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In Transition: Housing and Urban Development

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Manuel A. Diaz

Current job: Mayor of Miami

Credentials: The Cuban-born lawyer ran for mayor in 2001, pledging to manage the then-bankrupt city like a business. He balanced the books and won reelection in 2005. He is the outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

What he offers: Picking Diaz would help Barack Obama put a prominent Latino in the Cabinet. Diaz is widely credited with fostering the fiscal discipline that ushered in Miami's renaissance. His role in the mayors' conference gives him a broad perspective of urban needs beyond South Florida.

Vetting: His housing director, whom he had long defended, was ejected from her job last year after the Miami Herald reported on cronyism and botched housing projects. Prosecutors also were investigating reports that she had steered work to employers of her son and ex-husband.

Quote: "Just look at the recent housing bill -- a bill the current president threatened to veto -- it is a fix for a problem that mayors saw coming, problem that would not have spiraled out of control had those in Washington heard our cry for help. Right now, solutions are not coming from Washington. Solutions are coming from our cities," he said in a speech in the summer on foreclosure problems in cities.

Shirley Franklin

Current job: Mayor of Atlanta

Credentials: Franklin moved up the ranks in Atlanta's municipal government, from an agency head to city manager to mayor. Franklin, facing a massive budget deficit when first elected mayor in 2001, slashed more than 1,000 government jobs and increased taxes to quickly balance the budget. She won reelection handily in 2005.

What she offers: Franklin brings hands-on management experience as well as clout, because of close ties to Obama. She moved quickly to support his candidacy and co-chaired the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Vetting: Franklin has been criticized for the pro-business slant of her policies and for the recent news that Atlanta is facing a $400 million deficit. A national housing organization also labeled her "anti-homeless" for her orders to ban panhandling and public feeding of the homeless.

Quote: "If you look in a book on how to get reelected, it's kind of like the not-to-do list," Franklin said in 2006 as she described her "nuts-and-bolts" first term as mayor, which included cutting jobs and overhauling the sewer system.

Antonio Villaraigosa

Current job: Mayor of Los Angeles

Credentials: Villaraigosa, elected in a 2005 runoff, is the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since the late 1800s. He has served as a state lawmaker, a speaker of the California State Assembly and a Los Angeles City Council member. He entered public life after a career as a labor organizer. He was one of four national chairmen of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign.

What he offers: Adding Villaraigosa would help further unite supporters of Clinton and Obama and bring a prominent Latino to the Cabinet. Villaraigosa also has considerable backing from organized labor.

Vetting: His extramarital affair with an NBC-Telemundo television reporter last year drew embarrassing headlines and led to his wife filing for divorce.

Quote: "Most people didn't think I could win, but I believed I could. And I remember them telling me early on that I should concentrate on the Latino community, and I said, 'Why? I'm going for every community!' I've never been an ethnic. I believed my strength was that I would be a coalition builder," he said to the New Yorker last year about his strategy to win his assembly seat.

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