I knew there had to be a logical reason for the outgoing mayor of Los Angeles to be leading a trade mission to China with 30-some-odd days left in his term. Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti wasn't been invited to join the Villaraigosa party, though surely there was an explanation for that, too. From KPCC:
[Stephen Cheung, the port's director of international development,] said competition from other ports and cities is so rampant that the group couldn't afford to wait. "If we wait for the next mayor to basically come up with a full plan, we don't know whether that's going to be three months, six months or a year before we can travel," Cheung said. "Meanwhile, other cities are going there on a regular basis to attract business. If they are able to secure a deal before us, there's a possibility they may move their business elsewhere and not to Los Angeles, so this is something we can't risk."
Now to some cynics out there, that might sound like a warmed-over excuse for the mayor to get a little last-minute face time in China. More free travel, a few extra meals - perhaps a way to show some future employer that he has international gravitas. Oh, those cynics! Here's the latest dispatch from the mayor's office on the hard work that's being done on behalf of the city:
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today met with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China at the Great Hall of the People. The meeting was the third between Mayor Villaraigosa and President Xi, cementing a strong friendship between the two leaders and between the City of Los Angeles and China. The two first met in December 2011 when Mayor Villaraigosa lead a trade mission to Asia, and Xi was Vice President of China. Vice President Xi then visited Los Angeles in February 2012; Mayor Villaraigosa hosted a lunch in his honor and invited and escorted Vice President Xi to a Lakers game. Today's meeting focused on the important economic, cultural, and political ties between LA and China. Both men agreed their friendship has built a foundation of trust that will facilitate trade, tourism, and foreign direct investment between China and Los Angeles.
I for one am relieved that the two men have forged such a friendship, especially since taxpayers aren't having to foot the bill for this trip. All expenses will be paid by the Port of L.A. and Los Angeles World Airports, which I'm sure don't have any better way to spend $80.000.