The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

In the gallery at Obama's jobs speech: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

by The Madeleine Brand Show

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President Barack Obama greets Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during a town hall meeting March 19, 2009 in Los Angeles. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

When President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress to promote his jobs plan, at some point he will likely look up to the gallery to where Michelle Obama will be seated. If you're watching on television, look for a familiar figure next to the first lady -- L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The President is preparing to address the nation's 9.1 percent jobless rate and Southern Californians are very familiar with unemployment. The state faces the second highest unemployment rate in the country with L.A. County rates even higher than the rest of the state.

Mayor Villaraigosa, who serves as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, told Madeleine Brand, "We've been calling for a plan to put people back to work."

Villagraigosa blamed a fiercely divided government for slowing down relief efforts to the economy.

"A big reason why we've had a lack of success in turning around the economy is that we have a big group of folks who, frankly, have said 'no' to every initiative. Yes, we have to address the debt in America, but we have to put people back to work," he said.

Unemployment rates right now, Villaraigosa said, are a "national tragedy."

Villaraigosa is one of several Americans invited to attend the President's Thursday evening speech. Other invitees include co-founder of America Online Steve Case, chairman and CEO of American Express Kenneth Chenault, mayor of Cincinnati Mark Mallory, and several small business owners and working Americans.

Obama also met with Villaraigosa in Washington last June when the L.A. Mayor was invited to participate in a bipartisan panel of mayors gathering to discuss the economy.

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