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My Sunday Column: Glendale — It isn’t utopia, but it’s far from LA, the dystopia next door

Once long ago, during my year as an old-fashioned rewrite-man at the National Enquirer, the demonic man who owned and ran the tabloid as if it and its journalists were a figment of his over-active imagination sent a reporter around the world in search of utopia.

Every week, the reporter would send in a dispatch doing his best to make the case that a forgotten village in the Himalayas or a pristine beach in the South Pacific, or an overlooked outpost at the headwaters of the Amazon, or a village in the south of France, was the most perfect place on Earth.

He was on the road for more than a year, but the response was always the same: a long series of unanswerable questions shattered each and every place he claimed was utopia. Finally, they brought the guy home and summarily fired him for having failed in his mission.

Having spent a million or two of the boss’ money for the time of his life, he didn’t complain at all.

The moral of the story is simple: There is no utopia, no ideal society outside the pages of fiction and film where apocalyptic visions of dystopias — not utopias — have become a dime a dozen, many of them using Los Angeles as the setting for the exploration of humanity’s dark fantasy future

The irony is hard to miss in that the vision of L.A. as a sun-kissed paradise that brought so many of us here only to find a city that is becoming more dark than light, a city of ostentatious beauty and vast stretches of grim grittiness, of endless expressions of enormous wealth surrounded by a churning sea of poverty and decay.

I spent 30 years here as a newspaperman doing what I could to tell the stories and the stories behind the stories of a city that was becoming increasingly dysfunctional, its infrastructure aging, its public services declining, its civic and political leadership paying lip service to the needs and values of ordinary folks while mostly serving themselves and their narrow interests.

When I got old and no longer had a newspaper as my outlet to sound the alarm in blazing headlines and fiery editorials, I blogged about what I saw, and then I got a call offering me the chance to write a Sunday column about Glendale and its neighboring communities.

That was two years ago last week. It has been an eye-opening experience that has helped me to understand better the suburb-envy so many people I meet in middle-class L.A. communities have, why the “it-is-time-to-get-out-of-town” sentiment is reaching a crescendo.

Los Angeles elections come up in March, and the likelihood is that three reprocessed city elected officials will hold down the mayor, controller and city attorney posts and the City Council will be made up of eight state legislators, five City Hall staffers and two ex-cops without a single ordinary citizen or anyone with real experience in the private-sector holding office.

These are the highest-paid municipal officials in America, earning $180,000, plus free cars, pensions and staffs of 18 to 20 with huge personal slush funds supplied by donors and taxpayers. Public service to them has become selfish service; the public story is a fiction that has little or nothing to do with what is really going on in back rooms.

Contrast that with the part-time citizen-elected officials in Glendale, Burbank and other suburban communities where the professionals are the city managers and the bureaucrats — not the politicians.

(READ FULL STORY)

 

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7 Responses to My Sunday Column: Glendale — It isn’t utopia, but it’s far from LA, the dystopia next door

  1. anonymous says:

    Ron, once upon a time you suggested our Council members and other elected officials should have their salaries cut in half. My initial thought was it wouldn’t make a dent in the budget issues of LA. Now, however, I see your point.

    We should get signatures for a ballot initiative that cuts our elected officials’ salaries in half, pensions to nothing, etc. Maybe, then, we will get folks in office that truly care about the city.

    • kk says:

      With all due respect, do you really think that the council is inspired to seek the job because of the salary? When the problem with the meal is the meat and the potatoes, why would you want to waste energy complaining about the parsley?

      • anonymous says:

        With the salary comes the pension and the perks. I think the draw to office includes (but is not limited to) this. I think it requires three terms for the pension and they should not receive a pension lest they set up their own from their salary. The hope is those who come to serve have made their money in the private sector and are serving for the sake of serving.

        The main problem cannot be addressed–at least not that I know of. That is campaign donations, especially through PACS that need to be prohibited in all elections. Until that issue is addressed, I fear we have only the parsley to deal with and it’s better than nothing. Hey, at least parsley freshens the breath.

      • anonymous says:

        Yes, we think they seek the positions for the salary
        and the perks and the pension and, above all, the Power.

        • anonymous says:

          The belief (or hope) is that two or three terms at sixty thousand a year and no pension might not be worth the power it yields lest the person truly wishes to serve.

  2. teddy says:

    This thought was expressed ten years or so ago when you, Ron, called for secessions.
    LA is too large. We need to live with each other in our our neighborhoods. People
    sixty, seventy miles away do not have the same interests as we. Aerospace jobs in the SFV provided tax money for the rest of LA. It took 40 years for my street to be paved to cover all the damage such old streets accumulate. My family moved here in August 1966. This was a new neighborhood then. It is near where my husband worked.

  3. teddy says:

    Sorry,Ron, I meant “our own” nwighboehoods.

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