L.A. Times finally admits L.A. facing broad decline

Feb. 24, 2013

By Chris Reed

los-angeles-californiaAs someone who’s lived in Southern California since 1990, it’s been pretty obvious to me that Los Angeles and Los Angeles County have been in a broad decline that began when the end of the Cold War subtracted tens of thousands of well-paying defense-related jobs from the region’s economy.

The decline has been exacerbated by muscle-flexing by public employee unions in the city and county, which secured pay raises and huge retirement benefits, by the growing costs of dealing with the impact of illegal immigration, and by elected officials’ general indifference to helping the local economy beyond Hollywood, the port and the garment industry.

But over the past two decades, if one read the Los Angeles Times, the largest newspaper by far in the western U.S., one rarely got a sense of that broad overall decline. Instead, the city’s and county’s problems were depicted as part of larger economic cycles, or looked at in niche fashion that didn’t include the grimmer overall picture.

Finally, a big-picture look at city’s stagnation

Finally, on Sunday, the LAT provided that grimmer overall picture in a piece about the city’s budget woes — and about their causes:

“Brad Smith used to consider himself a Los Angeles booster. But lately, the 48-year-old grows melancholy when he drives around the San Fernando Valley where he grew up.

“The parks look worn-out. The sidewalks are broken. Street trees go untended. And don’t even get him started on the sorry state of the Granada Hills pool.

“‘Every place I used to go as a kid, it’s tired, it’s old, it’s beaten up,’ said Smith, a project manager at an engineering firm who made a losing run for City Council two years ago out of frustration. ‘Other cities manage to maintain older facilities. I’m not really certain why Los Angeles can’t do a better job.’

“As Los Angeles voters head to the polls to pick a successor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Smith’s question, or some version of it, is being asked over and over again in neighborhoods across the city.

“Here’s the short answer: To stay afloat financially, the city cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of everyday services and ongoing maintenance.

“But the deeper causes are more complex, and include costly, ill-timed spending commitments at City Hall and a failure to adjust to the region’s weakening economic foundation.”

Admitting economic problems it long ignored

The Times has covered the city’s fiscal woes over the years. But the newspaper has rarely put the focus on the city’s economic straits — no surprise given that the LAT’s business section columnist is Michael Hiltzik, a liberal crusader who is hostile to the private sector, a reflexive fan of higher taxes and someone who likes to write about causes, not the local economy. On Sunday, the truth was finally printed.

“Since 1990, the nation’s total employment has grown 23%, while the number of local jobs has shrunk 7%, according to the UCLA Anderson Forecast, which tracks economic trends.

“The situation appears to have worsened recently, UCLA economist William Yu said. The great recession hit Los Angeles especially hard and since then, its recovery has been weaker. ‘The economy is not healthy at all,’ Yu added.

“Over the past two decades, Los Angeles lost almost every sector that mattered to the middle class: automobiles, steel, shipbuilding and, of course, aerospace. In all, 56% of manufacturing jobs, or nearly half a million positions, have disappeared.

“The change is reflected in income statistics for that period. Nationally, personal income has increased by 2.4% per year, adjusted for inflation. Locally, it grew at half that rate.”

la-magazine-villaraigosa-failureThe Times notes that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa argues the economy is fundamentally strong, but what else is a guy who thinks he’s presidential timbre going to say?

Then the paper goes on to discredit Villaraigosa’s claim:

“But with lower income growth, Angelenos are generating comparatively less tax revenue for the city, said Madeline Janis, national policy director for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy group that focuses on the city’s economy and environment.

“There were plenty of signals that leaner times were coming. In 1992, an aerospace task force warned that the region would experience an unprecedented economic blow … .

“Janis said city leaders did too little to address that long-term transformation. ‘We’ve had … an enormous loss of good-paying jobs. Without a substantive program to take us on another path, we’re going to continue on a spiral downward.'”

Who is to blame? Why the Times won’t say

Los Angeles’ decline is an indictment of contemporary urban liberalism, and of the statist politics of the faculty lounge. The Times has now finally admitted that the decline exists. When will it start assigning blame?

The answer is probably never. That’s because between the paper’s superficial local coverage, its blindered editorial pages and ideological columnists like Hiltzik, Patt Morrison and Tim Rutten, the Times is as responsible as any single force for L.A.’s decline.

Some may indulge in schadenfraude at this failure of liberalism, but for me it is too painful. I love Los Angeles and have had many wonderful experiences there over the years. It’s sad to watch this great city slowly fall apart. But it is what one would expect — at least if you didn’t only get your news from the L.A. Times.


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  1. Wacky wacky wacky
    Wacky wacky wacky 25 February, 2013, 07:15

    You read it here first: one day someone on the Los Angeles City Council will introduce a proposal to rename the city with something more evocative of social justice.

    Reply this comment
  2. Bob Morris (@polizeros)
    Bob Morris (@polizeros) 25 February, 2013, 07:29

    We lived in LA for years and get back there every so often, and always remark at how much worse the traffic has gotten. And it was bad when we left.

    Two Fridays ago it took my wife about an hour to drive 5 miles on surface streets on the Westside of LA. A city this paralyzed by traffic is not a city that works.

    Reply this comment
  3. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 25 February, 2013, 07:49

    Taxes, both city and state, also are a lot higher than they were in 1990. And there’s AB 32. And it costs twice as much to own a home. And…

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  4. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 25 February, 2013, 08:17

    Villacrooka is a CORRUPT piece of S&*t!!

    Reply this comment
  5. Donkey
    Donkey 25 February, 2013, 08:19

    Any person with half a brain knows that the economy in California is in the tank. The news outlets have been spreading the governments unemployment propaganda as well as Pravada did during the 1960’s, but the feeling is that someone is lying.

    We have allowed the AQMD, CEPA, and ARB with its CEQA requirements to run manufacturing out of the state. This is nothing less than unaccountable bureaucrats distroying the economy for their jihad on anything that might seem dirty.

    Which reminds me of something. I have always loved anything mechical, cars, boats, nuclear reactors, plans, my dishwasher, washing machine, and any type of tool, whether powered or unpowered. So one day was in the midst of changing the head gasket on my 1965 Mustang and a couple of my pals from college drop by, these guys are different from my high school pals, I am filthy dirty, one of them looks at me and asks, “is it legal to work on your own car like that,” I responded, “I believe so.” My point is, we have allowed the state to become so powerful people are asking ridiculous qestions, which may actually have a basis in truth. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  6. stolson
    stolson 25 February, 2013, 09:03

    True sad story–my friend’s hubby has a business in TX and expanded into CA. The EPA rules were tightened and they also told him he would pay a lot more on machinery etc. It was quite a lot of money–so he closed the CA business and incorporated into TX business. It is a company with large machinery. Some lost jobs as couldn’t relocate. They would not work with him at all on the regulations and said they prefer he leave if he felt them too expensive. While this was not in L.A., but I believe the Ontario arena, it is still indicative of a mindset. When I was driving through L.A., it was so jammed and the roads in poor shape, I couldn’t wait to get to my destination north of the city.
    Drove through Hollywood area, visited friend in North Hollywood (who has since moved out of there) and the Hollywood hills area. Just seemed crowded and overrated to me. I met a few people from East L.A., all in from Mexico years ago. They were anxious about increasing costs and poor city management. Asked what they thought about the mayor and they were kind of indifferent–just that he is a politican! LOL.

    Reply this comment
  7. us citizen
    us citizen 25 February, 2013, 09:09

    Well when LA is a sanctuary city for all the illegals, what in the heck do you expect! They bring their third world views with them and just duplicate the hell holes they came from.

    Bob the traffic is HORRIFIC!!!!! I had to go 60 miles through LA a few years ago and it took me 6 freakin hours!!! There were accidents everywhere. There isnt a morning that goes by now that some big rig hasnt flipped over and they shut down the whole freeway. It is shear torture. I have actually turned down some jobs because of the drive.

    Reply this comment
  8. Hondo
    Hondo 25 February, 2013, 16:12

    My city of Angels has lost its wings. More than 90% of outstanding murder warrants are for illegals. And it was Bush#2 who brought most of the illegals in, hoping they would vote republican. What was he thinking. You can’t blame the illegals for coming here to get free stuff. What third worlder wouldn’t.
    Mexico wasn’t a hell hole 30 years ago. That was before the drug trade totally corrupted the country. I’ve traveled all through Mexico several times back then and it was a safe, Catholic country. Wonderful people. But everything got corrupted by amerikas drug craze. Then Kali offered idiotic amounts of welfare with no ID required. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Just like the black family was destroyed by welfare, the hispanic family is going too. And with it goes the city, just like Detroit.

    Reply this comment
  9. Donkey
    Donkey 25 February, 2013, 18:03

    Hondo, I agree, the love of easy money, brought about by the war on drugs, created what we have today, a PIC and no control of our borders!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  10. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 26 February, 2013, 22:00

    Driving or trying to get around LA has become impossible. Downtown the ramshackle chicken buses and trucks held together with baling wire are reminiscent of Mumbai or Jakarta. But this is the diversity that will cleanse the angelino soul of the many sins of the evil whites who actually built the place. But don’t get me wrong, I’ve never really liked LA, even back in the good old days. Pull off the freeway anywhere and it seems like a ghost city, with the whining roar of the freeway never too far away. The mythic valleys and cities of the basin now seem to have nothing left but myth and sun-rotted reputation.

    Reply this comment
  11. Mark
    Mark 19 April, 2013, 07:28

    When I lived there for 5 years in the 80′, I knew for a fact that I live in the best place on earth…I will keep that as a sweet memory. LA has become a depressing place..the vibe is gone, the dream is gone. The voters killed California. The only industry you here about is Hollywood and the rest i irrelevant. I have photo of me and friends playing frisbee on the beach. I think they even regulate that now! Now the “middle class” is moving to states like CO and AZ to kill those states. Liberalism is like cancer, it grows and grow until it becomes out of control and eventually kills the host. Once the liberals can no longer live in what they created they move on to destroy another state…its over folks.

    Reply this comment

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