With only nine months remaining in his term, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday kicked off a farewell tour highlighting the achievements of his years as mayor as well as what he learned from San Fernando Valley voters.
"I have been told I have visited the Valley more than any other mayor," Villaraigosa said at the annual Mayor's Luncheon sponsored by the United Chambers of Commerce at the Warner Center Mariott Hotel.
"I have been to every one of these luncheons and I do it because it is the San Fernando Valley that is the center of diversity of this city."
During his 40 minutes of speaking, Villaraigosa ticked off a number of accomplishments of his administration, beginning with crime -- "the streets are now safer than they were at any time since 1954," the mayor said.
And, while he has had to make cuts in other areas of the city budget, he has insisted the LAPD remain in the range of 9,400 officers to prevent any increase in crime rates.
The mayor then went through a series of initiatives he has undertaken from education, business reform, and transportation and infrastructure improvements to work at LAX and the Port of Los Angeles.
"When I came in office, Los Angeles was known for being unfriendly to business," Villaraigosa said. "Since then, we implemented a business tax holiday for three years that we are extending."
Hoping to reverse the exodus of 95 car dealers from the city over the last
25 years, the mayor and City Council pushed to eliminate the gross receipts tax for dealers, the mayor said.
"Now auto dealers are coming back and we are getting the sales tax revenue."
On education, Villaraiogsa said he had to take on the teachers union that he once worked for to push through reforms. He now has 22 of the toughest schools in the district under his authority and the number of charter schools are at all time highs.
As a result, he said, dropout rates have declined and test scores have gone up.
"What I have learned from the Valley is that you can govern from the middle of the road," Villaraigosa said.
As for his future, Villaraigosa said he is planning to take some time off to assess where he goes next.
"I'm 59 and I think I have a lot more to contribute," Villaraigosa said. "But, I want to take some time to figure out what's wrong with the system."
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