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Villaraigosa takes oath for second term, blunt, sober and seeking a 'second wind'

The mayor focuses on job creation and accountability in a ceremony that is sunny but lacks the star power of his first inauguration.

July 02, 2009|Phil Willon, David Zahniser and Maeve Reston

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday unveiled a second-term agenda dominated by plans for shoring up the economy and cleaning the environment as he vowed to complete the work he started four years ago.

Speaking to an audience of more than 3,000 on the steps of City Hall, Villaraigosa vowed to focus on "deadlines over headlines," a sober tone for a mayor sometimes criticized for being too enamored with the majesty of his office.

Villaraigosa, who last week ended months of speculation by announcing he will not run for California governor in 2010, promised to give the public measurable results in his final term and said he had been enlightened and chastened by the successes and failures of his first four years.

"I stand renewed and reinvigorated, recommitted to the task before us," Villaraigosa said. "Above all, I stand determined, determined to finish what we started, determined to find a second wind in our second term."

Villaraigosa's 31-minute speech capped an event-filled morning, which included inaugural ceremonies for City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

Eight council members also were sworn in, including Paul Koretz, who replaces Jack Weiss, a Villaraigosa ally who lost to Trutanich in a bitterly fought city attorney contest.

Thousands of supporters and curious onlookers gathered for the late morning event, and Villaraigosa was interrupted many times by polite applause. Across the street, scores of demonstrators from the Bus Riders Union chanted for Villaraigosa to buy more buses instead of spending money to hire additional police.

A bright red carpet flowed down City Hall's southern steps, and Lakers guard Derek Fisher, fresh off the team's NBA championship, served as the inauguration's emcee. Grammy Award winner Patti Austin belted out the national anthem. Villaraigosa was sworn into office by his sister, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Villar, using their mother's Bible. His children stood by his side during the ceremony.

With L.A. confronting a 12% unemployment rate, Villaraigosa said he would create a "jobs team" dedicated to attracting and retaining companies and promised to give discounts on the electric bills of businesses that move to Los Angeles.

The mayor also vowed to end the Department of Water and Power's reliance on coal-fired power plants and instead secure 40% of its power from renewable resources by 2020 -- up from his previous goal of 35%. In his speech, Villaraigosa warned that the push for more renewable energy would require an "investment" from DWP ratepayers -- a veiled reference to the likelihood of higher electricity rates.

Former state Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, who ran against Villaraigosa in the 2005 mayoral election, said he supports the mayor's push to wean the DWP off coal but warned that other forms of energy cost more. "The big challenge in renewable energy is, how do you make the transition but still keep" rates affordable? said Hertzberg, who attended the ceremony.

Villaraigosa also voiced frustration with the pace of improvement at the Los Angeles Unified School District, where six of seven school board members have received his political support. He said he would work with the board to shut down failing schools and reconstitute them as charter schools -- or place them under the control of his Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

"We can no longer afford to accept the same old tired excuses for failure," he said.

The head of the local teachers union called the mayor's comments "public relations," saying teachers gave a vote of no confidence at eight of the 10 schools that the mayor gained control of through an agreement with the school board.

"I believe we need to fix public education, not continue to put money in charters when all the available data shows that charters do not educate students any better than public schools," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Inevitably, Wednesday's ceremony failed to recapture the exuberance and liberal panache that crackled during Villaraigosa's first inauguration, when Al Gore, Jesse Jackson and four of California's last five governors -- and even "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff -- attended with other celebrities and national and international dignitaries.

By dethroning James K. Hahn, a sitting mayor and a member of one of L.A.'s most venerable political families, Villaraigosa in 2005 became the face of modern-day Los Angeles, the son of a single, working mother who made the unprecedented trek from L.A.'s Eastside to the mayor's office at City Hall. His election as the city's first Latino mayor in 133 years was hailed as a coming-of-age for Latino political power in America.

When Villaraigosa took office, he quickly began talking up the idea of establishing mayoral control over L.A. Unified, a sprawling bureaucracy that serves children in Los Angeles and 25 other cities.

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