Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Magazine’

An Open Letter to L.A. Magazine’s Open Letter

Monday, June 1st, 2009


By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

Like everyone in California politics, I was anxious to read the Los Angeles Magazine cover story labeling Antonio Villaraigosa a “Failure.”

I don’t work for the Mayor. Didn’t work for him as Speaker. I did work against him when he ran for the Assembly.

I had never read Los Angeles Magazine before. So, on a flight from Burbank to Sacramento I decided to read the June edition cover-to-cover. I wanted to get a sense of it and where its moral outrage and authority came from. After all, what I had gathered from coverage of the “Failure” story was that Antonio had forgotten his roots and his people.

First, though, I read the hit piece on Farrah Fawcett for sharing her death with us. Then a nice item about how great it was that the LA subway was expanding. I wondered if that would be in the “Failure” story. (It wasn’t.) A nice piece about 50 golf courses – “Angelenos could play a different one every week.” Hmm . . .

Then there was a page of “Prime Finds” — cool, expensive stuff the magazine recommends: $19 notepad, $1,395 lambskin jacket, $125 bikini top with a $380 bottom (sold separately, I guess out of consideration for Antonio’s old neighborhood).

Finally, the juicy “Failure” story. With more qualifiers than I’ve ever seen in a hit piece, it went something like this:

Antonio – you promised a lot. And, yeah, crime is down and we’re getting those 1,000 new cops, but you promised a million trees and some of the people you gave them to in the neighborhoods didn’t water them and they died. And sure you got hotel workers a living wage (probably not enough to get one of the nifty $1,395 lambskin jackets, but they can at least get a $125 bikini top) and, yeah, you’re cleaning up Port air pollution.

But Arnold vetoed a good bill in Sacramento so we’re adding it to your failure list. And you tried to fix the schools and just because you got us a better school board and won veto power of any new school superintendent and now we have a really good one and test scores have improved a little, it’s never going to be enough because we’re disappointed because we thought electing one of ‘those people’ would take care of all the ugly things about our city so we could look at it through the gauzy lens of a really expensive camera.

And because it’s not working out that way, we’re going to smack you for disappointing us and ignore our own responsibility for helping you.

Then, turn the page to find some really good tips on “Pool Parties — Make a Splash Without Making a Fuss.”

Tony V Defense: LA Prof Counters LA Mag

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

mrmayorCalbuzz gave a pretty good ride to the article in LA Magazine, now available online, that complained that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has failed to come through with the progressive agenda he campaigned on in 2005.

So it’s only fair to mention the counter-argument from Occidental college professor Peter Dreier up today on LAObserved, Kevin Roderick’s all-things-LA web site.

“The appropriate way to evaluate Mayor Villaraigosa’s first term is whether he used the tools at his disposal to make significant progress in these and other areas, and how LA compares to other comparable big cities on these measures,” Dreier writes.

“On that score, Villaraigosa deserves praise for raising expectations, squeezing the city’s limited funding to address long-standing problems, and using the city’s leverage to make LA more livable.”

You can find Dreier’s whole argument at LAObserved.

L.A. Muckraker: Tony V’s Governor Bid Won’t Get Off the Ground

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

By Ron Kaye
Calbuzz Special Report

I lunched with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over corned beef sandwiches at a San Fernando Valley deli in 2006 – days after the City Council approved a $3 million settlement with a black firefighter who was tricked into eating spaghetti laced with dog food.

The idea of paying that kind of money for a stupid fire station prank stirred a heated controversy in L.A, even if the Fire Department had a record of racially discriminatory practices. Villaraigosa appeared ready to sign off on that settlement.

As he climbed into his SUV to leave, I couldn’t keep myself from teasing him by saying, “Whatever happened to that punk from East LA? He never would agree to pay $3 million to a guy for eating dog food.”

Antonio turned around with that great grin of his and said, “We’ll see.” A few days later, he vetoed the settlement, just about the only time he’s overruled the council in the go-along, get-along world of LA City Hall.

Three years later, though, I’m still asking the same question: What ever happened to that punk from East LA?

Antonio Villaraigosa brought a sense of excitement and hope for change to a troubled city when he was elected mayor in 2005. His charm and charisma brought large crowds to meetings where he spoke. Even conservative business people lined up to shake his hand and wish him well.

Today, it’s hard to find anyone who’s in love with Antonio. Even mayoral insiders are often disparaging, at least in private. As one prominent civic leader told me recently, “He’s never asked me or anyone else I know for advice and help. He’s gone his own way and we’ve gone ours.”

Running for re-election in March against a bunch of nobodies with no money, Antonio got just 55 percent of the vote and community activists defeated his heavily-financed solar energy measure — an ill-conceived and costly boondoggle – that was to be the heart of his claim to be the “greenest big-city mayor in America.”

Saying what so many people now believe, LA Magazine this week created a stir by putting Antonio on its June cover with the word “Failure.” Beneath that were the words: “So much promise. So much disappointment.”

Editor Kit Rachlis asked a lot of people, including me, what advice they would give the mayor for his second term.

I offered this: “I keep thinking he’ll wake up one morning in his mayoral mansion and wonder what he’s doing there as if it were just a dream, that he’ll remember where he came from and who he once was and realize he’s just a punk from East LA who doesn’t put the rich and powerful and famous on a pedestal and take such pleasure in having become one of them.”

Antonio never stood a chance in the governor’s race, and with the stigma of “failure” haunting him, I don’t see how his campaign can ever get off the ground.

LA’s massive budget deficit that could well bankrupt the city as it worsens in the next three years and the groundswell of discontent against him make it all but impossible to explain why he’s the right man to fix what’s broken in Sacramento.

With his fancy suits and love of fine wine and food, his servants and bodyguards, his multi-millionaire’s lifestyle, Villaraigosa has lost connection with his roots, where he came from, and the ideals he once held dear.

He’s become a showman and his politics all show business. He provides us with theater about great schools, gang-free streets and a green revolution, but little or nothing really changes. The schools remain a dismal failure; crime is down but the gangs deal drugs with impunity, and LA still has the nation’s most polluted air, worst traffic congestion and dirtiest power plants.

Change, if it ever comes, is still far off in the future but the entertainer in him performs as if the applause of flattering audiences is the same as achieving something grand.

It’s a pity, a waste of a talent that could have brought the people of LA together to do great things, create a great city. Many now dismiss the mayor as a man without substance, a narcissist driven by his ego and need for self-aggrandizement.

That’s true enough, but it’s true of a lot of other politicians too. In my heart of hearts, I still cling to the notion that there is more to him, that the man I’ve had long rambling chats with is capable of rising above the users and sycophants who surround him.

His ego need won’t be served by running for governor. His real opportunity is to finally get down to work as mayor, trying to make life a little better every day for the four million people who call LA home.

Ron Kaye is the former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, where he spent 23 years helping the paper become the voice of the San Fernando Valley. In the year since he left the Daily News, he has blogged about city issues at ronkayela.com and helped found the Saving LA Project, a loose-knit coalition of community groups citywide. He is working on the launch of OurLA.org, a non-profit online community-based newspaper.

LA Mag to Tony: We Hate You, Don’t Leave Us

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

lamagjune09-thumb-180x236-1912Some thoughts on L.A. Magazine’s hit piece on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, after checking out the story:

1. The actual piece inside the magazine does not stand up the premise of the dramatic cover. Magazines sell based on their covers, and the “Failure” festooned on Tony V’s image is a boffo piece of art; but the open letter to Villaraigosa by writer Ed Leibowitz is a roundhouse right that misses: it’s a critical but by no means damning assessment of Villaraigosa’s mayoralty.

2. The argument of the piece is illogical, if not incoherent. It boils down to this: a) Villaraigosa has failed to live up to our (Westside liberal) expectations, therefore; b) We want him to stay and continue being mayor instead of running for governor. Huh? Reminds us of the famous book on borderline personality disorder “I Hate You Don’t Leave Me.”bookcover

3. Despite the weaknesses of the piece, this is still a coup for Gavin Newsom. Beyond a few hundred political junkies, it’s hard to imagine many people actually poring through the Leibowitz piece; many more, for sure, will likely see the cover image used by Newsom to attack Villaraigosa in his effort to beat him out for the role of chief foil to front-runner Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary.

Which raises the question: Will the local media in San Francisco produce a similar takeout on Newsom, who’s going around the state describing the city under his leadership as paradise on earth?

This was our original post:

Over at L.A. Observed, Kevin Roderick has the scoop this morning on an attempted takedown by Los Angeles Magazine of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s ambitions to be governor. The left-leaning mag, which has long been pro-Antonio — see Roderick’s description of how they handled his own profile of Tony V a couple years ago — has a new issue about to hit the stands with a single word – “Failure” – emblazoned next to a smiling Villaraigosa. (And a subhead that says “So Much Promise, So Much Disappointment.” ) Gavin Newsom’s folks will no doubt have a copy in your mail box by this afternoon, but for now L.A. Observed has the best dish and excerpts. The open letter, by writer Ed Leibowitz, is an indictment of the mayor on a host of municipal items, and basically urges him not to run for governor arguing: “We are bitter because you promised us so much . . . What you now lead is an administration in which politics almost always trumps policy . . . Remind us that you once stood for something more than the political advancement of Antonio Villaraigosa, and that there is some residual greatness about you yet.”