Wed, May

LA Is Not Legoland


MAILANDER’S LA-Oh, dear.  Eric Garcetti was back in feel-good, amusement park stride this past week, playing rather than being Mayor again, this time in a supporting role to a William Mulholland impersonator. 

If you missed the news that was not news but was covered as though it were, Garcetti participated in a re-enactment of pilfered Eastern Sierras water arriving via Mulholland's aqueduct 100 years ago.  Men in beards who could have passed themselves off as Red Sox, dressed in ancient suits fashionable at the time of the Bull Moose Party, stood around and play-acted their various roles.

It was good times again, lots of play and little work, for the Mayor's Facebook fantasy mayoralty.

There is this feeling emerging from the barely-lit coals of the Garcetti mayoralty that the Mayor wants the town to be a postmodern amusement park, a kind of Legoland for adults, where nothing bad ever happens even if we know it does (for instance, three multiple shootings in less than a year), and with shiny happy laborers in bottom-wage jobs keeping the whole running for our wandering enjoyment.

In Garcetti's LA, everything is fun, everyone does a great job, every ordinary lease deserves a trumpet, every interaction with an actual voter a cause for celebrating democracy itself. 

The best photo to emerge from the re-enactment and celebration was one of Councilmember Tom LaBonge carting off a cutout Mulholland, presumably to add to his personal shrine to Fuzzy Bill at home in Los Feliz. (That was what my father and some others called him--his math was always a little off, ergo Fuzzy, but what's a catastrophic dam failure killing 600 souls to LA's political elite?) 

Journalism alas does not exist in Garcetti's LA Legoland; only public relations exists.  I've heard a lot of reports now of how the Mayor's office has not only stopped answering most thorny questions but also how it is protecting the correspondence of Amy Wakeland from FOIA requests.  The local fishwrap's editorial board questions nothing because there is no economic thinking to oppose; the Mayor, the Mayor's wife, and the editorial board too are all in step with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a lobby with no economists if plenty of labor activists and CRA apologists on board.  A cuckolded City Council, wed to the Mayor and ever indulgent of his self-promoting promiscuity, blithely passes motions 15-0 all the time, whistling while they work. 

"Jobs, jobs, jobs," everyone said during the campaign.  That's probably why the hottest present topic in the City is how to handle the least desirable jobs of all: street vendor jobs. Also, Downtown, they're still talking about accommodating restaurant chairs and tables on sidewalks without a permit.  These are hardly indicators of robust economic progress.

Garcetti, Krekorian, LaBonge, Wesson et al. these days mostly want us to believe that economically, our City is something along the line of Legoland if not La-La-Land: a simple, construction-dependent place that exists for simple and easily distracted minds, where bonds flow freely from the approbation of diminished property owners, and the only economic issues are microscopic (street vending) or comic-book cosmic (wiring the whole city for wifi and paying for none of it).

But this City in reality a complicated organism that needs far more imaginative thinking than anything offered by our present civic leaders. 

Exemplary is the recent Mulholland water re-enactment.  People turn to re-enactments as hobbyists rather than inventors.  But all of LA's political elite were only anxious to show their enthusiasm for this re-enactment.

Very telling about what kind of fun-seeking climate City Hall hopes to project during its micro-economic obsessed time was a Twitterific tweet from a much appreciative, fun-loving company that just moved out of Santa Monica and leased some LA digs a mile away.  "Hey @ericgarcetti, wanna play some #leagueoflegends with us when we complete our move into the City of Angels?" a much appreciative Riot Games company publicist tweeted the Mayor after a deal was announced.  And it was also announced as a glowing accomplishment by Mayor Garcetti. 

A lease is an accomplishment! It has indeed come to this: a company that signs an ordinary lease, indicating a willingness to move to the City of Los Angeles from a handful of blocks west, is the trigger of a laugh-riot game of self-congratulation all around, as though such a move is an extraordinary surprise for our City, rather than business as usual. 

Ironically, the move by Riot Games, an already matured and stable company, was the kind of move unanticipated by Garcetti promises during the Mayor's race.  A previous tenant of the site, Rubicon Project, founded in 2007, more closely fit the hip incubator model visualized by Team Garcetti.  

Thankfully, they're still in LA. 

I don't know that anyone in the Mayor's office really understands economics at this point, or why they think the ordinary leasing of office space constitutes an important milestone in civic achievement.  I do hope we don't get to the day where the Mayor issues a presser thanking some U-Haul toting escapee from Buffalo for signing a two-year lease on an apartment in Eagle Rock. 

But in truth Mulholland's vision for the City derived from a kind of Legoland of the mind too.  He once professed a wish to build a dam that would flood all of Yosemite Valley.  "I'd go in there and build a dam from one side of the Valley to the other and stop the goddamned waste!" he told Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service under Herbert Hoover. Maybe Garcetti will fete Mickey Cohen next.


(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.







Vol 11 Issue 90

Pub: Nov 8, 2013



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