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Villaraigosa visits Westwood

By Tessa McClellan

March 1, 2009 10:25 p.m.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Steve Zimmer and Jack Weiss paid an informal visit to students and Westwood community members on Saturday night in an effort to campaign for Tuesday’s municipal elections.

The candidates greeted people on Broxton Avenue, shook hands with diners in BJ’s Restaurant, Noodle Planet and California Pizza Kitchen, and took pictures with people waiting in line for Diddy Riese Cookies.

Villaraigosa is running for reelection as mayor of Los Angeles, Steve Zimmer is running for a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board for Local District 4, and Jack Weiss is running for city attorney.

Zimmer said the three came to Westwood to alert residents about the elections and interact with the voters in the community who will be affected by the issues in and results of the elections.

“The municipal elections are very important because most of the change we are talking about actually happens on a grassroots level,” Zimmer said. “We made an intentional point of reaching out to UCLA because a lot of times UCLA folks are not involved in the municipal campaign.”

Though this was Villaraigosa’s first visit to Westwood in this campaign, the mayor said he makes a point to frequently talk to college and high-school-age young people.

Though he was willing to answer questions Saturday, Villaraigosa has not responded to invitations from the UCLA campus, including to last week’s Political Science Student Organization mayoral debate and repeated requests from the Daily Bruin for a one-on-one interview.

“I always come to Westwood and UCLA (when campaigning) because this is where I went to school,” he said.

Jazmin Ortega, spokeswoman for Villaraigosa’s office, said the mayor spent all day Saturday visiting a variety of locations in Los Angeles, including Skid Row, the State of the Black Union at the Los Angeles Convention Center and Westwood.

“Though his record speaks for itself, he doesn’t want to take the voter’s vote for granted,” she said.

Villaraigosa’s decision to decline the opportunity debate with any of the nine opposing candidates, such as Walter Moore, has raised some controversy.

Villaraigosa said he attributed most of the criticism to the political “talking-heads” and said voters have generally responded well to his accomplishments and campaign efforts.

“I’ve said I want my work and accomplishments to speak for my candidacy,” Villaraigosa said. “I’ve set the bar high. I’m running on my record, and hope that people will get behind (me).”

Villaraigosa said he has been pleased with accomplishments made in terms of decreasing crime and making Los Angeles more “green.”

“We want to continue to drive crime down in Los Angeles County,” Villaraigosa said. The Los Angeles Police Department reported a 50 percent decrease in violent crime since 2002.

He added he has already fostered a growth in the use of green power in Los Angeles to 10 percent from 2 percent, and he hopes to achieve 20 percent green power in 2010.

Villaraigosa also said he supports Measure B, the Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Act, and wants to implement Measure R to improve public transportation in Los Angeles, if reelected.

Many students, including some members of Bruin Democrats, came out to flier and support the candidates in their campaign, while others took advantage of the surprise opportunity to meet them during a Saturday night out in Westwood.

“I’m impressed with how coordinated and together they are in their campaign efforts,” said Kyla Coates, a second-year political science student and member of Bruin Democrats. “It’s refreshing to see them working together in the community to remind people the election is important.”

Coates added that Zimmer has fully included students in the campaign and is really making an effort to let them know how much of a difference their votes could make in a close race.

Zimmer said that by interacting with voters at the local level, he hopes to encourage political activism and to see in Tuesday’s election a continuation of the enthusiasm and energy seen in the November presidential race.

“When Obama talks about change, (the municipal level) is where it happens,” he added.

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Tessa McClellan
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