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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tours Mexico

November 30, 2009 |  6:47 pm
While traveling in Mexico today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a swipe at efforts to build a massive fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying U.S. politicians should spend their time building bridges instead of walls, the Associated Press reported.

“We should focus on what we have in common instead of focusing on our differences,” Villaraigosa said after a meeting with Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

On Sunday, Villaraigosa met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón at the National Palace. Before the mayor was given a tour, the two discussed immigration and public safety issues, according to a representative of the mayor’s office.

Villaraigosa’s trip to Mexico started Thursday, when he led a delegation of authors, artists, filmmakers and musicians to the 2009 Guadalajara International Book Fair, where Los Angeles had been declared the guest of honor.
A $2.1-million grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs paid for the delegation’s trip to Guadalajara, including travel expenses for four staff members from the mayor’s office and a dozen from Cultural Affairs. Councilman Jose Huizar and City Librarian Martin Gomez also were part of the delegation.

The mayor’s trip to Mexico City cost an estimated $8,600 and was paid for by Villaraigosa’s office and Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that oversees Los Angeles International Airport.

It's unclear what source of funds will be used to pay the travel expenses of the mayor's LAPD security detail.

On Sunday, Villaraigosa met with Calderón. Today, he met with government and business leaders, including Secretary of Government Fernando Gómez-Mont and the majority owner of Volaris Airlines, Carlos Slim.

The mayor’s office did not release details of Villaraigosa’s Mexico trip until shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, the night before the Thanksgiving holiday and a day before he flew to Guadalajara.

Since starting his second term as mayor July 1, Villaraigosa has averaged a trip outside Los Angeles about one out of every six days.

According to the mayor’s calendar, many of the trips were official business. Those trips included a visit to the National Clean Energy Summit Roundtable in Las Vegas for two days in August; traveling to Seattle in October when the National Conference of Mayors signed a climate protection agreement; and flying to New York for a day in September to announce a new public service initiative with New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The mayor also vacationed in Iceland in late July and early August. In early July, Villarigosa took a nine-day vacation to South Africa to attend a summit sponsored by the Academy of Achievement.

Villaraigosa’s expenses for the South Africa trip were paid for by the academy which, according to its website, holds the annual event so that graduate students from around the world can meet with "the greatest thinkers and achievers of the age."

In mid-December, Villaraigosa will be traveling to Copenhagen for the Climate Summit for Mayors, which coincides with the separate international climate summit that will be attended by President Obama and other world leaders.

-- Phil Willon