By Chris Jennewein
California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa told San Diego business leaders Wednesday his track record as mayor of Los Angeles proves he can tackle the state’s most difficult challenges.
“I was willing to challenge what was broken — a broken school system and a city that is very difficult to do business in,” said Villaraigosa at a special luncheon at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I think the next governor’s got to make the tough calls.”
He cited a list of similar tough challenges facing California, including excessive regulation, lack of training for an increasingly technical economy, limited affordable housing and crumbling infrastructure.
“CEQA‘s broken,” he said, referring to California’s complex environmental review law. “If you could get a compressed environmental review for a football station, why not for affordable housing?”
And he took the state’s bureaucracy to task. “A lot of these agencies, they’re like fiefdoms,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with streamlining our regulations.”
Polls show Villaraigosa, a Democrat, running second or third after Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, and Republican John Cox, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and newcomer to California politics. The primary election is June 5.
“Right now I’m fighting for second. That’s a fact,” Villaraigosa acknowledged.
In the wide-ranging discussion with chamber members, he addressed a variety of business and political issues, including:
- Gas Tax Increase: “We’ve got to put it in a lock box so it’s just for transportation.”
- Foreign Trade: “As governor, I want to support San Diego in their efforts to work with Mexico on projects of joint opportunity.”
- State Finances: “I’m a progressive who believes you have to pay your bills.”
- Bullet Train: “I see it as an engine for economic development,” but “we’ve got to value-engineer it” and find a private partner.
Villaraigosa was mayor of California’s largest city from 2005 to 2013 and before that served in the state Assembly, ultimately becoming speaker and earning a reputation for bi-partisan leadership.
“We’ve got to come together in a bi-partisan way,” he said, but added, “I’m not afraid to use a club once in awhile.”
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