“For years, cities like Detroit built fancy towers and development
projects in the hopes that this would revive the downtown core. But
cities thrive because they host quality conversations, not because they
have new buildings and convention centers” Columnist David Brooks, New York TImes, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2011.
For the third time, the City Council has put on its agenda today the protection of nearly $1 billion in Community Redevelopment Agency funding from local property taxes — money that is intended to be used, as it has been in the past, to fund “fancy towers and development projects.”
UPDATE: The CRA item was continued until Feb. 16.
Billions of dollars in taxpayer money have funded high-rise towers, luxury entertainment venues and other costly developments in downtown and Hollywood to the detriment of the rest of the city — money that otherwise would have gone into the general fund and the school budgets.
The result is shrinking city services, an inadequate education system and worst of all continuing deterioration of the neighborhoods and the quality of the lives of vast numbers of people.
The failure of this policy of buildings over people has been documented in study after study, in report after report.
The point David Brooks is making, the point social critic Joel Kotkin is making is the same: Economic vitality of cities comes from the quality of people’s lives, the strength of their civic engagement, the connection they have with each other in parks and streets and libraries and wherever people come together and interact.
It takes leadership to bring all that together and make great things happen — and that most of all is where LA is most impoverished.
It’s noteworthy that several CRA projects on Wednesday’s Council agenda involve items that on their face improve the infrastructure of neighborhoods instead of erecting buildings.
Streetscapes, sidwalk repair and street paving in poorer neighborhoods involved in these projects are real improvements that affect people’s lives and help generate more business activity, more jobs and lead to real crime reduction.
The Hollywood Farmers Market has become one of the prime examples of misguided public policy.
It’s an event that attracts 10,000 people on a Sunday, provides income to hundreds of vendors and farmers.
Yet, the city keeps trying to push ahead and destroy it despite the promises of Council President Eric Garcetti by approving a CRA-subsidized office building for a questionable developer in a market glutted with quality office space that is empty as well as expansion of the LA Film School.
Redevelopment does play a role in building a healthy city but only as it fits into real planning for sustainable communities with a high quality of life — not in drawing lines around vast areas and then subsidizing buildings on a case by case basis.
The promises of jobs and economic development from such projects are hollow — as hollow as the promise of the economic development that an NFL stadium on the Convention Center site is hollow. Football stadiums are not economic engines as studies have repeatedly shown.
In the case of AEG’s plan, the lies and manipulations are rapidly being revealed, starting with the false claim no tax dollars will be spent. The real question is what is the profit to the public in terms of tax dollars, something no one speaks of.
Today, the Daily News casts even more doubt on the credibility of the mayor’s “Blue-Ribbon Commission” that is supposed to protect the public interest by showing nearly the entire panel is made of people with strong ties to AEG, not to mention its chairman Austin Beutner has been involved in discussions about the stadium for months.
Maybe the NFL stadium is a good idea, maybe not. We’ll never know because we are nothing but a tool of the Mafia-like bosses who run professional football and our own greedy billionaires who want to join their club with the help of politicians who sell out the public interest for free tickets, fine wines and campaign cash.
Only one thing will stop this relentless machine bulldozing our city to erect lavish monuments to their egos instead of homes for all the decent people who aspire to a better life and that’s you the voters.
Mail-in ballots are already in your hands. Election day on March 8 is less than three weeks away. Send them a message that you want dramatic changes at City Hall, that you want leaders who serve the people, not themselves, that you want to reverse the decline of LA and make it a great city.