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EDITORIAL NEW DAY FOR L.A. VILLARAIGOSA'S VICTORY OFFERS HOPE FOR CHANGES IN CITY HALL.

WITH the victory of Antonio Villaraigosa in the mayor's race on Tuesday, voters chose not just a new leader but a new direction for the city.

Even though the nasty campaign suppressed voting so that only 30 percent of those registered came to the polls, it couldn't suppress the desire of those who did turn out to make a change at the top.

The election was more than just a rout of Mayor James Hahn. It was a condemnation of what City Hall has become over the past four years: A place where moneyed interests get special treatment and the public gets stuck with the bill.

Forget the moniker of ``First Latino Mayor in 133 years.'' That's not what makes the ascension of Villaraigosa notable. The hope of the people invested in Villaraigosa is that he can use his charismatic personality to deliver on his promise to be the mayor for all the people - and not the divisive servant of the few that his predecessor had become.

He won a landslide victory by offering himself as a bold and visionary leader, someone who can reach out to all the factions of the city - Democrats and Republicans, businesses and workers, activists and developers - and find common ground that balances the interests of everyone.

Given his promise to unify the city, it was somehow fitting that Villaraigosa's tenure as mayor-elect began Wednesday in a trial by fire.

What was supposed to be a simple media event at Taft High School in Woodland Hills to promote a new partnership between City Hall and the Los Angeles Unified School District turned into something quite different. Several fights broke out among students before his arrival, and rumors spread that they were racially motivated. School officials locked down the school and considered canceling his appearance.

But the councilman came anyhow and addressed the media as Los Angeles Police Department helicopters buzzed overhead and angry parents shouted their concerns. He offered assurances from police and school officials that the incidents were isolated and not racially motivated, and that he will do all in his power to reduce tensions and create better understanding.

It was supposed to be a day of symbolism and it was, in an unintended way.

Tensions across the lines of race, class and region run high in Los Angeles. The city had moved forward under Richard Riordan's leadership but lost ground under Hahn, who rarely took responsibility for the things that went wrong and too often put a higher premium on political advantage than solving problems.

Despite his massive victory, many voters saw Villaraigosa as the lesser of two evils and remain skeptical that he can deliver on his promise to bring people together.

The incident at Taft High should be a warning that he has little room to skirt his commitments. The needs of the city are great and so are the challenges the mayor-elect faces.

Los Angeles deserves nothing less than his tireless energy to make the city a better place for all its people.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 19, 2005
Words:503
Previous Article:EDITORIAL NOT ENOUGH? GOVERNOR'S BUDGET HAS MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOLS THAN EVER, SO WHY ARE HIS CRITICS COMPLAINING?
Next Article:VICTORY CAME IN 13 OF 15 DISTRICTS HAHN LOST SUPPORT OF MINORITIES, VALLEY.


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