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The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Secretary Villaraigosa?

The right job and the right moment seem to be meeting for Antonio Villaraigosa.

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Opinion: Secretary Villaraigosa?

AP

Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa flashes a thumbs up to open today session at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Some things just make sense. Like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Rumors abound about Villaraigosa stepping into that job as President Obama reshuffles his cabinet for the second term. Politico reports on the rumors, and the speculation that the current Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, may want to leave.

The timing and the job seem right for Villaraigosa.

The LA mayor is nearing the end of his term -- he'll be out of office next summer. Even if he had to depart the mayor's office a few months early, that wouldn't be much of a problem. The city's focus will be on picking his successor in mayoral elections in the spring.

Even critics of Villaraigosa concede that his record on transportation has been a strength. He's been a force for expanding and accelerating the growth of the Metro train system in LA.

He's had defeats and victories in his efforts, but he's remained steadfast and focused in this policy area. A new line, the Expo, opened earlier this year (albeit behind schedule).

Villaraigosa successfully convinced voters to raise sales taxes to expand the lines. His Measure J, which would have extended the sales tax increase to accelerate construction, won some 64 percent of the vote -- which unfortunately is not enough to pass in a state where local taxes require a two-thirds supermajority.

Any LA mayor would be a fitting choice for transportation secretary, a subject on which Angelenos are experts, through hard commuting experience. But this mayor -- who has also done good work on buses and now an experiment with congestion pricing on the 110 Freeway -- would be an exceptionally good choice.

The Department of Transportation would be, in many ways, a natural extension of his best work at mayor.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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