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City Hall not a 'mess' despite what ads contend, Villaraigosa says

March 5, 2013 |  1:25 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday disputed the idea that City Hall is "a mess," saying campaign ads that portray the city as being near bankruptcy are not accurate.

Standing inside his polling place on the day Angelenos pick a new mayor, Villaraigosa touted the city's success at reducing the size of its budget shortfall in the middle of a huge economic downturn. "The idea that the city's a mess just doesn't conform with reality," said Villaraigosa, moments after casting his ballot in favor of Proposition A, the half-cent sales tax increase.

The argument that the city is a mess is a cornerstone of the campaign waged by Working Californians, the political committee closely tied to the Department of Water and Power's employee union. That group had a TV ad on the air for weeks promoting mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, which begins with the ominous message: "Los Angeles on the verge of bankruptcy. Deficits as far as the eye can see." The commercial then describes Greuel as the one leader who is able to "clean up the mess at City Hall."

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The 30-second spot was created by Villaraigosa's own longtime political advisors, campaign consultants Sean Clegg and Ace Smith of SCN Strategies. Their firm helped Villaraigosa become mayor in 2005 and win  re-election four years later. Clegg helped Villaraigosa govern, by serving as his deputy mayor and speechwriter.

Clegg had no comment on Villaraigosa's election day remarks. Another campaign committee, Better Way LA, has also issued financial warnings as it promotes former prosecutor Kevin James. "Which will it be? Kevin James? Or bankruptcy?" the group's TV ad states.

Asked if the TV ads that describe City Hall as being on the verge of insolvency were accurate, Villaraigosa replied: "Absolutely not."

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"That's what people say when they're running for office. They know better than that," said Villaraigosa, who pointed out that crime is down, new rail lines are under construction and the city's reserve fund is growing.

"The fact of the matter is, there's a lot to celebrate in this town," he added.

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-- David Zahniser and Angel Jennings

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