Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is poised on the verge of another major political triumph, the complex yet partial takeover of the sprawling LA Unified School District. But just four years ago, he was marching with the farmworkers up the dusty Central Valley, helping them in their quest to get then Governor Gray Davis to sign an arbitration bill, and wondering what his future might hold.
Now, should trailing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides fail in his lifelong quest to become governor, having to unseat Villaraigosa’s friend, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Assembly speaker and current LA mayor — engaging here on Univision’s influential Voz y Voto show with hosts Pablo Espinoza and Xochitl Arellano in this NWN video – would become the most likely Democratic frontrunner for 2010. In the event that former Governor Jerry Brown does not seek the post at twice the age at which he was first elected governor, which it is not unlikely that he will not. (See this story on the influence of Voz y Voto.)
Schwarzenegger is one of the biggest backers of Villaraigosa’s move on the LA area schools. The LA mayor’s bill passed the state Senate yesterday and today is slated today for a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee and a likely Assembly floor vote. The mayor’s close ally, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, will present the bill before the committee first thing this morning, joined by Villaraigosa.
This marks the second day in a row for Villaraigosa in the Capitol this week. Coming to Sacramento is something of an old home week for Villaraigosa, the first successful speaker of the term limits era. Of course, many of the faces are new, as he acknowledges.
But with the support of Nunez, Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (author of his bill), Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, and Governor Schwarzenegger, the result is nearly foreordained.
What will the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since the Californios days get? Well, it is a mixed bag, not necessarily something that a potential governor is looking for.
He gains close to a veto power over the superintendency of the LA Unified School District, which sprawls across dozens of smaller cities in LA County. And he gains the largest share of the vote in a council of mayors which oversees the district’s budget. He also gains what looks like direct control over a few very troubled high schools, and the dozens of schools which feed those high schools.
But he must share power with the elected school board — long dominated by local pols who owe their elections to teachers unions, as is the case with a great many school boards around California — and work with the teachers union on curriculum and other matters.
While this seems to diffuse responsibility, in reality it does not. For Villaraigosa is seen as having a triumph over entrenched bureaucracy. While having to compromise throughout with entrenched interests.
Yet his stature as the first successful Assembly speaker of the term limits era — i.e., the first speaker worthy of the name following the legendary Willie Brown — indicates that he has the ability to make lemonade out of lemons.
It is an ability that will stand this impressive politician — wondering just four years ago whether he should make a bid for the LA City Council, launch a think tank, or fade away from politics altogether — in very good stead as he continues to move ahead.