a great one. And, in case you haven't had the conversation with him, I have. The other day, I thanked him for being "a great Mayor" and he interrupted me sharply. "I've been a good Mayor, not a great one. There are very few great mayors -- it's too tough a job. But I'm proud to have been a good Mayor."

Well, history will judge on that question. In the meantime, here's a gigantic THANK YOU, MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA -- on behalf of myself, and of all those little kids who run up to you when you enter a park to get some of that bright, can-do energy you transmit, and the tens of thousands of Angelenos who see and appreciate your guts and your big heart. Thank you for daring to dream, for staying teachable, for giving lots of us a shot we never would have had, and for your many quiet acts of kindness that nobody ever talks about -- like the loving phone call when my beloved cat died too young, the voice mail message encouraging me to toss the notes and talk from my heart, the big-brotherly lecture in my office (after you'd been up all night ending a labor strike) about needing to let go of my anger about my electoral loss after too many months.

My Mayor, my brother, my friend, my teacher, the best boss I ever had: Thank you. I'm grateful for the chance to come inside this sacred place of civic power and help as you have put it in service of love and justice.

Today, sitting in an empty, boxed up office, with that hollow, raggedy-jaggedy feeling of grief, I feel so very blessed to have been a small part of a big chapter in LA history.

Torie Osborn

Usher has handled a number of special projects for City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and wa s one of his key links to the media. Her note today addressed to reporters:

Dear Media Colleagues --

I write with bittersweet news...

Tomorrow will be my last day in the Office of the City Attorney.

I hope that it always showed that I love the City. I have also loved my brief perch as one of its lawyers. The four years have raced by, punctuated with cases big and small. Yes, there was much ado about billboards and marijuana and that force of nature named Nuch. And parking districts, boardwalk performers, zoo management, administrative code enforcement, the convention center, occupiers, massage parlors, football fields of dreams, and transforming skyscrapers. As for mental illness, too often masked as homelessness, we and our government partners have barely begun to scrape the surface of civic answers.

I am grateful to you for sharing these topics and my journey with me. Collectively (how could I resist one pitiful marijuana pun), you put me through my paces on many an issue. I like to think that we made something akin to headway. Maybe not. Bottom line: you placed your unique light and voice on matters that needed airing. You always pressed for wiser thought. You have made me a better lawyer and a better public servant. That is my good news.

In short, thank you.

Wishing you a Pulitzer... or another Pulitzer! A Peabody? A Joe Quinn! Why not!


LA Observed photo

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