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Mayor Villaraigosa delivered his final ‘State of the City’ address at UCLA

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gives the annual “State of the City” address at Royce Hall.

By Katherine Hafner

April 10, 2013 7:37 a.m.

Flanked by the flags of the city, the state and the country, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took center stage at Royce Hall on Tuesday to deliver his last annual “State of the City” address.

During the roughly 30-minute speech, Villaraigosa, a UCLA alumnus, detailed the current progress of Los Angeles, similar to the “State of the Union” address given by the President of the United States. He discussed what he considered his greatest accomplishments as mayor, such as growth in education, transportation and business, as well as where there is room for improvement when the next mayor takes office.

Villaraigosa will end his tenure as mayor on July 1. The upcoming mayoral runoff election, to determine who takes over for Villaraigosa, will take place on May 21, between Democratic candidates City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti. Greuel was present at the speech on Tuesday.

Chancellor Gene Block introduced Villaraigosa in front of about 500 people, thanking him for his work for the city of Los Angeles and for being a “proud Bruin.”

“Los Angeles is on the move,” Villaraigosa said and repeated many times at the event to iterate the speech’s theme of moving forward with an eye on the recent past.

During the speech, Villaraigosa said the state of the city is “strong“ and cited business growth after the city started exempting new businesses from taxes for three years as one of his accomplishments in achieving this strength.

“After the worst recession (in a long time), we’re finally turning a corner,” he said. “Eight years ago we dared to dream … and we promised to deliver … and we did.”

He also talked about police enforcement and crime reduction throughout his term, citing a 55 percent decrease in gang-related crime.

“Our gang reduction program is now a national and international model,” Villaraigosa said.

Andrew Glazier, deputy director of program and service for City Year, an education-focused nonprofit organization, was among community leaders in the audience on Tuesday, and said he has worked with kids at L.A. public schools under Villaraigosa.

“I think he (showed) the dedication he has brought to (education),” Glazier said after the speech. “He brought a lot of passion.”

Villaraigosa did, however, also acknowledge there were bumps along the road during his leadership, calling them “potholes” to the laughter of the crowd.

During his eight years as mayor, Villaraigosa has been criticized by teachers and administrators for some of his proposals in education, such as his attempts to restructure the Los Angeles Unified School District.

His 30/10 Initiative, a plan to allow Metro to build 12 mass transit projects in 10 years rather than 30, also has been criticized for not keeping its promise of completing the transit projects on time, according to Daily Bruin archives.

David Bocarsly, president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council who attended the speech, said he thought it was “very cool” that Villaraigosa came to UCLA, his alma mater, for his last State of the City address.

“Coming from my position, it is inspiring to see (Villaraigosa’s) commitment to education,” Bocarsly added.

When speaking of education, Villaraigosa criticized both Greuel and Garcetti, and said he thinks neither candidate has proposed sufficient proposals for education reform.

“As community leaders, we have a special responsibility to the city that’s given us so much,” he said. “And central to this duty must be a responsibility to do right by our children and their schools.”

After the event, in a small press conference, Greuel countered Villaraigosa’s claim.

“Education is a No. 1 priority,” Greuel said. “We need to keep our … schools accountable.”

Bocarsly said he appreciated Villaraigosa’s challenge to the current mayoral candidates to propose more comprehensive education reform, and encouraged UCLA students to get more involved with the upcoming mayoral election.

“(The next mayor of L.A.) clearly affects us,” Bocarsly said.

The mayor ended his speech on a note of optimism.

“Dare to dream, Los Angeles,” he said, returning to the opening lines of his address. “And promise to deliver.”

Email Hafner at [email protected].

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