THE WAY THINGS ARE — LA Can’t Be Fixed By Tinkering

(This article was published Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014 on

Is it any wonder that two vibrant cities from the West – Denver and Seattle – are in the Super Bowl, their fans frenzied, while Los Angeles doesn’t even get to compete since the city’s leadership refused to modernize the historic Coliseum, chasing the Rams and Raiders out of town.

To punctuate the point, those same city leaders gifted the Coliseum under legally questionable circumstances to the region’s wealthiest private university, USC, while approving a scheme that nobody wanted, made no sense and will never happen for a football stadium right in the middle of downtown.

The football fiasco is just one of a thousand examples of a generation’s failure of leadership that has turned Los Angeles into the first big western city that looks like a lot of Rust Belt cities back east.

A city in decline, a city on the road to becoming the next Detroit with far more people living in poverty than live in the now bankrupt Motor City, a city with 40 percent of its population living in misery without hope, a city with poor schools, aging infrastructure and no plan for revival – those are among the findings of the LA 2020 Commission led by Mickey Kantor.

Release of the long-awaited report entitled “A Time for Truth” that was supposed to provide a road map to a better future was botched, dismissed by the media and politicians as nothing new, as in ‘everybody knows that’ so what are you going to do about it.

The mayor barely took note of it while the business, civic, labor and political leadership snickered, comforted by the knowledge that nothing of substance would change no matter what recommendations come out of the commission in 90 days.

Nothing surprising in that reaction, really –what would we expect from the generation of movers and shakers, influence peddlers and profiteers, rich and powerful insiders who bear responsibility for the state of the city?

An apology? A recognition that what they have wrought is a failure? Did you think what passes for the establishment in this soulless city was going to stand up as one with the Kantor Commission and lead the charge to reform the political structure, empower the communities to create a healthy balance of interests, structural changes that create transparency, efficiency and accountability?

I checked in with several of the public-spirited private citizens and found they all agree things are broken but they have their own solutions, their own ways of doing business – the same old ways that made them so important and influential through these decades of decline.

Leadership and unity is not going to come from above now any more than it has during recent decades when the only thing that got fixed was the LAPD, reforms that were carried out by the U.S. Justice Department and the federal courts – the same way schools were integrated in Little Rock in the ‘50s and Alabama in the ‘60s.

So surely the people in the communities would rally around the commission’s agenda and fight for the reforms that would let them achieve their many and varied goals to make their neighborhoods safer, their schools better and their opportunities to earn a decent living greater.

But that isn’t what has happened.

The Neighborhood Councils are silent except for the endless grumbling amongst themselves. The citizen watchdogs on the DWP are listening to utility’s managers more than the public. The Valley Vote secessionists aren’t even talking about the possibility of real reform, preferring to fantasize about a tunnel from Westwood to Van Nuys. Hollywood residents don’t care about anybody else’s problems, only their own war against high-rise development in their neighborhood.

Unlike Denver and Seattle, or San Francisco and San Diego whose teams also got into the NFL playoffs, LA isn’t really a city at all, just a lot of people lost in their own little worlds without any sense of being part of something greater than themselves.

That’s what cities are about – being New Yorkers or Parisians, Chicagoans and Londoners, a sense of sharing something more important than one’s own private interests. That’s what is so lacking, has always been so lacking in Los Angeles, a spirit of the place that made us all feel like we mattered and shared something with our neighbors near and far.

LA can’t be fixed by tinkering. It needs a grassroots revolution and a new generation of leadership that can offer something more than greed and advantage over others.

20 thoughts on “THE WAY THINGS ARE — LA Can’t Be Fixed By Tinkering”

  1. Maybe it’s time to just let the city implode. Like the addict, it may have to hit rock bottom before anything comes of this. ‘Though city officials are ensuring it’s a steady decline–something we begrudgingly adjust to and something they will be long gone into “higher” offices before the damage kicks in. But, meanwhile, the mayor is working diligently on earthquake preparedness. That should make us happy (I’d rather he fill out my earthquake insurance money collection form instead). He’s also intent on keeping the major polluters/tax exempt millionaires in LA (the film industry). Those are the ones who raised the most money for him. If you think trickle down didn’t work then–do you think it will work now? So, really, let the house of cards just fall down. Maybe then, and only then, will there be a true grass roots effort to rebuild. Or maybe we should just follow Wayne’s advice. ‘Just be sure that for sale sign (on your dried up lawn) doesn’t exceed some size limit lest you be “fined.” What, no for sale sign size limit? I’m sure that one’s just around the corner, along with the retro-permit for toilet flushing handles, a ban on umbrellas, a ban on refined sugar, a fee to walk on city sidewalks (that you pay the city for, even though the homeowner must maintain them), a fee to enter City Hall, a hefty fee to enter Council Chambers (cost recovery–right?), a ban on dog grooming parlors, a fine for having dirty dogs, an earthquake tax (oops–make that a fee to by pass the voters), a fee to plant a tree, a fine to water a tree, a fine to cut down a tree ’cause you can’t water it, a fee to shop in LA, a fine if you don’t shop in LA, a fine for putting a rock in your un-watered garden, a fine for contributing to the horrors of strip mining. ………..

  2. Ron, so much angst — have you lived in a different universe the last 20 years or so?
    You did not think that the paradise was not sustainable? Chasing away companies that provided solid middle class jobs and replacing them with service jobs was ok?
    Chasing away middle class taxpayers because of poor quality of life and replacing them with various takers was ok? Having uncontrolled growth and resulted high density was ok? Not enforcing laws and not collecting fines/taxes was alright and would not create hordes of grifters?
    I bet what happened now is that kantor, beutner and company have discovered there is less money for their pockets. This report is a smokescreen to either put more taxes on the ballot or whatever other reason your elite rulers may have.
    There is less money to go around — below is the report from 2010. Probably it is about the same now: propery taxes declining, same for sales taxes but welfare and roger benefits are up. Plus city pensions taking more and more revenue.

  3. Let’s get one thing straight about Eric Garcetti’s and the City Council’s sudden concern about earthquake safety: It’s a cover up and unlikely to produce any meaningful program. The reason Eric Garcetii, Mitch O’Farrell and City Council are suddenly trying to grab and make headlines on earthquake safety is that their actions in rubberstamping the massive Millennium Project in Hollywood pulled back the curtain for voters to see an ugly truth about City Hall and politicians who live there. They cared so little about the people they supposedly represent, they elevated the interest in their biggest campaign contributor in Project approval over direct evidence and warnings from 40 community groups that the massive Millennium towers would sit atop or immediately adjacent the well-known dangerous Hollywood Fault.

    The official “story” concocted in a back room at City Hall is that City Building and Safety officials inadvertently were using an outdated map of the location of the Hollywood Fault. Millennium’s bought-and-paid-for spokesperson, Leron Gubler of the Hollywood Chamber literally shrugs off the failure of City geologists — whose business is to know the most up-to-date information and studies of the location of the fault. And then there is the plainly visible hillside slope on Yucca and Carlos street — a visible and long-ago identified earthquake escarpment — pointing into the middle of the Millennium site. Yeah, like LA geologists did not know. It’s a big City Hall cover up lie.

    They knew the fault likely ran through Millennium. They actively participated in the fraud. The real question is when did Eric Garcetti and Mitch O’Farrell know about the fraud, what did they do about it, and did they participate and encourage the fraud on their constituents. In New Jersey the District Attorney and FBI opened investigations of deliberate bridge traffic jams where people were inconvenienced but not killed. In Los Angeles, the attempt to put giant skyscrapers over an active earthquake fault would endanger thousands of lives but it results in silence from a DA, U.S. Attorney, and FBI that are part of the Los Angeles corruption machine.

    Keep thinking Eric Garcetti and the City Council is “concerned” about your earthquake safety. Or, think they continue to dance for their campaign contributions like some kind of perverse Uncle Tom dance.

  4. Another so-what-else-is -new? Since when was L.A. a “city of Angelinos?” It’s always little sections having nothing in common with other sections; it’s a city of sprawl, which would be a much better name than Los Angeles.

    The San Fernando Valley has a population larger than either of the Dakotas, and we have nothing in common with the other side of the hill. The only reasons they won’t let us be our own city is we have all the money, and the water hits the Valley before being shuttled over the hill.

    As far as “That’s what cities are about – being New Yorkers or Parisians, Chicagoans and Londoners, a sense of sharing something more important than one’s own private interests” goes — that’s probably urban myth, and NYCers feel they have nothing in common with Brooklynites or Staten Islanders. Same goes for Chicago. There it’s probably city dwellers vs. Skokians.

  5. LA City and LA County have great chance for the taxpayers.

    Great victory for pension funds against fraudulent companies and CPA auditors
    from 2008 financial debacle–such as AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mack, Lehman
    Brothers, etc. Billions await lawsuits for pension funds which act.

    Ohio’s pension funds were deceived by Fannie Mae and its CPA auditors KPMG.
    $153 million has been awarded in lawsuit.

    All state, local, and private pension funds and others can now be heartened to
    sue for their losses from fraudulent companies and their CPA auditors. The
    County of Santa Clara (Calif.) started a similar suit a couple years ago against
    Lehman Brothers executives and Ernst & Young. Here are some of the obvious targets:

    1. PricewaterhouseCoopers — AIG, Freddie Mac
    2. Deloitte & Touche — Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Washington Mutual, Bear
    3. Ernst & Young — Lehman Brothers, IndyMac Bank
    4. KPMG — Countrywide, Wachovia

    Billions of dollars are awaiting to the taxpayers and others in such lawsuits.

    Let’s get L. A. crackin’.

  6. Of course Kanter and Beutner have an agenda. They want to further deregulate real estate speculation by loosening up zoning in Los Angeles, and then cutting back on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While this might help them line their pockets, they don’t have the slightest intention of ponying up these ill-gotten gains in taxes that will revert back to City Hall. Nor do they have any interest in restoring Federal urban programs cut in recent decade. Instead, the want to follow a model they know well from the private sector, cut the number and compensation of public employees. Maybe they should take a field trip to Detroit to see how this philosophy of urban governance is likely to play out.

    1. Dick, I agree with you. Council and the mayor are already undoing zoning codes for special interests. One just passed through with little to no public notification. While it’s a small group and it’s likely few of their establishments will pop up, it will negatively impact surrounding businesses who will have no say because no CUP is required.

      1. I’m confused here — you have a very progressive mayor and city council. Do you mean they don’t represent your interests? Or even more so work against you?
        Maybe they are not progressive enough ?

        1. The govt will probably hire them–like maybe more friendly DWP customer service reps–and they’ll tax us for paying for the increase work force. If not that, they’ll tax us more for more unemployment payments. Same difference, I suppose.

  7. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 01/30/2014 whose posts at times have to await moderation sometimes but recently are being allowed.. says:

    Zev is actually just brain-dead enough to join Congress-Clowns Cardenas, Hahn, and Pelosi as a minority member of the Dumbo-Crat Party. He can go to Washington and scream and yell for AMNESTY so that 20 million more illegals can join the 30 million illegals already here and get a driver’s license and be registered to vote Dumbocratic. California has all that EXTRA WATER for millions more EBT and utility-subsidized fools, right? No wonder the Dems want to legalize Pot, Crack, and Heroin—you’ll have to medicate the US Citizens to try to stop the upcomming civil war/rebellion that is sure to come in a few more years. I had to fire the Republicrat party and go D/T/S status because of clowns like Bone-head Bohner, Rubio, and the unknown Elephants still in office in CA. When will these bastards learn how to Govern? Seal the Borders, Pay the bills, get the grifters off welfare, and cut the taxes and costs of gas and utilities so people can live like humans! Get the banks in order with Glass-Steagal and allow savers to get 5% on their CDs, and stop all this “Quantitative Easing” this and that.
    Nope….the only thing we get is a lobbyist paid-off 535 hacks, 9 fools in black robes, and the fool at 1600 penn. ave. And a media of dopes to report on it all.

  8. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 02/02/2014 whose posts at times have to await moderation sometimes but recently are being allowed.. says:

    Good one ex-Valley—“The Pueblo!” for L.A. City!!! HA HA HA!!! A Good name for the “New L.A.” is “PUEBLO DE POBRES.” Congrats to Rocketdyne for being able to leave L.A. and it’s outrageous taxes and corruption in the drought filled dust. Sorry, however, that we the fools are stuck here for family and business issues…

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