Los Angeles

Spanish, Obama, and Cambio in St. Louis

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There are two definitive differences between St. Louis and Los Angeles: Autumn is better in St. Louis, and more people speak Spanish in Los Angeles. And, yeah, there’s the Mississippi River and the humidity and the beach and the film industry and the palm trees, but in terms of my own private geography and topophilia, autumn and Spanish are the differences that matter. I long for LA in every season but fall, and a part of my longing is, inevitably, a longing for Spanish.  read more »

A Twice-Told Tale of Black, Brown & LAPD Blue

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This is a story of heartbreak and hope – and neither end of the tale made the news.

A curious combination of factors recently led me to these events on a street in South Los Angeles, where worn houses and skinny palm trees can sometimes trick you into seeing nothing much.

Then a crumpled baby bottle near a truck’s tire caught my eye and kicked me in the gut.

The bottle belonged to a toddler who had just been crushed to death.

The mother lost track of the baby. The baby crawled behind the wheel of a neighbor’s truck. The neighbor didn’t notice the child there.  read more »

California Disconnect: Don’t Get Out the Vote for Congress, State Legislature

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Have you heard about the current election season in Los Angeles?

Sure, we’ve all gotten word about the presidential campaign. But how much have you heard about races for the U.S. Congress or State Legislature?

The member of the U.S. House of Representatives who represents my neighborhood is up for re-election, along with his 434 colleagues. So is the fellow who represents me in the California State Assembly—and his 79 colleagues.  read more »

Why Omaha?

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I lived in or near cities for 30 years because that’s where the jobs are. I left southwestern Pennsylvania in 1977 as the closing of coal mines and steel mills wrecked the local economy. It cost almost $1,000 per semester to attend the state college, many times that for the state university. There were no opportunities for a young person. I moved to California where residents received free tuition at state universities. I earned 2 college degrees in California and advanced my career from Prudential Insurance through the Federal Reserve Bank and to the Pacific Stock Exchange.  read more »

Villaraigosa’s Housing Proposal: Billions of Dollars and Too Little Sense

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The matter of whether private companies should be required to include so-called affordable housing units in residential developments is worthy of debate. Perhaps any developer who takes public funding ought to be subject to such requirements. A developer who doesn’t take public money is a different story.  read more »

With Debate in Town, St. Louis is the Nation's Capital for a Day

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In 1869 L. U. Reavis spoke for many when he made the case for moving the nation’s capital from, as he put it, “the banks of the Potomac to the banks of the Mississippi.” Citing St. Louis’s location in the exact center of the nation, the growing population of the Mississippi Valley, the presumably temporary expediency that had led leaders to place the capital in Washington in the first place, and the commercial advantages of a capital city on the Mississippi River,  read more »

How Low Can House Prices Go?

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There is much speculation among economists and others about how close we are to the bottom of the collapse of housing prices. This is, of course, an important question, and goes to the heart of the wisdom or folly of the proposed $700 billion government bailout of financial markets, which is a consequence of their own profligate lending practices.  read more »

How to Protect Main Street While Saving Wall Street

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The current discussion in Washington can either lead to a rapid processing and recovery at the local level or a long drawn out destruction of local economies. This is particularly true of regions – Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Bernardino-Riverside, much of Florida – that have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.  read more »

Rx for ‘Residential Renaissance:’ Take Two Years and Ease Up on the Hype

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A big going-out-of-business sign on the Rite-Aid store at 7th and Los Angeles streets tells a bigger tale—a story I’ll call “Hype Happens.”

The Rite-Aid opened a few years ago with fanfare, arriving at just about the high-point of the hype over the “Residential Renaissance” of Downtown. Rite-Aid set up shop in the Santee Village project, an ambitious effort that saw a developer get plenty of help from various government agencies in order to convert a collection of mid-rise buildings from garment shops to residential lofts.  read more »

Creating an Authentic Place: Tales from Two Southern California Cities

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What makes a place “authentic”? In places we cherish, we look for something unique and tangible. But personal experience of a place is not merely a product of the landscape and “built environment.” It is also shaped by myths and perceptions.

As City Manager of two California towns, I’ve grappled with the treacherous crosscurrents of reality and myth, of change and preservation.  read more »