LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Transportation Secretary rumors

Feb 2 2013 Update: Villaraigosa rules out Transpo Secretary job.

As Antonio Villaraigosa remains on the short list of potential candidates for Secretary of Transportation, rumors swirled throughout the day that the Obama Administration reached out to the Los Angeles Mayor. The Mayor’s press office remains coy on the news, neither confirming nor denying the rumors.

The Mayor of Los Angeles is known among bike and transit advocates for his stalwart support for programs that encourage those modes of travel. On Friday morning, the Mayor signed a new city ordinance which requires more bicycle parking at new developments and allows swapping car parking for bike parking in certain approved development plans.

His Damascus Moment (thank you Ted!) arrived when he broke his elbow after Villagairosa was run off of the road by a careless taxi driver. Since then, he held a city wide bike summit and personally championed Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal’s “Three Feet” passing law (and reportedly felt betrayed when Governor Brown vetoed the bill). Villagairosa is also a big supporter and regular participant of CicLAvia, the popular open streets event in Los Angeles.

Damien at Streetsblog LA points out other achievements for cycling and transit, including an ambitious bike plan and national leadership on federal transportation funding issues.

Villaraigosa has his detractors. The famously anti-rail LA Bus Riders Union criticizes the mayor for his very public support of Measure R and for standing aside when LA Metro cut routes and raised fares on bus routes throughout Los Angeles. His gun control rhetoric has earned him enemies among many in the Second Amendment camp (though his appointment as Transportation Secretary would remove him from that debate). The Latino mayor lost significant political support after his personal infidelities came to light in 2007. He has also been investigated for ethics violations and is accused of nepotism.

While the Obama Administration weighs the value of a Latino cabinet member against controversies that may delay a Senate confirmation, one question remains: If Villagairosa is selected, will the White House allow him to ride his bike to the office?

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