December 30, 1996 - From the December, 1996 issue

To The Next Mayor of Los Angeles: A Mayoral Platform for the 21st Century

By Edward Blakely, Dean, School of Urban Planning and Development, University of Southern California


Edward Blakely: “To reduce crime, we will need to stabilize communities through more education.”

Introduction

The Planning Report has asked me to provide you with a platform on planning for your 

campaign. I am delighted to do so. However, I hope you will give this memo your attention and not be diverted into other issues that are more sexy but less real. The voter is not easily fooled. Most of our voters in L.A. are very sophisticated and they know the city lacks any coherent plan or direction. Pacifying the citizens with new stadiums or arenas is not possible; you must pay attention to their immediate needs. As I said to you recently, "the average voter knows far more about whether they repair their streets that about whether we have an NFL team." As a former collegiate and pro football fan, this pains me to say this, but it reflects our community's reality. 

The Issues

We must face the fact that the City and the Region are not recovering economically at the same pace as the rest of the state. We have lost important long-term assets like a major bank. We will not see any real recovery in aerospace given the recent announcement of the Defense Department to eliminate our major contractors from the latest aircraft competition. Our area is still not fully recovered from the earthquake. Finally, racial and economic tensions remain very high and just on the edge of a spillover.

With this background, I offer a platform that reflects the need to get back to the basics. We must rebuild our economy. We must take leadership in regional, physical, and social planning and we must place neighborhoods at the center of our community recovery. 

The Platform 

The winning platform offered based on my analysis is as follows: 

1. Clean up the Neighborhoods

Los Angeles is dirty. We need to develop a program to clean up the community. We need to organize a program that engages the entire City in clean-up programs that clear the street of derelict vehicles, old tires, mattresses, paper and other debris. We need to do pledge to the citizens a program similar to Oakland's "We mean clean" program that involves the community in area clean ups every quarter and bulk pick-ups three times a year along with strict auto parking and building code enforcement.

2. A Downtown Revitalization Plan

You as Mayor needs to make sure the heart of the City looks like a place to be and stay. We need to promise to implement a downtown plan that is sensible and that makes the center of the City attractive. Downtown is the central neighborhood for the entire community. You must lead this effort, since the Mayor is the only one that provides a central city recovery. This is the real monument for you and the only visible effort that can restore civic pride. In fact, since downtown belongs to everyone, you will gain more votes for articulating this idea than almost any other. 

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3. Rebuild the city infrastructure for our international airport and seaports.

The heart of the new economy will be international transportation. You must take the lead in creating a new vision for the City of L.A. as "International Gateway of the Pacific Rim."

We need to become a Hong Kong type city. You need to lead an effort to create a new spirit of internationalism of the city. This will take the restoration of districts like Chinatown as important for our international future.

4. Reorganize the City

I do not believe the voters are as interested in the strength of the mayor as they are about the impossible civic bureaucracy. While I support a stronger mayor, I think the campaign should focus on key re­organization of civic bureaucracy around neighborhood precincts. The notion would be to have a more streamlined and user-friendly government.

First, several of our public bureaucracies need to be consolidated and reoriented to serving communities and not functions. You should propose mergers of the Redevelopment, Planning and Community Development Departments with District Directors under a single administrator. Similarly, they should combine Public Safety Departments along with the various public social service agencies into a single agency with district offices. I think that measuring the effectiveness of our bureaucracy by what it produces in neighborhoods will have considerable appeal to our voters. I realize some will suggest that it will only further Balkanize this fragmented community but I do not think so. 

5. Community Policing and Education

These must become the linchpins of any new effort to reduce crime. We will need to stabilize communities through more education. You should launch a program that provides college tutors for an after school program in all of our park and recreation centers in the city. They should integrate this program with community policing so that we deal with both the social and educational issues of neighborhoods.

You should also promote the integration of school programs into public housing and nonprofit community based housing programs. This will stabilize neighborhoods and provide you with an enormous pool of good will at very low cost. 

Conclusion 

As I have said, the key is to do the little things. Please do not expend too much of your energy on either side of the new stadium proposal. The stadium is a good idea, but it is not in any voters' neighborhood nor does it give anyone's kid a job. This is a local election.

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