WHO WE ARE-For the first time in more than 30 years LA and New York sports teams will battle for symbolic superiority, this time on the ice.
But when it comes to real superiority for quality of life and economic vitality, it’s no contest. New York is the champion; LA is the loser.
I lived on the Lower East Side back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when the horrendously bad leadership of John V. Lindsay and Abe Beame rotted the Big Apple. Public services deteriorated, the infrastructure broke down from lack of investment, poverty soared.
On a recent vacation to New York, I saw just how alive and exciting the city is today.
Festivals and fairs pop up everywhere. The streets are filled with people, food carts on every corner and cranes are everywhere rejuvenating neighborhoods from Battery Park to Harlem from the Meatpacking District where converting a long abandoned elevated railroad into the High Line Park sparked a residential/commercial construction boom to the Bowery and SoHo to the Brooklyn warehouse area known as DUMBO, the District Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
New York is better than ever and the reason is a long period of great leadership that brought together civic, business, labor and community leaders and balanced their interests well enough to get good, sometimes great, things done.
Not so in LA, the opposite has happened over a long period of time – “a failure of leadership,” the Kantor 2020 Commission called it a few months ago after a yearlong study by the city’s civic, business and labor leaders (community leaders excluded). It was a report that has utterly no impact or significance in the end, the last cry or more precisely the last whimper of the generation of leaders responsible for the tragic decline of the city.
What has happened in LA – rotting infrastructure, soaring poverty and misery, disappearance of the middle class, decline in home ownership, failing schools, fewer jobs than 30 years ago – was not an act of God.
We did it to ourselves. Developers, contractors, unions the entire political system and its network of lobbyists, consultants, P.R. people, sycophants and wannabes took greed and self-service to an entirely new level.
And we the people have gone along on this ride to oblivion, blinded by our own petty neighborhood concerns and indifferent to the needs of others.
We prefer to live a fantasy, bystanders in our own collective lives as this city of such great promise and hope for all becomes a paradise lost for all but the rich.
We did this to ourselves and we can turn it around.
But it will take the emergence of a new generation of leaders to trigger the process of renewal.
Today’s election like the election a year ago and all the elections for so many years offers no hope that a catalyst for change will emerge, a man or woman with the vision and courage to start the chain reaction that could bring LA back from the brink.
Like a few of you, I will vote today but there are no good choices, only ones that are worse than the others.
(Ron Kaye is a lifetime journalist, writer and political observer. He is the former editor of the Daily News and the founder of the Saving LA Project. He writes occasionally for CityWatch and can be reached at Ron@RonKayeLA.com)
Vol 12 Issue 45
Pub: June 3, 2014