Villaraigosa – the Economic Guru?

November 8th, 2008 · 18 Comments

The LA Weekly has a good blog post about Villaraigosa (or Villar as some of my readers like to call him) landing on President-Elect Obama’s 17-member economic advice team. The City of Los Angeles certainly isn’t a model of economic health. The city is suffering from the burst of the housing bubble — the Weekly suggests that it is because Villaraigosa created an economic plan revolving around housing development. Unemployment in LA County (I know that we can’t hold Villar responsible for the whole county, but this is the only data I could find) is at 7.8 percent, higher than the national 6.5 percent. And I haven’t even mentioned the city’s budget woes, the recent writers’ strike, bank closures and layoffs.

Look at the list of people Villaraigosa was sitting with yesterday:

-David Bonior (Member House of Representatives 1977-2003)
-Warren Buffett (Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway)-will participate via speakerphone
-Roel Campos (former SEC Commissioner)
-William Daley (Chairman of the Midwest, JP Morgan Chase; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Commerce, 1997-2000)
-William Donaldson (Former Chairman of the SEC 2003-2005)
-Roger Ferguson (President and CEO, TIAA-CREF and former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve)
-Jennifer Granholm (Governor, State of Michigan)
-Anne Mulcahy (Chairman and CEO, Xerox)
-Richard Parsons (Chairman of the Board, Time Warner)
-Penny Pritzker (CEO, Classic Residence by Hyatt)
-Robert Reich (University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Labor, 1993-1997)
-Robert Rubin (Chairman and Director of the Executive Committee, Citigroup; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Treasury, 1995-1999)
-Eric Schmidt (Chairman and CEO, Google)
-Lawrence Summers (Harvard University; Managing Director, D.E. Shaw; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Treasury, 1999-2001)
-Laura Tyson (Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; Former Chairman, National Economic Council, 1995-1996; Former Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisors, 1993-1995)
-Antonio Villaraigosa (Mayor, City of Los Angeles)
-Paul Volcker (Former Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve 1979-1987)

I’m thinking that there must be a few Latino economists somewhere — I have actually met one. In examining this list, Villaraigosa looks like the weak link. He did rise through the ranks of organized labor, but he doesn’t represent them now. And to my knowledge, Villaraigosa has never run a Fortune 500 enterprise. There was one other Latino, Roel Campos from the SEC, and he actually passed the bar. Remember how Villaraigosa attended a law school that is no longer in business and failed the bar a few times before giving up?

I wouldn’t have picked Villaraigosa for his economic knowledge at this point. Maybe his presence would have more impact if he had John Sweeney’s role as president of the AFL-CIO. Maybe one of my readers will see the value in Villaraigosa being on this economic advice team, but right now, I’m not feelin’ it. Just this summer Villaraigosa was telling us that the economies of East and South LA were booming, check it out here.

Sandy Sand is also questioning Obama’s move warning, “Listen Up Obama People: Vet the strutting peacock before having any further dealings with him.”

Finally, this speaks to the crisis within Latino leadership. If any Latina mamas are reading this, please encourage your boys and girls to learn about economics, push higher education, and enrich them with books. Drive, push, and demand success so that when they are in positions to lead, they at least appear qualified and bloggers like me aren’t left scratching their heads.

Photo Credit: Cartoon courtesy of LA Times Blogs

Tags: Antonio Villaraigosa · Barack Obama · Economics

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michaelr // Nov 8, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Actually, that is quite a stretch, especially when you consider Antonio Villaraigosa’s actual accomplishments, or lack thereof. Obama and his advisors must be really struggling in their search to find Latino political leadership candidates. He wants Latino participation to acknowledge our support of his candidacy. But who qualifies to be a part of this exclusive group? Outside of Bill Richardson, and he’s half white, there is really no one. Villaraigosa is so out of touch with his own community. What was booming in East L.A.? Besides the music.

  • 2 Bearguez // Nov 8, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    The Obama Administration needs to stay as far away from Antonio Villaraigosa as possible. Villaraigosa represents what is ugly about modern day corrupt and self serving politicians. If he is reelected Mayor of Los Angeles, our city will begin to emulate the dysfunctional machinery that runs Santa Ana, California, which already looks and feels like a Third World Latin American metropolis. Villaraigosa’s rooster mentality is only interested in telling lies to his public and traveling all over the world on every Angeleno’s dime. He is not committed to elevating the scholastic standards of the LAUSD. He is not committed to making Los Angeles a safer community. Mister Photo-Op is only committed to enriching the numerous lobbyists parading around him, and all those developers using public money to enrich themselves. Villaraigosa further caters to the Latino politician stereotype that Obama doesn’t need to engage with. The Mayor brings nothing positive to the table. Nothing beneficial to the tax paying citizen looking for leadership

  • 3 theKaiser // Nov 8, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Antonio Villaraigosa an economic guru? Boy, is that an oxymoron! Maybe Obama has him there around all these other accomplished people to formally express what he doesn’t want to become? Or…maybe Obama is doing this as a favor to Hillary Clinton? Help a peacock become an eagle? Or maybe Antonio Villaraigosa just invited himself? You know how the Mayor likes to travel around the world on the taxpayer’s dime? Any excuse getting out of spending time behind his desk performing actual work. Nevertheless, I hope the City of Los Angeles wakes up from their siesta and experiences an epiphany. And comes to the realization that this self-serving peacock is just a welfare case, and not worthy of leading the City of Los Angeles.

  • 4 Michaelr // Nov 8, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    One of the Networks should create a reality show called, “The Peacock Parade,” and invite Antonio Villaraigosa, Loretta Sanchez, Joe Baca, Fabian Nunez, Jose Huizar, and Miguel Pulido. And see which of these politicians can survive a “Jeopardy” type quiz? But that may be too difficult. We know that Villaraigosa will have trouble answering all the economic questions, and what actually encompasses a work day in the life of the L.A. Mayor. Loretta Sanchez will only show up if she can stand as far away from Joe Baca, and that all her answers can have a Hugh Hefner/sexually aggressive type response. Joe Baca and Fabian Nunez, will both need stepladders behind their podiums. Joe Baca will want both questions and answers in Spanish, English and Spanglish, sixty days ahead of time so he can try and memorize them, and Fabian Nunez will want questions that lobbyists from AT&T, and Chevron can understand so they can write all his responses. Jose Huizar will want the Alex Trebeck moderator to remind the audience every three minutes that he is not an illegal alien, and that he really passed the California bar exam, something Villaraigosa failed to do in four tries. Huizar will want his top secret supporters in the LAUSD to see all the questions and answers. Mayor Miguel Pulido of Santa Ana, CA will want a podium smaller than the other contestants so he can appear larger and more Schwarzenegger like. He will also demand he can appear in a French military officer’s costume while someone resembling Edith Piaf can sing the questions, and answers to him. Pulido will also demand that every member of the audience be injected with a GPS tracker. So there you have it, “The Peacock Parade,” coming to a network near you!

  • 5 Lesee // Nov 8, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Perhaps Villaraigosa is only there as a bookmark, that is to say he is one of the few relatively recognizable Latino faces on the national stage.
    Sadly for us we may have to wait another generation for a Latino politican to rise to the level Obama has. The Latino politicians we have now with few exceptions are petty, small minded and not very smart.
    Here in San Diego they always self-destruct, it discouraging.
    I do what I can to encourage as many Latino students to stay in school, it’s not easy but the rewards are many.
    Maybe Villaraigosa was simply a nod to Latinos, albiet a feeble nod, still acknowledgement nonetheless.

  • 6 DoctorH // Nov 8, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    You have a great idea here, “The Peacock Parade.” You should approach Lorne Michaels, or some of the executives at Comedy Central. If none of these Latino politicians want to appear, although I am sure Loretta Sanchez and Fabian Nunez will have a hard time resisting. Mayor Miguel Pulido likes to think he’s J. Edgar Hoover; everything is done in secret meetings, so he may not be open to this. The French thing is really funny, especially since it is a known fetish amongst middle class Mexican Nationals. Mexicans with money always want to be something else. And it will be hard to pin down Villaraigosa because he will be in a plane somewhere on the other side of the globe romancing some unsuspecting woman in a bar in Bangkok. Is this Joe Baca the same Joe Baca who called Loretta Sanchez a slut? I have heard he’s not very bright, and he’s more boring than Ted Stevens, but his daughter who sings is a real hoot. This Jose Huizar, the L.A. city councilman has just dodged a bullet in regards to the mixing of public monies with personal uses. If the Los Angeles Times acted like the New York Times, Huizar would’ve been thrown out of office. Is he really sensitive about his immigration status? Our take on him is more Napoleonic, quite egocentric. And he’s networked with Villaraigosa and Nunez. Lobbyists refer to him as the third stooge, in reference to the Three Stooges….Moe, Larry, and Curly. This is a great idea. More of our tax dollars at work.

  • 7 Anna // Nov 8, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    God forbid a progressive, former union organizer should be allowed to discuss the economy. I guess only Wall St CEOs who ask for bailouts should be allowed to give their input.

    You guys have self-esteem issues. You tear down your own. You will never get anywhere that way.

    I’m glad Villaraigosa was there. It was good for working people, and good for the City of Los Angeles.

    And frankly, who cares what the LA Weekly thinks. They tear down any Latino politician they can’t control. Get a clue.

    And there was another Latino there– Raol Campos, former SEC Commissioner.

  • 8 webmaster // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:04 pm


    Villaraigosa does not represent organized labor any more. Once upon a time, he did, but now he doesn’t. I think that his relative lack of achievement while in office makes him the weak link. And I don’t tear down my own.

    A few months ago, I had a “Latino legislator of the month” feature, but guess what? Not many people showed an interest.

    You can find those here:

    Is it asking too much for Villaraigosa to work on the economic problems in LA and to keep some of his promises? Or maybe you are content with him traveling around searching for women and putting things off for mañana.

  • 9 barista // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Villar’s remedy to address County budget issues were job cuts. Yep. He’s the progressive thinker I’m proud to have helping the president elect at this time..

  • 10 Michaelr // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Anna: It is ignorant to rationalize a public servant’s political behavior because he/she has a Spanish last name. These are your tax dollars at work. These people are enriching their lives from the yield of your labor. That shouldn’t be your motivation to vote for someone. These people are representing your political interests, and not doing a very good job of it. This Third World mentality is what keeps the Latino community at the bottom of the American political spectrum. Until you can recognize and understand what roles these politicians play in your life, your career opportunities, and the enslavement of your people, you shouldn’t assume that just because they have a Spanish last name they are supporting your political interests. The political arena doesn’t conform to those rules. And neither should you.

  • 11 mojo // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    From my observation, and from what I’ve heard, Obama wanted to address a broad range of economic issues including those that are affecting our states and cities (ie, not just macroeconomics at a national level). He had the governor of Michigan to provide input on state economic issues, and he had Villaraigosa to provide input on our cities. Post-meeting comments show that the group specifically discussed proposals that should aid states and cities, specifically covering the federal government’s role in making sure state and local governments are not underfunded and are able to deliver necessary services. Discussions about the economy should include those from the public sector as well as the private sector. And yes, it didn’t hurt Antonio that he campaigned heavily for Obama. That’ll get him some return favors – that’s just politics. Just hope that those favors eventually benefit Angelenos. I’m cautiously optimistic that they will.

  • 12 soledadenmasa // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Maybe Obama had Villaraigosa there to talk about economic issues in urban areas? I see Villaraigosa fitting in under that label, not much in other things. Should we expect Núñez in the Cabinet or some other appointed office, now that he will be termed out soon?

    It is perfectly fine to tear down anyone who is not doing a good job.

  • 13 Mexitli // Nov 8, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Villaraigosa’s participation might pay dividends in the future. There’s not a whole lot he can do for L.A. except bring in more trade which involves a lot of traveling. All mayors do it. I remember Sam Yorty (sp) and Tom Bradley doing it, too. Villaraigosa should be held to the same set of standards. And I don’t think he’s done that bad. I don’t think his private life matters much. If this were France he’d be banging everything with a skirt on and the press wouldn’t care.

    What has he done for East L.A.? East L.A. is an economic powerhouse. Mostly because of the East L.A. interchange in the freeway system. Billions of dollars flow from The Port of Long Beach, CA to the rest of the state and the country but they pass the E.L.A. interchange first. Of course, now they have the corridor but East Los doesn’t seem to have taken that big of a hit because of it. Anyway, the best thing a mayor can do is promote the city and lobby the politicos in Washington and Sacramento for money. The L.A. economy basically runs itself. It is just a microcosm of the U.S. economy. It inflates and it deflates. It overheats and it cools.

    No biggie.

    This guy here has kindly answered many questions for me regarding the L.A. and CA economies:

    He also publishes his own newsletter:

    I wouldn’t flood his in box but he is accessible and and I’m sure he’d answer a question or two about L.A. and CA econ.


    I was surprised not to see Becerra in Obama’s econ junta since Becerra endorsed him. While Villraigosa endorsed HC.

  • 14 Seneca // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    If Villarraigosa is considered an authority on economics by Obama, then we are doomed…mind you, Roel Campos the former SEC Commissioner was also present. He at least has a reputation for managing economic issues at a national level.

    i wonder if Villarraigosa could pass an FBI clearance process were he picked to be a cabinet member… I had lunch with him about three years ago…he is underwhelmingly unimpressive…he is nice enough but seems to be a ‘vato’ in over his head…as for being on the take of the developers, he would join Cisneros…Cisneros is a favorite of the Texas developers…

    I wonder why Obama did not parade Federico Pena…he is a lawyer with experience as Transportation Sec and Energy Sec…important economic portfolios

  • 15 Anna // Nov 8, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    To those who addressed me:

    You can’t evaluate Villaraigosa’s performance without taking the economy into account. And to the person who said that his remedy for the economy was job cuts, I hate to break this to you, but if the state slashes spending for cities, then cities have to cut back on spending. That’s just common sense. Furthermore, the crime rate has gone down since he’s been Mayor.

    Villaraigosa has done nothing illegal or corrupt, so why even imply that?

    And to the person who calls him Third World and a rooster,–what kind of nonsense is that? You have some issues.

    Everytime Villaraigosa shows up anywhere, the attitude from the LA Weekly is “Who does he think he is?”

    The LA Weekly and other media outlets prefer that Latinos remain invisible, especially Latinos from East LA. It’s no accident that we haven’t had a Latino mayor in over 100 years.

    How many times is New York Mayor Bloomberg on TV? Almost everyday! But that’s OK.

    And as for travel, ALL mayors of Los Angeles travel. This is the second largest city in America, a global city that relies on trade and tourism.

    And to MichaelR: I’m not rationalizing anyone’s behavior because they have a Spanish surname. I just don’t think Villaraigosa has done anything wrong.

    Furthermore, I’m not condemning anybody for criticizing Villaraigosa. I just don’t think any of the criticism on this board is based on his behavior. It’s based who he is and where he’s from. And much of it is just recycled nonsense from the LA Weekly.

    Furthermore, if Villaraigosa is so unacceptable, then why does he keep getting invited to these meetings? There are other Latinos in public office they could invite besides Villaraigosa. They obviously think he has something to offer.

    Most people want their Mayor to be visible, to be invited to high level meetings, and to have access to the President and other officials in Washington because it’s good for the city. But not you guys! Crabs in a bucket.

    I’m not saying that he’s perfect, but good grief, you guys act like he’s the worst mayor ever, and it’s simply not true.

  • 16 jammer // Nov 10, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    A Tia of mine compares latinos in politics,business,leadership to a bucket full of crabs(the eating kind). When one gets to the rim and is about ready to escape the others who are trying for the same goal reach up and pull him back into the bottom of the bucket. Rather then tear each other apart can we begin to identify future leaders and help promote them? I am in higher education and we are far to busy protecting our turf(ivory tower) to become involved in real life issues, so don’t look for future leaders there.

  • 17 YolandaR // Nov 18, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Obama picked the Mayor not for his economic wisdom. It was stated some of the panel members were from troubled cities and Obama wanted to hear what economic troubles/ issues were as a way to address them, if possible, to resolve or prevent them from worsening. As the new administration creates solutions, they realize it is wise to learn hear first hand from those who probably will get in bail out line, if not now soon. Trust me the Mayor was not there as part of the solution. If he was not the Mayor of a city burgeoned with economic woes, he would have been sitting in his LA office. The man can hardly keep his pants zipper closed.

  • 18 Even Los Angeles Mag is telling us Villar is a Failure // May 16, 2009 at 9:07 am

    […] Villaraigosa has been a disappointment. Sure, he has the challenge of serving in very dismal economic times, but he really hasn’t lived up to the hype, even setting aside his personal drama. […]

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