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Hey Mr. Mayor! How about helping us into a better place?

January 21, 2010 | 10:30 am
LopezAs we all know, budgets are miserably tight and getting tighter in California.

But aren't there ways for, say, a mayor, to significantly improve city living and civic engagement at virtually no cost?

I say yes, and I was reminded of it when the Times published a story last week about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's new and improved life. He's exercising more, eating better and becoming more focused on local matters now that he's found a little more stability in his personal life and bowed out of a run for governor.

So here's my question:

In a city with huge obesity and diabetes rates, particularly among children, why can't the mayor do a Richard Simmons act and challenge Angelenos to get with the program?

I'm talking about going public with what he eats and why, dining at a different school each week, leading a jog at a rec center, and reminding everyone that healthcare reform ought to begin with healthier living. The mayor could also steal a trick from former Mayor Dick Riordan and ride a bike at least once a week, leading a pack of commuters, or start his day with an ocean swim. That would draw the TV cameras, and we know he loves the cameras.

I've been talking to one of Villaraigosa's aides about meeting with the mayor to discuss these and other ideas in the coming days, and here's your chance to weigh in:

Tell Talk Back what you think the mayor could do for virtually no cost, using his bully pulpit, his creativity and his coalition-building skills to make a positive effect on your life and mine. I'll pass the best ideas on to him when we meet.

-- Steve Lopez