Los Angeles Mayor Is Leaving Without Car, Job or Regrets
By Adam Nagourney, March 22, 2013
“There is no job that would make me leave my job before the end of my
term,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who leaves “on June 30 at 11:59
and 59 seconds.”
LOS ANGELES — Antonio R. Villaraigosa has been a mayor whom this city loves to love and loves to hate. The red carpets. The late-night parties. The lofty promises, many met and some not. The disintegration of a marriage and a relationship with a television reporter while in office, all covered with the flashbulb ferocity befitting a Hollywood personality.
“I love life,” Mr. Villaraigosa, 60, said in an interview at his City Hall office, scattered with the mementos of his eight years as mayor. “And I get beaten up about the fact that I love life, from time to time. If there’s a concert, I’ll get up and I’ll dance with Aretha Franklin. Yes I will.”
But not for long. Los Angeles is about to lose its bad boy, larger-than-life chief executive, whose term is up, as Mr. Villaraigosa put it with more than a glint of wistfulness, “on June 30 at 11:59 and 59 seconds.”
Like him or not, that will be quite an adjustment for the residents of this town, a stylistic sea change that is beginning to sink in with the campaign to replace him by two earnest if relatively monochromatic candidates, Wendy Greuel, the city comptroller, and Eric M. Garcetti, a member of the City Council. (It is difficult to imagine either candidate showing up on Charlie Sheen’s Twitter feed partying at a hotel opening in Mexico, as happened with Mr. Villaraigosa. “I got pounded on that for 10 days,” he said wryly, though he offered few regrets.)
But the transition may even be tougher for Mr. Villaraigosa, a mayor who described himself as someone with a “fairly severe case” of attention deficit disorder, a self-diagnosis that will not draw any quarrel from the people around him. As of July 1, there will be no more mayoral mansion in Hancock Park, no police driver and official car, no guaranteed V.I.P. invitations to movie openings, parties in the Hollywood Hills and the courtside of Lakers games. There won’t even be his City Hall office, with its tinkling indoor fountain and television screen flashing images of the mayor at work.
Mr. Villaraigosa talked about working in private equity, and returning to run again for office not too long in the future — very possibly for governor. He would not say when that might be, but did not rule out running a primary against Jerry Brown, the Democratic incumbent with whom Mr. Villaraigosa has had an at-times frosty relationship.
But for the time being, the mayor of Los Angeles, who was the chairman of President Obama’s Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., seems a bit at sea as he confronts his nonelected future.
“I don’t have a car,” Mr. Villaraigosa said. “I don’t have a house. And I don’t have a job.” He laughed. “I’m on the short end of the stick here, right?”
There has been a rustle of rumors that Mr. Obama, rewarding the mayor for his loyal service, particularly in courting Latino voters, might tap him to serve in the cabinet. True or not — White House officials said that was always a bit of a long shot — the mayor said that he would not leave City Hall before July 1 under any circumstances.
“There is no job that would make me leave my job before the end of my term,” he said. “After that, look, I’m a private citizen.”
He has been in public life for nearly 20 years with few interruptions, a member of the Assembly and its speaker, but most recently running this city through eight churning years. In the process, he has built what even his critics acknowledge is a record of significant accomplishments (expanding the mass transit system, a big drop in the crime rate) tempered by some dispiriting failures (that affair with a television reporter while he was married).
The mayor’s friends said that his main concern now, beyond the imminent loss of his spotlight and the burden of boredom, was money.
He is about to face the financial burdens that come with becoming an ordinary citizen: paying for housing, a car, utilities, gas and his morning coffee. There is also, in his case, the alimony payments and, presumably, the cost of maintaining a pace of life that Mr. Villaraigosa has enjoyed during his years at the helm.
“Look, I am not a man of any wealth,” he said. “I don’t have any other means of subsistence other than to have to work.”
And where to live now? Not Hancock Park. “Someplace close to the airport,” he said, suggesting the kind of globe-trotting life he envisions for the next few years.
Mr. Villaraigosa said that he had not decided whom to endorse in the May 21 general election to succeed him. But he disputed the notion that the contest was a lackluster one not addressing the problems facing the city. If candidates were not talking about issues, he said, who could blame them, given the experiences of, well, Mr. Villaraigosa.
“They’ve seen the response,” he said. “Look, I’m avoiding it, but they see what happens when you set a high bar.”
Such as his campaign promise to plant a million trees, a promise that was more mocked than fulfilled. “What do you read about all the time?” the mayor said, his voice rising. “ ‘There he goes again: Overpromising and under-delivering.’ No one got a million trees. What was wrong with saying that was our goal?”
Still, if the topic of his press clippings exercised the mayor — as they have for much of the past eight years — he was more ruminative than combative as he contemplated his final days.
“On Election Day, it kind of hit me,” he said, referring to the first round of voting in the race to replace him. “I’m so focused on trying to get things done, that I kind of forgot there was an election. And now, you know, the days are passing by. Almost in a blur.”