The Shift Has Hit the Fad … and, the Government Conned Us Out of Our Money

ALPERN AT LARGE--Maybe the business journals are right, and maybe they're wrong, but if California does have the worst quality of life in the 50 US states, then we can either stop digging the hole we've dug ourselves into, or double down and dig ever faster. 

Metrics are everything, and the metrics saying we're going down (who cares if we're 50, or 48, or whatever--we're not the Land of Opportunity as we once were) includes air quality, pollution, community engagement, and voter participation. 

So why is Governor Jerry Brown the most "economically conservative" person in our current Democrat-dominated Sacramento leadership? 

So why are the two leading Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls two former mayors, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, who left San Francisco and Los Angeles in such lousy shape, and who have horrible track records in how they treat their wives...and women in general? 

So why are the two leading Republican gubernatorial hopefuls a couple of goobers named Travis Allen and John Cox, who either have incoherent to no policies on what they're FOR, and/or have personal histories of their own that turn off much of their base? 

Locally, in Los Angeles, we're emblematic of the same denial and hypocrisy that has long ago converted the Golden State to a State of Fool's Gold--with self-respecting Angelenos and other Californians bailing to Utah, Texas, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, etc. 

Here are five ways that our "leadership" is diverting and/or ignoring the problems in plain sight (and the voters are letting them, by the way, and/or have concluded that their vote makes no difference): 

1) Presume the high cost of housing is the result a natural supply/demand economics

The actual housing vacancy is not known, and nor will our government/utility workers provide that information, but it may be much, MUCH higher than we know. 

And so long as we avoid the approach to create moderate densification that PRESERVES neighborhoods, and not TRANSFORM them, we will have the YIMBY/NIMBY fight.  Who wants to move into a neighborhood that is becoming DIFFERENT than the one we wanted to move into.

Much has recently been made of the WIMBY (Wall Street In My Back Yard) of corporate interests mucking up proper development or redevelopment, and precious little has been discussed of foreign, particularly Chinese, investors gobbling up our real estate and leaving a boatload of vacant or inaccessible homes and condos and apartments that could otherwise be used for affordable housing. 

2) Presume the homeless are all one big monomorphous group, and that more money given to the political leaders who caused this problem will fix it

We passed Measures H and HHH...hooray!  The taxpayers and voters have no shortage of compassion, but they may be beginning to wonder if they weren't taken for a ride.

Yelling at the taxpayers and voters, however, probably isn't the best way to approach this problem. There are two groups of people who confront their homelessness--one group moves to where the affordable housing and jobs are, and one group chooses to stay in their RV or tent and decry why others aren't helping them more. 

California was founded by those who sought a better economic life, and is being abandoned by those with that same mindset--that's a painful reality, and we must grow up and deal with it. 

There ARE victims, however, who need counseling and professional help and a place to live...and they will thrive if given that help--because they WANT to be self-sufficient. 

But there are other victims who need mental health medication, and counseling, and close monitoring in halfway homes (two-thirds recidivism rate for those with major psychiatric ugly medical truth). 

The veterans will best be helped at the VA and similar facilities, but those non-veterans who CHOOSE a lifestyle which (in our modern technological era of enhanced tent/RV) has little to nothing to do with PTSD, drug addiction or mental illness? 

Well, the police KNOW about these people, and KNOW about these "Garcettivilles", but have been disempowered and told to "stand down" by their political leaders...and none of us who believe in obeying the law and carrying our own weight are too happy about that. 

3) Presume that money/funds and resources spent on transportation/infrastructure will help with mobility and quality of life 

Angelenos have, and will, vote in more funds for mobility...but (choose your favorite analogy) increasingly are woke to the concept that they're being exploited. 

As the Wilshire Subway breaks ground for its second phase to Century City, there's a combination of Excitement and Dread that used to not be there (the dread part, especially). 

Excitement that a major new source for mobility is occurring, and Dread that there will be an irrational excuse for overdevelopment that will make mobility worse. 

Silly voters!  They thought that new rail lines would allow us to Catch Up with respect to mobility, or at least Keep Up. 

Silly voters!  They thought that road/sidewalk/highway repair would actually occur in a timely and organized fashion, and that they wouldn't have to keep popping their tires on their way to/from their jobs, children's errands, and other destinations. 

Silly voters!  They thought that pedestrian safety and compromise meant a poorly-implemented, agenda-driven "Vision Zero" (implemented AFTER the funds were voted in, of course) would never occur, and that the surge of pedestrian deaths from Vision Zero wouldn't be continued if the data showed that pedestrian and other accidents were worsening. 

Well, I was one of those voters, and I think we should all be given credit to doing our part for funding local initiatives, and being a "useful idiot" for getting the Mayor's and Downtown's agenda through ... or at least meriting a say when critiques or dressing down the Mayor and Downtown is merited. 

The shift has hit the fad, and the shifting and fads suggest that Downtown and local/state government has our money ... and will do whatever it wants to feed the winners at the expense of the losing majority. 

And for those of you "winners"... congrats on your entitled success.  And for those of you "losers"... if the game isn't working your way, play a different game and do what it takes (including moving) to feed your families, your dreams, and the future of your children.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)