Editorial: Los Angeles must take politics out of development decisions
By Jason Howerton
December 28, 2012
It may be the case that “politics is the drug.” That was the observation made in the closing lines of the story of Henry Adams in his novel, “The Education of Henry Adams,” about a young political activist who falls in love with an abolitionist and ultimately decides to join the fight for civil rights.
But for those like me who are trying to promote a balanced discourse, to offer a nuanced critique of those who want to use development and other issues to advance their political agenda, the problem is that there are far too many people who want to define the discourse by what they want it to be; they don’t see the forest for the trees.
The people making the decisions on development decisions in L.A. and the other urban centers — both private developers and developers in the office of the mayor and city council — are not ignorant of the politics they engage. They understand that development and city politics are intertwined. The two can’t be separated.
We need to change the way Los Angeles engages these issues. The only way we’re going to get there is to begin developing a vision for what L.A. and Los Angeles deserve to be in the 21st century.
When our city engages in debates about development as well as those related to the future of our city, our city must be at a certain level of discourse. We must have enough political knowledge to make a rational decision that is relevant to who we are, what we are, and what we stand for.
As I’ve argued before, it doesn’t matter how much money is spent on the “good” jobs that will make our people more prosperous and our economy stronger. How can we make the “good” jobs without adding more jobs for less money? Unless, of course, the “new development” includes something that will allow us to move forward with our plans to be a “smart, sustainable, green city.”
The politics of development are all about perception, because perception rules. And in this economy, perception is everything. That’s why in this era of economic uncertainty, people are willing to pay more and more to avoid the unknown. Even people who