L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa: The Next U.S. Secretary of Transportation?

L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa (Left Center) at the announcement of the Expo Line's opening date | Photo: Metro Transportation Library and Archive/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Last Wednesday when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivered his state of the city address he largely avoided the main topic facing the city: the budget. That came on Friday in the unveiling of his budget, which included a proposal with significant layoffs.

The mayor's speech focused on transportation, and what may be his key achievement, the passage of Measure R. That measure, passed in 2008, includes a temporary half-cent sales tax slated to expire in 2039. It pays for transportation infrastructure throughout Los Angeles County. The tax, for instance, pays the construction and expansion of the region's rail system and maintenance of the highways. All of that work creates over 400,000 new jobs.

Campaign Contributions: What Are They Good For?

L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich speaks during at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China. | Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Do you know who your L.A. County Supervisor is? Most people don't. These little known elected officials wield an enormous amount of power, controlling the nation's largest local government.

In Los Angeles County we have five members of the Board of Supervisors. These five individuals represent portions of our 10 million-person county. The number of people residing in one district outnumbers the number of people who live in more than a dozen small states. These powerful politicians face little competition in elections. Incumbents are rarely challenged. It has been more than three decades since an incumbent lost.

So if incumbents face little, if any, competition at the ballot box, do they nonetheless raise campaign funds?

Tapped-Out Cities Push Back Against New Water Rates

Not a Drop to Drink
| Public domain source

Turn on the bathroom tap, and water pours out (more tightly regulated than the stuff in plastic bottles). Where the water comes from is a mystery for most consumers (who presume their tap is connected somehow to Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway and the movie Chinatown). If consumers contemplate anything as the sink fills, they may think of aqueducts, dispossessed ranchers, and the size of their water bill.

They never think of the several regional governments - most with elected boards - that oversee the complex plumbing of Southern California: aqueducts of course, but also spreading grounds, injection wells, waste water reuse, and the layers of aquifers that lie hundreds of feet beneath their bathroom floor.

Global Design Firms To Get Crack at Redesigning Crumbling 6th Street Bridge

6th Street Bridge I Photo by Edwin Beckenbach

The city of Los Angeles will hold an international design competition for a redesign of the 6th Street Bridge, officials announced Thursday. A final decision may lean toward a bridge that complements the aesthetic of other nearby historic viaducts spanning the Los Angeles River.

"The 6th Street Bridge design competition will make sure the new bridge reflects our city's spirit and style," said Mayor Villaraigosa in Boyle Heights, who was joined by Councilmember José Huizar and other bridge and river stakeholders. "As we go through this process, we will make sure the community is informed and involved every step of the way."

L.A. County Faces a New Revenue Crisis

Tax Burden
| Public domain source

Tax Assessor John Noguez (who has problems with tax collection, according to the Los Angeles Times) faced a skeptical Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to explain by his department's estimate of property tax receipts for the next fiscal year are off -- $13.6 billion off.

Saving L.A.'s City Budget: More Taxes or Bankruptcy?

Four out of five calls to the LAFD are for medical emergencies. How will the budget deficit affect this service? | Photo: Chris Yarzab/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Last week Miguel Santana, Los Angeles' Chief Administrative Officer (i.e. our city's budget honcho), issued a report about the state of the city's finances. The city currently has a $222 million budget deficit. That number is only expected to increase in the next few years.

The report painted a dismal picture: While revenues have fallen, costs -- specifically costs of paying employees -- have not.

AEG, Guggenheim, Majestic: Who Can A Fan Love?

The Cheering Stopped
| Library of Congress

I spoke with Warren Olney of KCRW's Which Way L.A.? on Monday afternoon as more news of L.A.'s sports business was breaking. Tim Leiweke, frontman for Denver's Phil Anschutz, had earlier told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times that Anschutz was prepared to buy a "majority" share of an NFL team, if that's what the league owners demanded.

Farmer passed on that news while on the air with Olney.

Leiweke's new negotiating position came in response to web and print speculation (since confirmed) that Anschutz and the league had abandoned active deal-making in December and seemed to be drifting even further apart. By the end of a confusing day, Anschutz's offer to buy a "majority" stake in a football team had become Leiweke's pledge (on behalf of his boss) to buy a team outright.

The City of Angels: Where are the Women in L.A. Government?

Former Assembly Speaker and current Congressmember Karen Bass and former L.A. City Controller and California State Inspector Laura Chick | Photo: acul.socal/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A question in honor of women's history month: Do women now run Los Angeles?

I recently attended a lecture hosted by Zocalo Public Square in which author and journalist Liza Mundy asked, "What will happen to coupledom when most women out-earn their male partners?" In numerous big cities, like Los Angeles, a significant percentage of women are making more than their male partners.

This lecture made me think, what if we look not at earning among heterosexual couples, but at representation in government? So I'll ask again, do women run Los Angeles?

We're Number 1! In Density, That Is.

Snug
| Public Domain

We're more crowded together than anybody else . . . sort of.

Whether the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region is more densely settled than places traditionally considered highly urbanized depends on where you draw the boundaries. Manhattan is more densely settled than Brea, but Los Angeles and Orange counties - as spread out as they are - are more densely urbanized than all the suburban and rural areas outside the boroughs of New York.

There's a Lack of Good (Political) News in Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Hall | Photo: channone/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Goodbye winter, hello spring. In Los Angeles the change of the seasons is often imperceptible. One day with a high in the high 60s or low 70s dissolves into another with little ado. But there is another climate that I talk about in these blog posts: the political climate.