Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Newsom versus Villaraigosa
Los Angeles Mayor
Power relations in US cities
San Francisco Mayor
Third year to be crucial for SF Mayor
Los Angeles goes green
US elections 2006 - California
City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa | Events |
Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa are competing for the annual World Mayor Award. More
City Mayors ranks the world’s largest as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More
City Mayors lists and features urban events, conferences and conventions aimed at urban decision makers and those with an interst in cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More
City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More
City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world and questions them about their achievements, policies and aims. More
City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More
City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More
City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More
City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More
City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More
City Mayors deals with urban transport issues in developed and developing countries and features the world’s greatest metro systems. More
City Mayors examines education issues and policies affecting children and adults in urban areas. More
City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More
City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More
City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More
City Mayors invites readers to write short stories about people in cities around the world. More
City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More
City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More
City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More
California considers the future
of its most charismatic mayors
By Mark Z Barabak, LA Times Staff Writer
5 August 2006: If opposites attract, what of two men as similar as Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco, and Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles: bold, charismatic and young enough to aspire beyond the cities they run and reflect? The result could be a novel contest pitting the state's two marquee mayors in a fight for Californian governor. Never mind that San Francisco's Newsom and Los Angeles' Villaraigosa both disavow any thoughts of future office, insisting they are utterly consumed with their jobs at hand.
Villaraigosa: "I'm focused on it and nothing else right now."
Newsom: "I don't think about that for two seconds."
Forget the fact that there is already a gubernatorial contest well underway involving neither of the two men. While Republican incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger would be term-limited if he wins in November 2006, a victory by Democrat Phil Angelides would presumably put him in a fight for re-election in 2010, probably forestalling a Newsom-Villaraigosa matchup until at least 2014.
No matter! A birds-fly, fish-swim sense of inevitability surrounds the two Democratic mayors and their political futures, placing them, if not exactly on a collision course, then on a path that has produced a certain tension among several of their more eager and aggressive advisors. "It's very much on everyone's radar screen," said one political strategist who occasionally counsels Villaraigosa.
Each side accuses the other of being obsessed and stirring trouble just to draw attention. The Newsom camp suggests that Villaraigosa is trying to lure the city's beloved 49ers football team to Los Angeles. (Untrue, the word from Los Angeles.) Allies of Villaraigosa grumble that Newsom crossed his southern counterpart by allowing education aides to weigh in against Villaraigosa's school takeover proposal. (Not so, the response from San Francisco.)
The result has been more than one staff-level telephone call to unruffle feathers, along with rampant speculation about a race that could highlight a north-south cleavage - cultural, political, demographic - like no other in California's history. "Two different cities," said state historian Kevin Starr. "Two different kinds of people."
But first there are the many similarities between the two mayors that help fuel the competition, real or imagined. As they move about town - for them, sitting at City Hall is like being snared in a trap - both men exude a confidence just this side of swagger, slapping hands and acknowledging well-wishers hollering from rolled-down car windows. "Hey, mayor! Over here!"
There is a crackling energy and a presence - the gleaming teeth, the perfect hair, the stylish tailoring - that makes even the compact Villaraigosa seem larger than he is. (At 6 foot 3, Newsom clearly has his Los Angeles counterpart topped in at least one area.)
Neither has shied from tackling big issues confronting their famously fractious cities. Newsom has worked to establish the first universal healthcare system of any municipality in the country. Villaraigosa pushed through a substantial fee hike to pay for more police and, after scaling back his ambitions somewhat, is edging closer to winning some control over the city's troubled public schools.
Both have dealt with the fallout of race-tinged scandals affecting their police departments. And both enjoy unusually high national profiles as leaders of a political vanguard: Newsom, the push for legalizing same-sex marriage; Villaraigosa, the empowerment of the nation's growing Latino population.
So naturally there is talk of rivalry and a sense of the two men circling each other, even if both vehemently deny any such thing.
Villaraigosa: "I have a great relationship with Gavin. I think he's one of America's finest mayors." Newsom: "My sense is he's extraordinarily popular and he's done a very good job."
There are differences, of course, which make comparisons all the more compelling. Villaraigosa, 53, is the former street tough, still with an edge beneath his pressed white shirt, peach tie and navy blue suit. He is coiled, even when draped across an armchair in his grand City Hall office.
Newsom, 38, is the son of a judge, with the chest-out stride and breezy air of the comfortably well-off. He is supple, whether dealing with a gaggle of Sacramento reporters or the hard cases in San Francisco's tough Bayview neighborhood.
"That's my fault," he says when an angry unemployed man confronts him on the sidewalk over a city program that helps parolees find jobs.
That is something else about Newsom: Of the two, he is the less guarded, quicker to find fault with himself, far more irreverent. He jokes about his appearance, about personal integrity. As he signs autographs for sixth-graders during a weekly walk through their school, he tells them his signature "will be worth a lot if I'm indicted or arrested."
Perhaps it is the arc of their public lives. For Villaraigosa, a labor organizer and community activist, politics was a way up; for Newsom, a prosperous businessman, a move over.
"If you knew where I grew up," Villaraigosa said on a recent sweltering afternoon, "you knew the adversity I've overcome in my life to be able to sit in this job, in this office…. It's a dream come true."
Newsom can be equally rhapsodic about his job and his city. "This is my bliss, my purpose, my inspiration," he said in the back of a black Lincoln Town Car, preparing to step out for a ribbon-cutting at a local sports bar.
But he also displays more cynicism toward politicians and the political system - Newsom uses such words as "knee-jerk" and "dumbed down" to describe much of what passes for public discourse - and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude one never senses from Villaraigosa. "I've got a life outside politics," Newsom said. "Thank God my mother gave me enough hugs when I was a kid. I don't need to be mayor."
In that way, the two seem to mirror their cities: Villaraigosa, the striver who scrapped his way out of Los Angeles' rough Eastside; Newsom, the fourth-generation San Franciscan who made it before he ever set foot inside his hometown's splendid beaux-arts City Hall.
"San Francisco is for those who've arrived," said Starr, who teaches at USC and divides his time between north and south. "Los Angeles is a place for second, third and fourth chances."
Both men will face re-election before they can seriously consider a run for higher office. Newsom is up first, in 2007. Nothing is ever certain in San Francisco, a city that eats its politicians alive. But his skillful appeasement of the city's left and (relatively speaking) right - along with an eye-popping 86 per cent approval rating in a November San Francisco State University poll - suggests his run for a second term could be a waltz.
Villaraigosa was elected last year and won't face the voters again until 2009, assuming he seeks a second term. After a widely heralded start, he is entering what is often the most treacherous time for an incumbent, making it impossible to rate his chances for re-election three years hence. (Just ask Schwarzenegger, among others, about the sophomore jinx.)
For all the two have accomplished - and all the political chatter they've inspired - each still has something to prove.
"Both of them have raised expectations so much" - Villaraigosa with his promise to fix the schools, Newsom with his pledge to make San Francisco a hub of stem cell research and world capital of green technology - "they've got to actually have the record following through on that," said Corey Cook, an assistant professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. Otherwise, he said, they will just be "prima donnas, divas," with their promise and their best years behind them.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
The first elected from its majority Latino community, Antonio Villaraigosa was elected the 41st mayor of Los Angeles on 17 May 2005 when he beat incumbent James Hahn in a run-off vote. Though seen as a competent mayor with 24 years of elected office behind him, the city’s Afro-American voters were seen to punish Hahn over his dismissal of LA police chief Bernard C. Parks in a low turnout poll, electing fellow Democrat Villaraigosa. Snr Villaraigosa unsuccessfully sought the mayoralty in 2001 but has held a variety of elected posts, including as a state assembly member. More
Within months of assuming office as Mayor in January 2004, San Francisco’s Gavin Newsom threw himself into one of the most contentious and divisive issues in US politics by using his administration to bring about same-sex marriages in the Californian city long known for its tolerant surroundings. However, the 37-year old Democrat’s city administration is merely the latest in a line of colourful officeholders since the city’s arrival as an infamous centre of counter-culture. More