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Dreamtime’s over

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LOS ANGELES MAYOR Antonio Villaraigosa told the city Wednesday that he “can feel the possibility in the air.” But possibility has been in the air since he was elected mayor. It’s time for possibility to coalesce into something concrete.

Villaraigosa’s State of the City address recited a list of accomplishments and aspirations that could have been delivered by any mayor at any time during the last 20 years. More cops on the street, more potholes filled. Solid budgeting. The tragedy of gang violence, the failure of our schools. Something must be done.

It’s not that the mayor has picked the wrong priorities. Education (“the biggest challenge of all”) remains in crisis. Gang violence (“the most important challenge we face”) corrodes the spirit of one neighborhood after another. But his attempt to lead the schools morphed into an unwieldy dispersal of accountability that may have petered out in a Tuesday court decision finding it unconstitutional. And his gang plan is a rehash of ideas that have been rattling around City Hall at least since Villaraigosa’s days as a councilman.

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A comprehensive, community-wide approach to gangs through prevention, suppression and intervention is sound. Saturating trouble zones with multiple services is smart, and it already has been put in place in the Crenshaw area by the Urban League. The mayor’s plan is solid. But it comes after a series of plans from elected officials and others who have consistently recommended the same kinds of programs for years.

Villaraigosa appealed, as he has before, to the “better angels of our nature.” He has, and he retains, no lack of goodwill from the people of Los Angeles. But something valuable is lost by taking too much time to put good plans in place. Failing institutions and communities beset by violence breed a special anxiety.

If there is such a thing as a sophomore jinx, Villaraigosa may have a case of it. He was an outstanding first-year mayor, raising expectations and pride, attracting talented staff and commissioners, setting an ambitious agenda. As he approaches the midpoint of his first term, he’s still tirelessly promoting the interests of the city in Washington, in Sacramento, in Asia and at home.

“Dream with me,” the mayor called, as he did at his inauguration. But dreamtime is over. It’s time to go to work.


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