Antonio Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor who is expected to run for governor in 2018, spent Friday in Santa Barbara with State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to talk to social justice advocates, environmentalists, probation officials, and others. The gathering marked the 27th day of his “listening tour” so the potential gubernatorial hopeful can better understand the Golden State.
“I don’t really know this state the way you need to know it,” Villaraigosa said, without elaborating, in opening remarks. He has also visited Salinas, the Central Valley, San Francisco, San Diego, and Coachella.
Jackson first met Villaraigosa, who is 62, in the Assembly in the late 1990s, when he was the speaker and she served her first term in public office. She hosted Villaraigosa on the hot afternoon Friday at Casa de la Raza to talk about the fraught criminal justice system, environmental issues, and, with gridlock causing a commuter nightmare in southern California that day, transportation. Before that, he spent the morning at UCSB.
In beginning deliberations, chief probation officer Lupe Rabago noted several state initiatives in the past several years have given local governments more control, including AB 109, also known as realignment, and Proposition 47, which decreased drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors since it was approved last November.
Preliminary findings presented to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors last week demonstrated the percentage of people who fail to appear in court has increased by 45 percent and drug treatment participation is down. Villaraigosa — who said he supported Prop. 47 — endorsed the concept of reducing prison sentences and investing in prevention programs but suggested the matter needed to be carefully scrutinized to ensure Prop. 47 outcomes matched those intended. Jackson advised the group hold off on interpreting Prop. 47 impacts until a full year of data is available.
On environmental issues, Villaraigosa noted the nexus of environmentalism and social justice, remarking the disproportionate impact of carbon emissions on poor people living in cities. “If you want the poor community to get behind this, there has got to be something for them,” he said.
On what he called the “broken tax system,” Villaraigosa said he voted against Prop. 13, property tax reform originally passed in 1978, and called for the state to take up tax increases or restructuring — especially “as the state gets bluer.” Jackson noted voters would not support taxes unless they have confidence in how the government spends their money.
His Santa Barbara visit came the day after a new Field Poll showed he is among three probable candidates with early support; the others are Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (who is the only one to have formally announced his candidacy) and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Villaraigosa, who is a big Hillary Clinton supporter, has not said publicly if he plans to run for governor, but in closing remarks Friday, he said, “I think you’ll see more of me.”