Opinion: Villaraigosa: Riding Prop. 13 resentment to Sacramento?


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Will he or won’t he? That’s a question we in The Times’ Opinion Manufacturing Division have raised in the past about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s post-L.A. political ambitions. Anticipation of a 2010 Villaraigosa-Gavin Newsom contest got under way almost immediately after Phil Angelides defeated Steve Westly in the 2006 primary to determine which Democrat would go on to reseat then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the intervening four years, the two stars’ lights dimmed considerably. Villaraigosa admitted to an affair; so did then-San Francisco Mayor Newsom, who sought alcohol-abuse treatment after revelations that he slept with a loyal staffer’s wife. Villaraigosa faced bruising political battles in education and labor relations. Newsom went on to become lieutenant governor, an arguably worse political fate than Villaraigosa’s second-term lame-duck status.


But for all of Villaraigosa’s unfulfilled expectations, he has managed to stay somewhat relevant. He became chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this year, giving him a new forum to lobby for jobs programs. Building on his successful campaign for the 2008 Measure R sales-tax increase, he has also pushed Washington with some success to give Los Angeles its expected share of the 30-year transportation funding pie in the next 10 years, accelerating the completion of such major projects as the Subway to the Sea.

Still, the sense is that he needs a major statewide issue to make a gubernatorial candidacy viable against Newsom, who has busied himself with a high-profile quest to bring jobs back to California.

He might have found that issue in Proposition 13, the state’s 1978 antitax initiative. The law, which caps taxes at no more than 1% of a property’s value and doesn’t allow valuations to increase more than 2% per year, is called the state’s third rail for a good reason. When widely respected investor Warren Buffett called in 2003 for the law’s revision, then-candidate Schwarzenegger distanced himself from his economic adviser. Today, Villaraigosa took Gov. Jerry Brown to task for failing to ‘test the voltage of these so-called third-rail issues, beginning with Prop. 13.’

What do you think of Villaraigosa’s move? Is it smart policy-wise but too risky politically? Or is Proposition 13 fine as it is? Take our highly unscientific poll, post your comment or do both.



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-- Paul Thornton