Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Playing the Villaraigosa-Cabinet speculation game (UPDATED)

LA Mayor Villraigosa Discusses Immigration Reform In Washington

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa remains the subject of speculation over a Cabinet post in the Obama administration.

UPDATE: Ken Salazar's decision to leave as Secretary of the Interior, announced Wednesday, puts more pressure on the Obama Administration to name Latinos to his Cabinet. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Everyone in Washington considers themselves smarter than anyone else in the room and therefore entitled to prognosticate on everything under the sun. Here's my punditry on the matter of where L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might land in a second Obama admistration cabinet, should his personal life survive the vetting process:

There are currently two cabinet posts vacant at the moment: Labor and head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Neither is a good fit for Villaraigosa.

The mayor might argue he's been a leader in the green cities movement — meeting Kyoto targets on greenhouse gas, planting thousands of trees, reducing water consumption, reducing emissions at the ports. But there are others with more scientific backgrounds — outgoing Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire for one — who have a deeper environmental resume. Gregoire headed the state’s Department of Ecology and negotiated a nuclear waste cleanup agreement.

Labor might seem like a good fit. After all, Villaraigosa was a labor organizer before he branched into politics. But the Mayor himself admits he made enemies when he pushed for pension reform, rolling back retirement benefits for new city hires. He would be an unusual choice to head the cabinet position whose departmental motto is to "foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners."

The ideal place for Villaraigosa would be the Department of Transportation. This is where the Mayor has some real D.C. street cred.

Against all odds, Villaraigosa convinced Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate — as well as his fellow mayors across the country — to back his America Fast Forward plan. In L.A. it was known as 30-10—  get the federal government to give or lend the money it would take 30 years to raise from a voter-approved sales tax and build transportation projects in a decade.

Republicans liked the idea that it was self-sustaining: the sales tax ensured a steady stream of income to repay the loan. Democrats liked it because it put people to work immediately at a time when unemployment was hovering at double digits. Late last year, Congress passed a two-year transportation bill. It included a billion dollars a year for America Fast Forward transportation loans.

Villaraigosa also served as chairman of the MTA board three times. And if you ever make the mistake of asking him about a transportation project, he'll bend your ear for half an hour.

The only problem: Ray LaHood is the current Secretary of Transporation and he didn't appear to be leaving anytime soon.

But now, there are rumors that LaHood could be leaving in the next few months. A Chicago Sun Times reporter says he heard it from an Obama official.

The timing would be perfect for Villaraigosa, whose term expires at the end of June.

So this nascent D.C. pundit is putting her prediction on the line: as Charlie Sheen's tweet of the Mayor partying in Baja fades from memory, and the pressure from national Latino groups for the White House to name three Latinos to the cabinet continues, and Villaraigosa continues to find a national media appetite for his opinions on everything from immigration to gun control that keep him in the public eye, come spring we'll get the official word that all those trips to D.C. have paid off. And we may soon be addressing Mayor Villaraigosa as Mr. Secretary.

blog comments powered by Disqus