LA Mayor denounces Schwarzenegger's ballot 'reforms'
By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2005
LOS ANGELES (AP) - At a news conference to discuss his first 100 days in office, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa instead turned his attention to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday, accusing him of misusing the state's ballot initiative process to force his political agenda on the state Legislature.
During his first few months in office, Villaraigosa, a Democrat and former state Assembly speaker, has appeared eager to cultivate a cordial relationship with the Republican governor. But his pointed remarks made it clear their relationship will have its limits.
Asked about four ballot measures the governor is supporting in a special "year of reform" election he has called for next month, Villaraigosa replied: "I'm opposed to all of his initiatives."
The measures Schwarzenegger is supporting are Proposition 74, which would extend from two to five years the time teachers must work to receive tenure; Proposition 75, which would require public employee unions to seek written permission from members before using their dues for political purposes; Proposition 76, which would enact a state spending cap; and Proposition 77, which would strip lawmakers of the power to draw political districts.
"In this instance it's very clear that the initiative process is being misused," Villaraigosa said. "These are matters that could and should be addressed by the Legislature."
Todd Harris, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger's campaign, said the governor took the issues before voters because the Legislature was unwilling to work with him.
"The governor could not agree with the mayor more that the Legislature should have worked with the governor to pass these reforms," Harris said. "Instead, the Legislature focused on its own priorities, things like gay marriage and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants."
Villaraigosa's comments, while not out of keeping with his political loyalties, carry particular resonance given his position as California's most prominent Hispanic officeholder and mayor of the state's largest city.
As he pushes his ballot agenda, Schwarzenegger has been trying to rebuild his standing with Hispanic voters who helped put him in office in 2003 but whose support has eroded in recent months.
Turning more to a reflection on his first 100 days in office, Villaraigosa restated his determination to place city schools under mayor control. He said his staff is working on various proposals that could extract city schools from the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"We cannot allow 50 percent of our children to drop out," he said.
During his first 100 days, Villaraigosa has also proposed plans to reduce traffic congestion, to fight crime by hiring hundreds of additional police officers and to beautify the city by planting a million trees.
He has also established himself as an irrepressible city booster and salesman, maintaining a near constant presence at city events both large and small.
"I want people in the city to know I care," he said, noting he has traveled 24,000 miles in the Los Angeles area since taking office, an average of 240 miles a day.
"I said I'd be a hands-on mayor."