Say ‘hello’ to the new normal
Hang on, everybody, for the wildest roller coaster ride of your life.
Street is gyrating crazily amid gloom and doom over America’s
downgraded credit rating. The Italians and Greeks are dismayed and
perplexed that the bills for living beyond their means are coming due.
Things are so bad in England that young people are rioting in the
don’t care who you are or what you are, rich or poor, black or white, or shades
in between, man or woman, gay or straight, young or old, you had better be
ready for a world that is becoming far different than the world you have known.
What was “normal” now is gone.
Things will never be quite the same again.
You can cry. You can panic. You can rail against
the gods or fate. You can keep on burying your head in the sand and covering
your eyes. But the world as you’ve known it is changing, has to change, will
change, no matter what you think or do.
It has been three years since the global economy
tumbled deep into the worst recession since the Great Depression, and yet we
are all continuing to behave like nothing has really changed — unless, of
course, you are among the millions who have lost their jobs.
Luxury goods are flying off the shelves, the New
York Times reports, with a waiting list at Nordstrom’s for $9,010 Chanel
sequined tweed coats, and Neiman Marcus selling out of $775 Christian Louboutin
“Bianca” platform pumps.
The pathetic in-your-face reaction of our
political leaders shows how obsolete they are, whether left, right or center.
They are living in the past, irrelevant and disconnected to the moment,
fighting battles over issues that ceased to matter years ago.
We cannot sustain a consumer-driven economy based
on planned obsolescence and endless incremental reinvention.
Scorned at every turn by a City Hall political machine that
fears community empowerment, Neighborhood Councils still remain the only real
hope to bring about reform and a balance of interests to Los Angeles.
NCs were created as part of Charter reform more than a
decade as a means of heading off San Fernando Valley secession – a powerless
sop to the beleaguered middle class that had been fleeing the city for suburbs
with better schools, safer streets and more economic opportunity.
Still, with Greg Nelson, former chief of staff to Councilman
Joel Wachs who had fought power sharing, as the first head of the Department of
Neighborhood Empowerment, dozens of NCs were established and hundreds of people
got their first taste of civic engagement and what City Hall was up to.
Resistance from elected officials was unrelenting from the
outset and has never let up, with DONE now drastically downsized and funding
“The city establishment has no use for the NCs or any other
meaningful source of public input,” Nelson is quoted as saying an article in
the quarterly City Journal by social critic and urban issues expert Joel
As discouraging as the city’s plight is, Kotkin holds out
hope for a “Sunshine Revolution” that will bring down the City Hall political
machine and free “this diverse and dynamic region (to) resume its ascent toward
For his part, Greg Nelson says: “If just one leader comes along, NCs could
emerge into a major force.”
The bizarre end to Al Abrams role as a leading – if conflicted
– voice in the Neighborhood Council movement creates an opportunity for the
thousands of people who have gotten involved in NCs in the last decade to seize
the day and begin the process of real reform.
Abrams, a public relations and political consultant
appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to be president of board overseeing the
Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, was forced to resign after FBI seized
computers and other material from his Tarzana home as part of a child
For starters, the NCs need to demand that open seat on the
DONE Commission be filled by their appointee and then the various NC alliances
need to hold a summit to nominate their candidate and articulate an agenda that
will give life to the idea of neighborhood empowerment.
City officials understand ultimatums as they showed in
delivering AEG’s Tim Leiweke everything he demanded for the football stadium
If NCs ever want to be more than talking societies, they
need to step up now and become a force to be reckoned with.
City Hall and the special interests that control it will not
give up power out of the goodness of their hearts. Power must be taken and NCs
could do it if they band together and find the courage to fight for what is
good for the neighborhoods and the city as a whole.