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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

What We Need Is to Get Back to Basics

Back to basics. When you hear the phrase, “back to basics” what crosses your mind? Relearning to ride a bike. Starting a project all over again. Recreating a fresh garden. Maybe even Christina Aguilera’s last decent album. As much as you’d enjoy me writing a whole column on Christina and her music, we’ll save that for a nonelection year. When I say back to basics, I’m talking about our city’s roots. We need to go back to basics and remember what the city of Los Angeles once stood for. 

You would hear Los Angeles and you would think the entertainment capital of the world. The city that people leave their hometowns for to fulfill their dreams – no matter the industry – but where people truly find their American dream. Where and when did we lose all of that? How has our city, which once had a gross metropolitan product of more than $1 trillion, making it the city with the third-largest GDP in the world, instead become a case study for how cities should not operate? When did Los Angeles lose its leadership status? 

I’ll tell you how it all happened. We are forgetting what each level of government represents. We forget the roles and responsibilities of our local elected officials, our state elected officials and our federal elected officials. As employers, we hire employees based on who can perform the job to the best of their ability. The same responsibility falls on us as voters. It’s our job to vote the best person in office who can carry out the duties required. 

Right now, we are in election season. People all over the county are angry and fired up. Angelenos are gearing up to elect a new mayor for the city, which is one of the most contested races this election season. What do we want our new mayor to represent? What question do we want to ask ourselves when we are ready to check off either Rick Caruso or Rep. Karen Bass on the ballot? My question is which one of these two will finally clean up the streets of Los Angeles. 

The mayor of Los Angeles is responsible for economic development, reducing crime and tackling our homelessness crises. Now, those are not the only public policy issues, but they essentially are the top three in today’s world. Our city needs new jobs and to continue opportunities for job retention. Crime is escalating daily, whether it be retail or violent, and there needs to be a solution for it. And homelessness. Our homelessness crisis is out of hand – to say the least – and it’s no secret. Our next mayor will need to start addressing the issue from day one.

Issues and policy changes – big or small – matter. Gun reform. Roe v. Wade. Privacy laws. Infrastructure. Homelessness. Opioid addiction. Intellectual property. Each one means something to someone, and at a different scale than somebody else. But what we can’t lose sight of is that they all matter. However, what we seem to have lost sight of is at what level of government do each of these issues fall under.  

Now, you may ask why I bring up levels of government and the importance of understanding where issues lie. Here’s the reason. Katy Perry was recently targeted on Twitter because she endorsed Rick Caruso for mayor. Tweets stated that the singer, who has been vocal about being pro-choice, has endorsed the billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat, who once upon a time gave money to Republicans who are pro-life. I am in no way picking sides on any matter, but my point is abortion is not something our future mayor can or will control. With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, it’s now in the hands of our state officials. Depending on your stance and the position of our current state officials, that is where you need to make your voice heard. 

Similarly, Faisal Gill, candidate for Los Angeles City Attorney, recently tweeted about minimum wage increases for the health care facility workers. Again – not stating that I’m for or against a minimum wage increase – but the city attorney has no say in the matter. The city attorney serves as legal advisor to the mayor and city council. So, are we going to vote someone in office who has no idea what his own roles and responsibilities are? Or are we going to read between the lines and vote the candidate we know will perform the duties of a city attorney? It’s OK to have views. We’re all entitled to our own opinion. But as city attorney, you’re an attorney for the city council. Your job is not to get into arguments or discussions about what is or isn’t being voted on. It’s not your call if it’s the “right policy.” Your job is to advise if what they’re voting on can legally be executed. 

Oh, and just one more thing on Faisal. If he didn’t know, the city attorney’s office works to prosecute misdemeanors. That’s the most important role that they have. However, Faisal said if he’s elected, he will not prosecute misdemeanors for the first 100 days. It leads you to wonder what our city will then look like with a government run by Gill and District Attorney George Gascon. 

Policy change is crucial in our world, and voters forget how much of an impact they have. So, let’s go back to basics. Let’s educate ourselves on each matter, understand who the decision makers are and show up to the polls and vote. 

It’s time for our city to regain its position across the nation, and around the world. To once again be known for its ethnic and cultural diversity, Hollywood film industry, and sprawling metropolitan area. We are the largest city in our state and second largest city in the United States. It’s time for us stand up and become the model city we once were. 

Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state, and federal levels of government.

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