Sandy, This is all ready to roll. Pls post today/tonight when you can as the second EP, in place of Greider. Thanks, Peter TAGS: Los Angeles and Urban Issues BLURBS: 1)
“I’m an unabashed progressive,” Los Angeles Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa told an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd at the Take Back America conference in Washington, DC, in June, “but I’m not a knee-jerk.”
Villaraigosa’s landslide victory (59 percent to 41 percent) on May 17 over incumbent Mayor James Hahn, a moderate Democrat, has raised hopes among progressives about moving the city in a new direction. But what does it mean to be a progressive at the municipal level when so many powerful forces–a city whose financial needs far exceed its revenue-raising capacity, a President and governor hostile to the plight of cities and the poor, a business and development community dominated by shortsighted executives resistant to taxes, living wages and regulation, and the ever-present threat of capital mobility–are arrayed against reform?
Villaraigosa understands that to be an effective mayor of America’s second-largest city, he needs not only to help progressive forces expand and mobilize their base but also to strengthen his support among a significant segment of the city’s suburban moderates and the enlightened wing of the business community. He needs to be a new kind of probusiness mayor–by redefining a “healthy business climate” to mean prosperity that is shared by working people, one that lifts the working poor into the middle class.
Villaraigosa’s wide victory margin was spread across all key electoral demographics. He won majorities among all income groups, from 54 percent among those earning more than $100,000 to 67 percent among voters below $20,000. He won 84 percent of the Latino vote, 60 percent of all union members and more than half of black and Jewish voters. He also expanded his support among white voters in the suburban middle-class San Fernando Valley, garnering 48 percent of their votes compared with 34 percent in 2001, when he lost to Hahn.
The election outcome was not only a personal victory for the 52-year-old Villaraigosa but also a triumph for LA’s progressive movement. Nationwide, labor union membership is shrinking, but in Los Angeles it is growing, particularly in sectors dominated by immigrants who work as janitors, security guards, garment workers, healthcare aides, maids and cooks in the tourism industry, and laundry workers. Unions have forged alliances with community groups, faith-based organizations and immigrants’ rights activists. As a result, the number of progressive and labor-friendly politicians in City Hall (as well as in the state legislature) has increased. Last week, Martin Ludlow, one of Villaraigosa’s key allies and former political director of the LA County Federation of Labor, left his City Council seat after two years to head the powerful labor group, left vacant by the untimely death of Miguel Contreras in May.
Labor’s clout has translated into progressive municipal policy. The city adopted a strong living wage law in 1997. In 2002 it enacted a $100 million annual municipal housing trust fund (although Mayor Hahn failed to fully fund it), and last year, the city passed an anti-“big box” ordinance and an antisweatshop policy.