THE DOCTOR IS IN - Mayor Karen Bass is an optimistic, affable, and determined leader of Los Angeles (or at least how yours truly thinks she comes across). I truly wish Ms. Bass and her new and forming team a wonderful and successful New Year.
Unfortunately, this lady inherits a position previously held by flawed--very flawed--individuals who have left this position a "hot seat", and a position which she will be expected to fail. The fiscal, homeless, and lawlessness crises started a long time ago, and in all frankness she has a daunting road ahead of her.
I'll let others agree or oppose me on this one, but it bears mention and repeating: the last successful mayor of L.A. was moderate Republican Richard Riordan, who formed the Neighborhood Councils which allowed a grassroots army to support Downtown's leadership in the right endeavors.
Then came weak Hahn, distracted Villaraigosa, and out-of-his-league Garcetti, and a smashed and weakened Neighborhood Council system has progressively become more and more emasculated since then.
Karen Bass narrowly defeated a Riordanesque Rick Caruso to become mayor (not that Rick Caruso would have been successful with respect to the ten-fold "to-do" list below, but it's worthy to remember), so that many of Caruso's supporters are probably looking for Mayor Bass to trip up and fall down.
But count me in as one of those who had serious doubts about Karen Bass, and therefore voted for Rick Caruso, but who now wants our new mayor to prove all her doubters dead wrong.
So here's a sincere "to-do" list for our new Mayor to think about (obviously, it's the mayor's prerogative to prioritize and implement policies as she legally sees fit):
1) Fire Raquel Beltrán as General Manager of EmpowerLA. On her watch, and perhaps at the behest of former Mayor Eric Garcetti, Beltrán finished a trend that began under Antonio Villaraigosa to leave Neighborhood Councils (NC's) and their grassroots leaders thoroughly disheartened and with no independence.
Beltrán has done anything BUT empower Angelenos, and she needs to go. A new "corporate culture" at EmpowerLA to support the independence and input of NC's will get our new mayor an army of grassroots leaders to implement her vision.
2) End the image of lawlessness of Los Angeles. If Mayor Bass wants to follow the path of Chicago, New York, and Portland, that's her call, but I doubt she does, and we all wish she wouldn't.
Maybe this means butting heads with George Gascón, but unless Bass wants a combative relationship with the LAPD, whose rank and file supported Caruso, Mayor Bass is urged to confront the damage that rising crime has caused L.A., and return to the era of former LAPD Chief Bratton to empower Michel Moore.
3) Fix homelessness in a legal and cost-effective manner. Purchasing bankrupt motels smashed by COVID-19's economic impacts, and assigning safe and helpful locations for the law-abiding portions of the homeless to survive and even transition into our housed population, is what we've all wanted for years.
Tents on our beaches, curbs, and freeway on/offramps is a phenomenon that no reasonable person will tolerate. Stop the false narrative of how so many of us "don't care", and start the tough questions of who we can help and who we can't.
4) Make our sidewalks, public venues, parks, and libraries accessible to all. This is sort of a repeat of the goal just mentioned, but what the police call "Garcetti-villes" have to go. Those who choose NOT to be among the law-abiding of our homeless must be moved.
Safely, legally, and sustainably...but absolutely no one has the right to block our sidewalks. There are locations for those without shelter to live in honor and with civil rights...but we all have honor, and all have civil rights, as well.
We pay for parks and libraries and all sorts of publicly-owned public venues, and both children and adults of all ethnicities and locations should all enjoy access within a kind, open-minded, and reasonable City of the Angels.
5) End the wretched road diet on Venice Blvd., and re-engineer all major thoroughfares to enhance mobility throughout the city. This road diet has NOT made it safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and bus riders, and has almost only enhanced cut-through traffic within the entire Westside.
The implementation of the Venice Blvd. road diet was a slap in the face of those who fought to purchase that highway from the state, and was/is probably illegal. Venice Blvd. SHOULD be flooded with buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians...but the road diet has prevented that. We can do better to help ALL parties.
6) Stop the gaslighting from our Planning Commissions and create a Livable L.A. The L.A. Department of Urban Planning, the mayor's office, and the overdevelopers/lobbyists have turned our city into an environmentally-unsustainable nightmare.
Decreased affordable housing, overdevelopment, neighborhood transformation into over-congested hellholes, and environmental chaos is the legacy of both Antonio Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti. Neither height limitations, parking, nor a focus of new major developments on major thoroughfares is "NIMBYism".
7) Make public transit and our roads efficient, safe, and convenient. Preparing our city for the 2028 Olympics, Mayor Bass, is for better or worse now on your shoulders...but that preparation is congruent with allowing more mobility for Angelenos, both in the present and far future.
Homelessness and lawlessness in our buses and trains must not be our "new normal". Rewarding businesses who have staggered afternoon/evening hours isn't that hard in a 24-7 culture, and limiting truck traffic to nights and early mornings would allow more sanity and mobility on our roads and freeways.
8) Children need public space, and the burden of fenced-off schools must be confronted. The LAUSD and the state's teachers unions unfortunately OWN this state, and they do so entirely to the suffering our states' taxpayers.
Whether it's funded by developers weaseling their way out of public space requirements, or whether we make deals for teacher/educator affordable housing, combined with greater public access and MORE green space/playgrounds, the City of the Angels must restore the quality of life families with children.
9) Mayor Bass will largely run Metro, so her vision for our freeways and multimodal transportation policies must be both visionary and smart. When the Crenshaw/Green/LAX and Downtown Connectors open, there WILL be a questioning as to why there are no direct LAX/Downtown trains.
There WILL, sooner or later, be a questioning as to why the publicly-owned rail right of way between LAX and Union Station, which could and SHOULD have 10-15 minute rail service for South L.A. and its many communities of color, is merely an underused bikeway. Maybe people won't care...but visionaries WILL.
10) Restore the rights of Neighborhood Councils to have a vital and legally mandated input for L.A. City Council initiatives. The ability of NC's to approve statements, summaries and recommendations for Downtown rules, laws, approvals, and regulations must be restored for our City Council to confront.
The cruel working paradigms of the top-down Mayor Garcetti and his predecessor Mayor Villaraigosa go against what our democracy is all about. The worsening NC regulations and pandemic has been used against the grassroots and ordinary citizens. Bring back the NC's, Mayor Bass.
Good luck, Ms. Mayor, and a Happy New Year to you all!
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to a wonderful wife and two cherished children. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two 9-year- stints as a Board member and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees for 10 years. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition His latest project is his fictional online book entitled The Unforgotten Tales of Middle-Earth and can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)