In Shock Move, Villaraigosa Taps Ed Begley Jr. for LADOT G.M.

(Sorry guys, I can’t help myself.  For previous April Fool’s shennanigans, check out last year’s piece on Rita Robinson’s speech in New York or 2008′s announcement of LADOT’s “Be Safe or Be Roadkill” P.S.A. Campaign – DN)

“The number one thing I was looking for was vision.  The number two thing was love of Los Angeles.  Everything else will work itself out.” explains Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announcing the appointment of actor, entrepreneur, and environmental advocate Ed Begley Jr. as the new General Manager for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.  A press conference is scheduled at City Hall at noon.  Coincidentally, the entire City Council will be in Van Nuys at the time.

Begley Jr. cheers on candidate Villaraigosa in 2001. Photo:Life Magazine

Begley seems like an odd choice at first, but consider that NYCDOT Super Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan isn’t a transportation engineer, but is trained as a lawyer.  The appointment of such a noted environmentalist and former Grand Marshall for the Los Angeles Bike Coalition’s River Ride, sends a clear signal what Villaraigosa’s priorities are for the rest of his term as it refers to transportation.

“People call the Caltrans building that houses my new team the ‘Death Star.’” Begley notes in the press release, “But now we’ll call it the Life Star.  The first thing we’re going to do is put some solar panels on that thing and use the energy to power some e-car stations in the parking garage.”

Even as I’m typing this, statements of congratulations are rolling across the wire.  Councilman Bill Rosendahl has just expressed his excitement, “to work with a man who was riding his bike when riding a bike was cool the first time.”  Councilman Tom LaBonge noted that “it’s good that someone who played football in high school is running with the ball for the DOT.”

Interim LADOT General Manager Amir Sedadi, a leading candidate for the job until this morning’s release, seemed almost relieved, “Have fun at those Neighborhood Council meetings on bike lanes and RV’s.  At least I won’t have to explain to Council Members why my boss is calling them “out of touch” and “braindead.”

Begley will also be replacing Councilman Huizar on the Metro Board of Directors, which will certainly come as a surprise to many other members of the Board who were unaware that Huizar served on the Board for the last two years.  “I thought the Mayor appointed the football guy,” supplied Supervisor Gloria Molina.

The press conference is scheduled for noon at City Hall, where Villaraigosa and Begley Jr. won’t have to share the stage with any Council Members who are trapped at Van Nuys City Hall for their monthly meeting in the Valley.  Rosendahl’s Transportation Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for April 20.