Fallen angel

Years ago, in a youthful act of indiscretion, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had the phrase "Born to Raise Hell" inked into his arm. He's since had the tattoo removed, but inside observers of hizzoner's year-long effort to take over the city's schools, which ended abruptly this week, believe the saying still fits him well. A recent New Yorker profile by Connie Bruck takes exception to earlier newspaper reports that depicted Villaraigosa as a heroic and steadfast defender of a badly needed takeover plan, describing him instead as an impetuous, weak-kneed political opportunist. The mayor began to bob and weave when he realized that his takeover plan had upset his allies in the California Teachers Association. When he fell back on a weak compromise that was doomed from the start, supporter Eli Broad rebuked him; Villaraigosa replied, "How many billionaires are there in this town? Six, seven, eight? There's one mayor." He then entered a costly legal battle (which he lost) over a school takeover plan that neither side really wanted. Villaraigosa allies just won a majority on the L.A. Board of Education, which allowed him to leave behind the mayoral control fiasco and embrace another school-related victory. We wonder, though, if it's really a victory for L.A.'s kids.

"Mayor drops school fight," by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2007

"Fault lines," by Connie Bruck, New Yorker, May 21, 2007

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