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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Every evening, Mayor Villaraigosa's office sends out his public schedule for the following day. It goes by email to journalists and assignment desks at the TV stations, and gets posted on the wire at City News Service.

Lately, the daily calendar has been getting a little longer – looking more like it did when Villaraigosa was new to the job and trying hard to create the impression that he was everywhere.

That's no surprise. The mayor's pubic image has been taking a beating recently. He's installed a new leadership team, including fresh handlers of that image.

I looked at today's calendar and recognized the signs that the mayor is really trying to refresh his identity. He's being put to the test, though.

Villaraigosa began his morning on the new Metro Gold Line extension, the line that will soon connect Downtown with East LA over a seven-mile route through Boyle Heights and other Eastside neighborhoods.

After his preview ride, the mayor sent a Twitter tweet gushing his excitement. He's all about excitement these days, especially on Twitter. His tweets ooze enthusiasm – like the one he sent from the U2 concert at the Rose Bowl saying that He! Loves! LA!

After this morning's train ride, the mayor headed to the City Council chambers to kick off Native American Heritage Month. Later in the day, he planned to make nice to another constituency by attending services at the Islamic Center on South Vermont.

The big message of today for Villaraigosa, though, is transit. After lunch it was out to UCLA for a risky political moment that, on his schedule, feels a bit underplayed.

The language on the calendar says Villaraigosa was to give remarks at the Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit.

What he's really doing is staking his reputation, and maybe the legacy of his entire administration, on his power to get the Westside subway and other key projects built fast.

In 10 years instead of the 30 talked about before.

That would be a tall order for any powerful, respected politician – requiring the clout to bully local leaders into backing his transit agenda and shutting up about others.

And the clout to wrestle huge bundles of federal dollars out of the Obama Administration and Congress, over the strenuous objections of other cities and states that want the money.

Tom Bradley was able to get the first leg of the subway funded and built, but Villaraigosa has yet to show he's that kind of leader.

Just this month, some of the local Democrats in Congress who the mayor needs in his pocket argued publicly against his agenda.

If that keeps happening, Villaraigosa's promise to score LA a subway in ten years will be more like the kind of scores that get made daily in the hundreds of pot clinics that opened while City Hall, including the mayor, wasn't watching.

Back to the mayor's schedule. At 3 o'clock he was supposed to interview his final candidate for chief of police, at the official residence in Windsor Square.

Villaraigosa might announce his choice for chief as soon as Monday. There may be even more riding on this than on the mayor's subway promise.

Bill Bratton's accomplishments at the LAPD – lower crime, higher public respect – helped Villaraigosa as much as anything the mayor has done for himself. Now it's up to the mayor to make the hard, lonely choice.

I have no opinion which of the three finalists would be the best chief for the post-Bratton era. But I know, as Villaraigosa certainly does, that the decision will be crucial to the rest of his political life.

No pressure there.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

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