Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday continued to distance himself from the Democratic left — and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — with a pledge to take on unions and other interest groups if he is elected governor next year.
“I was a fiscally prudent mayor and had to say no to a lot of people who didn’t like it,” he told about 75 people at a wide-ranging talk at the University Club of Palo Alto about children’s issues. Being governor “is not a job where you want to be the most popular person. It’s where you have to make hard decisions.”
Villaraigosa, a former labor organizer and onetime Assembly speaker, found that his efforts to cut government costs in Los Angeles and reorganize the city’s schools made him plenty of enemies among public workers and education unions.
“We have to acknowledge that there are limits” to what a city — or a state — can afford to do, he said. “The next governor has to lead. If pensions aren’t sustainable, if budgets aren’t sustainable, we have to make changes so they are sustainable.”
Villaraigosa didn’t back away from that view when he was challenged by child-care workers about what they said were the low wages they typically receive.
The former mayor was sympathetic but declined to make any promises.
People “value their kids and must value the people who take care of their kids,” he said, but warned that any changes have to be “within the confines of the budget.”