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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

It’s What’s Next That Counts in the Valley

“Whither” is one of my favorite words. It has that slightly snooty air that accompanies an upper class British accent. It bespeaks to the excitement of not knowing what is yet to be discovered in an unknowable tomorrow. It asks the question: “What’s next?” When it comes to the future of our San Fernando Valley, it’s what’s next that counts. What’s next for a transportation system that frustrates, rather than facilitates, our movements without and within our region? Just say the words “101/405 interchange” and a grimace is the universal facial response. Words of an uncomplimentary nature regarding near-gridlock are sure to follow mention of any number of Valley thoroughfares. We fear to build new homes and communities in outlying areas of Our Valley not only because of the traffic that we generate, but the unmitigated traffic from communities such as Santa Clarita, Lancaster, Palmdale, and other points north and west. Dealing with our traffic issues is a tall order for the entire city’s leadership. The burden falls heavily on the shoulders of Gloria Jeffs, the new General Manager of the city’s Department of Transportation. What’s next for the oft-touted but never-delivered regional approach to planning? In 1853, Napoleon III hired civic planner Baron Georges-Eugene Haussman to transform the ancient French capital of Paris into a modern metropolis. Haussman ruthlessly destroyed blocks of hovels and buildings that stood in the way of creating a wonderful, world-class “City of Light.” Robert Moses was also tasked to nearly rebuild a city. His ambitious public works projects over a 40-year span transformed the urban landscape of New York; he conceived and oversaw the creation of numerous parks, highways, bridges, and buildings. He directed urban renewal projects that resulted in the building of the United Nations’ headquarters, Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium, and numerous public-housing complexes. He also created and managed both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. As Columbia University history Professor Kenneth Jackson wrote, “The achievement of Robert Moses was that he adapted New York City to the twentieth century.” Does our mayor have the courage to support his new Director of Planning, Gail Goldberg, to do the same, or will we continue to expand in a piecemeal manner? Will decisions be based on political considerations, or on what is best for our city’s future? We need leadership that is creative, visionary, and dynamic. We must replace our patchwork approach to our inevitable growth with a plan that transforms our city into the world’s pre-eminent metropolis. It’s too late to give each City Council member near-veto say on projects in his or her area that would impact the entire city. What’s next for our Valley’s ability to really move forward with ethnic and cultural goodwill and harmony? The southern portion of the Valley is still largely white, while the north is still largely black and brown. As Seinfeld said, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” except that we have to do a better job of communicating with, understanding, and supporting each other. Ignoring the economic disparity that exists between the two sections of Our Valley works to no one’s benefit. We still use divisive words when we should be inclusive. It still rankles when I recall that the head of a well-known social agency in the north end of the Valley called me a racist for deciding to produce a jazz festival in Balboa Park rather than in his preferred location, Hansen Dam. What’s next in Our Valley’s relations with the rest of the city? Yes, we have a mayor who readily acknowledges that there is Life North of Mulholland. And yes, our City Council meets monthly in the Braude Center on Van Nuys Boulevard. But we continue to receive fewer city services per dollar contributed to taxes than our over-the-hill brethren (that being a geographic, not chronologic, reference to the rest of the city). And finally…what’s next when it comes to waking up our business community to the perils it faces? We have a City Council that has shown they don’t shy from mandating what private hotels near the airport should pay their workers; a mayor who is a former union organizer, and a populace that largely thinks business is bad. Let’s hand it to the unions in our city…they’ve learned that in unity there is strength. That’s a lesson business has yet to learn. What’s next for the Valley? It’s up to us. Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies. Groucho Marx 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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