One Mayor's Shame

Deaf to the cries of LA's youth

By Don Austen
Published on LatinoLA: September 13, 2006

One Mayor's Shame

In an era of understanding human needs, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villarogosa stands politically out of touch with those he is supposed to be representing.

While bolstering his own career as an actor with appearances in 2005 and 2006 on such TV shows as George Lopez, Tavis Smiley and The Situation Room, Villarogosa seems to have little time to deal with the needs of his constituents. Rather, it seems, he would opt for any TV or radio show appearance in his apparent bid for the role of governor in the years that lay ahead.

Born Antonio Villar, Jr. in 1953, the mayor added on the name of his wife, Corina Raigosa, in 1987 to later become the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles since 1872, when Los Angeles had a population of less than 6000. Four failed attempts to pass the California State Bar led him into the political arena, which brokered him as a figurehead of Latinos and a champion of their rights.

One would think that such a leader would be concerned about the children in his community. Sadly, he is not.

While making a strong bid to take over Los Angeles city schools, the mayor pays little attention to the needs of Los Angeles children, especially the needs of Latino teenage girls, who are far more likely to contemplate, attempt or commit suicide than any other ethnic group.

The statistics speak for themselves. Suicide is a real problem. It is the 3rd leading cause of death in 18-24 year olds.

But it is not a priority with Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had time to lead a campaign to fill 35,000 potholes in L.A. City streets, but he apparently does not have time to meet to discuss why nearly 20,000 Latino girls in his city contemplate suicide every year.

He has time to lead a crusade to support drivers licenses and citizenship for illegal aliens, but his time falls short when it comes to the needs of those 100,000 L.A. children that are anorexic or bulimic or that cut or kill themselves.

Being a leader means more than being popular. It means taking a stand for what is important. Most would tend to agree that filling the emptiness in a child's heart is more important than pouring asphalt into a pothole in the street. Most would agree, but apparently Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would not.

About Don Austen:
Founder and President of Thursday's Child, a charity helping at-risk youth, started in 1982.

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