Villaraigosa defends Israel trip
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, just back from an official weeklong visit to Israel, defended the estimated $100,000 cost of the trip to critics Wednesday and blasted media outlets for not sending reporters to cover it.
“This is a pet peeve. If (New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg or (Chicago Mayor Richard M.) Daley go to these places, NBC goes with them, so do their newspapers,' Villaraigosa told reporters at a City Hall press briefing. 'The fact of the matter is if you had gone, you’d be able to see first-hand.”
The mayor and three council members, officials from the airport, harbor and water departments of the city, and religious and civic leaders, spent the trip learning about security and environmental methods used by the Israelis.
While in Israel, the mayor met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and leaders of major parties in the Knesset.
The mayor also oversaw the signing of a sister port agreement between Los Angeles and the main Israeli cargo port of Ashdod. Los Angeles airport officials signed an agreement to bring Israeli security experts to Los Angeles International Airport to review the airport's security.
The deal will wind up costing the city about $1,000 per day, per expert, as well as travel and accommodation expenses.
Villaraigosa told reporters taxpayers 'got their money's worth,' out of the trip, which was paid for by the city's Department of Water and Power, the Los Angeles World Airports, and the Port of Los Angeles.
“When you think of the savings, God forbid that anything every happens at LAX. If it did, you would be asking the question, ‘What did you do to secure and harden those assets?' ' he said.
“I’ll be able to answer that — I went to Ben-Gurion Airport and I saw for myself what the state of the art is with respect to ' securing an airport.”
Villaraigosa balked at the suggestion that the timing and cost of the trip was not prudent, coming one week after he signed a city budget that hiked numerous fees for city services.
“I’m mayor of Los Angeles, not some little city in the desert somewhere. We’re a global city,” Villaraigosa said. “It is important for us to have and sustain our relationships.”