Mayor, Los Angeles
What He's Done Rather than waiting on Washington to bail out the city, Villaraigosa persuaded nearly 70 percent of L.A. residents to approve Measure R – a half-cent sales tax that will provide $35 billion to fund major transportation improvements, including a new subway line and light-rail extensions. The mayor is also leveraging the 30 years of revenue the tax will provide to secure federal loans that will enable L.A. to complete a dozen major infrastructure projects in just 10 years. The 30/10 plan, as it's known, would create 160,000 jobs, boost transit use by 77 million passengers and cut vehicle travel by 191 million miles. Villaraigosa has united the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO behind a national version of the plan, called America Fast Forward, and the Senate Public Works Committee recently endorsed the idea by approving $1 billion a year to guarantee loans for transportation improvements – by a stunning, bipartisan vote of 18-0.
Admirers Say "Villaraigosa had a brilliant, breakthrough idea at a very difficult time," says Sen. Barbara Boxer. "If we can get our bill passed, we can create up to 1 million new jobs because of the leveraging – and the federal government has literally zero risk."
Enemies Say Rush Limbaugh, on meeting L.A.'s first Latino mayor since the 1870s: "I thought he was the shoeshine guy."
Gives Us Pause His heavy-handed use of 1,400 riot police to crack down on Occupy Los Angeles in November.