(This article was written for Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter and published in the current issue distributed this weekend.)
All across Los Angeles, thousands of people — many of whom I’ve gotten
to know over the years — have been fighting City Hall to preserve,
protect or improve their neighborhoods.
These are often long,
drawn-out struggles that test their endurance, their ability to
organize and mobilize their neighbors whether it’s to get a streetlight
or crosswalk, stop or modify a development, crack down on criminals and
nuisances or the hundreds of other issues that come up from time to
Often, they are treated with arrogance bordering on
contempt, drowned in meaningless lip service, beset with bureaucratic
obstacles or overwhelmed by the clout of insiders — the developers,
contractors or the influence peddlers who posture as lobbyists,
lawyers, p.r. types or consultants of one type of another. And, of
course, there’s the unions.
been fighting City Hall too out of my own sense of right and wrong but
I was also paid for it as an editor at the Daily News. Now that I’m
retired from that role and blogging and involved as a community
activist I can speak openly about my motivation and personal beliefs.
most of the people who don’t get involved, I could go on just fine and
look the other way and pretend not to see the giant flashing billboard
around the corner, the megastore down the street, the McMansion at the
corner or the failure of my neighborhood schools.
In fact, I
do that in a lot of ways but what I can’t stomach is what has happened
to L.A. during the last 30 years, an era in which city government has
become owned and paid for by special interests who have no sense of
purpose beyond their own greed.
The result is L.A. is at the tipping point.
of being under siege because of destructive policies has sent tens of
thousands of decent-paying jobs out to the suburbs or even out of state
and with those jobs have gone the middle-class people who held them and
the opportunity for others to reach the middle class.
is a city that is increasingly rich and poor with a middle class
population that is shrinking. And with the exodus dies the hope that
tomorrow will be a better day.
Most of those who stand up to
City Hall are put down by the ruling elites as NIMBYs, gadflies,
cranks, small-minded little people who stand in the way of progress.
That isn’t my experience, my perception, my belief.
What I see,
the people I meet, who are active in their communities as volunteers,
members of service clubs, political groups, neighborhood organizations
and the local business community are actually people who have a larger
sense of themselves and a vision of L.A. that is greater — greater by
far — than most of the people with money, power and access.
is a city of light and dark, good and evil, a place where the dreams of
absolute freedom to be oneself, to be a star, to reinvent and transform
oneself brings people from all over the world in pursuit of something
great. Only fools would endure the hardship and temptations of L.A.
without some kind of dream.
Sharing in greatness is my dream of L.A.. being part of something greater than myself.
feel I’m the luckiest guy in the world in having found that to a degree
that’s more than I had hope for when I arrived in 1980.
often those whose dreams come alive — the stars, the wealthy, the
powerful, the enormously successful — look down from high on all the
ordinary joes and janes.
But the dream that made this country is all I believe in today, all I ever believed, even when I lost all other faith: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
what being an American means to me, and I’ve met people all over the
world that believe in that, that live that, whatever their race,
religion, nationality or cicumstance. That’s my religion, my nation, my
I settled here, raised my son, found happiness , because
L.A. was the one place on earth where that dream is ready to come true,
the dream of people living freely and equally, and achieving a measure
of harmony that leaves no one out.
The moment is ripe to make
dramatic changes in the way we live, in the way we treat each other. A
wonderful group of committed people is coming together to help organize
the Saving L.A. Protest at noon on July 14, Monday,, at City Hall. And
they’re ready to follow up by creating the Saving L.A. Project, a
permanent organization of concern citizens.
There is no
simple agenda beyond wanting a seat at the table of power for the
people. There is no simple demand. There is no set of conditions.
can only speak for myself and all I want is to live in a great city, a
green city, a city that is a beacon to the world of what free people
can achieve when they love the place they live in and work together to
make it better, with love and respect for all.
In the face of global warming, and endless war and strife, is it too much to ask that we would act like civilized human beings?
But I’ve reached a point in life where I’m either going to help make
the world I believe in come to life, or I”m going to find a quet corner
of the planet where I can live out my days in peace and happiness.