Gregory Rodriguez of Zocalo Public Square calls his exit essay on the mayoralty of Antonio Villaraigosa Why I’ll Miss Our Flawed Mayor. They have a history, as he notes in his lede: "Antonio Villaraigosa is the only politician to ever call me an asshole to my face. And, come to think of it, he’s the only politician I’ve ever called an asshole to his face." He goes on:
You’d think those facts alone would make me happy to see the mayor ride off into the sunset. But the opposite is true. I’m going to miss Mayor Villaraigosa. Not because of the name-calling or for any good government reasons (like most Angelenos, I don’t pay very close attention to the minutia of local politics), but because Antonio was fun to watch. And he was fun to watch for the same reasons he could insult me to my face: He couldn’t hide his rough edges. His impetuousness sometimes got the best of him. And, over the years, he transformed, visibly, into a smoother, better, more effective politician.
Now don’t get me wrong, the mayor and I have never particularly liked each other. Our relationship has been, by definition, adversarial. (Tagging along on a 2006 Asia trade mission, I was left off a bus in Beijing. When I asked the mayor why, he addressed both his aides and me in response: “Why did you leave my friend Gregory off the bus—even though he is an asshole?!”) I’ve been writing about Antonio for a variety of publications for nearly 20 years, and, hell, if I were him, I’d hate my guts. I first interviewed him in 1994, the day after he was elected to the California State Assembly. He was the subject of many of my Los Angeles Times columns as well as cover stories I wrote for the now-defunct California Journal magazine when he became speaker of the Assembly in 1998 and for Newsweek in 2005 when he was elected mayor of L.A.
I’ve written some nice things about him through the years. (When he complimented me on one such story, I, in a brusque effort to keep journalistic distance, told him, “This doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re an asshole.”) I’ve also written some things that could be considered downright harsh. All in all, I’d like to think I’ve kept the mayor on his toes. He has certainly kept me on mine.
Photo: Reuters/Dan Krauss at Zocalo.