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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

It’s True: The Times They Are a Changin’

Bob Dylan’s first album of all original music, released in 1964, got it right: the times they are a-changin’. He knew it then, and we know it now: nothing is as it used to be It used to be easy to tell who was who in the old Western movies: the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys donned black ones (except for Hopalong Cassidy, who was definitely a good guy, but wore a black hat). Today, no one wears a hat of any color. The old labels are dying out kinda. It used to be that if you were a Democrat, all Republicans were right-wing nuts; if you were a Republican, all Democrats were left-wing nuts. Our elected officials could always be counted on to be what they were but no longer. On one hand, for example, City Council President Eric Garcetti received well-deserved kudos, in concert with other Council members, for leading the fight for business tax reform (a job not yet completed); then he turns around and sends an ill-conceived letter warning potential conventioneers not to patronize the Airport Hilton because the hotel doesn’t pay its employees as he thinks they should be. It used to be that if you were a businessperson, labor was out to channel any meager company profits into the union’s coffers; if you were a union member, business was out to grind the working man into abject poverty. And while labor and business still snarl at each other like contentious bulldogs, there have been a few glimmerings of cooperation, particularly when businesses really are in danger of failing our airlines a few years ago and our auto industry more recently. As the Valley keeps evolving, it becomes more and more difficult to deny change. Just a few years ago, people would sneer at the mention of the Chatsworth-based adult film industry (we used to call them pornos). Today we think of it as an economic benefit and job source. Cruising Van Nuys Blvd. was a long-standing Valley tradition. Our love affair with the automobile was a thing of beauty. But it’s a love affair that’s gone sour. Unnecessary driving pollutes the atmosphere, adds to freeway congestion and costs more than $3 a gallon. We’ve gone from muscle cars to miniscule cars. Sadly, the Dodge Charger 500 with a 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine is out and the Prius or some other fuel-efficient but stylistically challenged vehicle is in. It used to be that if you lived or worked in Our Valley, you were a WASP, with a couple of Catholics and Jews thrown in just to spice up the mixture. But like everything else about the San Fernando Valley, its mix of ethnic and national communities has changed dramatically. According to the last census, fully 40 percent of Valley dwellers are foreign born. Today, Our Valley’s 1.8 million residents represent the most diverse region of the city and perhaps the nation. Focus on future The changes we’re going through are scary for some. But we’re fresh out of orange trees in the Valley, they’re not filming Westerns at the RKO Studio Ranch, and bored housewives aren’t hanging out at in the afternoons at the Fireside Inn in Encino any more. More than just a great writer, Isaac Asimov was a great thinker and futurist. He wrote: “It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is but the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.” Our businesses will be as successful if they recognize and embrace change. There’s no use lamenting for long-gone orchards or shuttered restaurants. Like it or not, we must enthusiastically embrace new technologies, new workforce demands, new societal imperatives, and new challenges from abroad. Instead of denying the existence of greenhouse gases, let us be in the forefront of finding solutions. Instead of decrying the anti-business bent of our City Council, let us work to elect more pro-business representatives. Instead of seceding from Los Angeles, let us be sure we get our fair share of city services. Instead of complaining about offshore call centers stealing our jobs, let us create new kinds of jobs. The old ways don’t seem to work anymore. And maybe that’s a good thing. “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Benjamin Franklin Martin Cooper is Chairman of Cooper Beavers, Inc., marketing and communications. He is the Immediate Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and of the Encino Chamber of Commerce, and is Vice President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission. He can be reached at mcooper@cooperbeavers.com .

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