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Jobs, schools top mayor's agenda for second term

July 01, 2009|Phil Willon

Job creation will top the agenda of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's second and final term in office, which begins today when he is officially sworn in on the south steps of City Hall.

Villaraigosa also will call for a crackdown on the city's failing schools, vowing to work in concert with his political allies on the Los Angeles Unified School District board to find "competitive alternatives," including charter schools, to clean house and take control of subpar campuses, according to some of the mayor's top aides.

The mayor will lay out details of his agenda during his inauguration starting at 11 a.m., when the new controller and city attorney also will be sworn into office.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher will be the emcee of the ceremony, which is expected to draw thousands of supporters and guests to City Hall's tree-shaded southern plaza.

"He will strike a humble, hopeful, forward-looking tone for the second term," said the mayor's spokesman, Matt Szabo. "This speech will set specific goals . . . and he will ask the people who elected him to hold him accountable for achieving those goals. The mayor, particularly given the tough economic times we're in, will clearly state that anything and everything that he does in the second term will focus on maximizing jobs for local residents."

Szabo and five of the mayor's top aides on Tuesday offered a general preview of Villaraigosa's agenda for the next four years, which also will focus on upcoming transit projects, his continuing campaign to expand the Police Department and transform L.A. into a "green city," they said.

The primary catalyst for creating new jobs will be an "aggressive acceleration" of a dozen major transit projects that are being funded by a half-cent sales tax increase that Los Angeles County voters approved in November.

Those projects include building an extension of the Metro Gold Line light-rail to the San Gabriel Valley and the Expo Line from downtown to Culver City and eventually Santa Monica.

To speed construction, however, Villaraigosa is depending on winning hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money or infrastructure loans from the Obama administration, as well as expedited federal and state approvals, none of which is assured.

"The mayor's goal is to take those 12 projects and deliver them in a substantially faster time frame, and we're going to try to bargain with the federal government to find ways to do that," said Jaime de la Vega, the deputy major for transportation.

Villaraigosa's vow to become a more active force to improve the city's public schools comes more than two years after a judge rejected his attempt to gain control over the Los Angeles Unified School system, which was a top priority in his first term and his greatest policy setback as mayor.

However, the mayor used his political clout to ensure that political allies hold six of the seven school board seats.

In December, Villaraigosa's former education advisor, Ramon C. Cortines, was picked to head the school system.


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