By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Finally, secession will allow New Yorkers to gloat.
The best that can be said for proposals to unravel Los Angeles is that the city’s decomposition advances the preferred, dystopian storyline for this unlikely place. Momentum without restraint made Los Angeles, a city that doubled in population between 1900 and 1910, nearly doubled again by 1920, nearly tripled in size by 1930, doubled again by 1960, and hovers now at some permanently uncountable number above 3,700,000. That city worked mainly because it grew, every new tract on the ragged fringe of arroyos and floodplain another invitation for the disaffected -- no matter what the cause -- to move on to the next paradise of the ordinary. The city that defined itself by its sales pitch almost never looked back, in its haste to sell another house lot, at what it mostly was: a superb expression of working-class longing for the dignity that comes with a house, a yard and the company of neighbors. When secessionists look back, now that the ”option to exit“ to the city‘s edges is foreclosed, they lie about what they see -- a majority of amnesiacs unprepared for the city that Los Angeles has become.
The main arguments for secession -- a better return on tax dollars, greater service efficiency, and the vague feeling that middle-class residents aren’t getting a fair share of the services they pay for -- are consumer complaints, not the cause for the rending of one city and the founding of others.
In reply, Mayor Hahn and other anti-secessionists have been talking of dreams when they talk about keeping Los Angeles together. If the city is merely a place of dreams -- their commodification being the core of L.A.‘s worn-out sales pitch -- then it’s not likely to stay a whole city long enough to show Angelenos how to be its citizens. To be a citizen of Los Angeles means, in this hour, not to dream but to pick up the burden and gift of bearing witness to this place. There are many reasons to reject secession, but only one reason moves me, an outsider. In an era disfigured by so many deniers, to accept secession is to deny the city‘s history.
In that history is a great yearning for hope, perhaps more intensely felt here than in other places because the desires of Angelenos are so naked, whereas almost everything else about their lives together is wrapped in a shroud of false memories and forgetfulness. Angelenos hope for a community of solidarity where their diverse interests might be reconciled in ways that satisfy them intimately and, in reconciling them, assure the common good.
If neighborhood councils under the new charter were given some budgetary authority for the improvement of neighborhood services, if the function of the new regional planning commissions were more transparent and the commissioners elected by neighborhood residents, if city government could further reform itself (perhaps under a borough system similar to the structure of city government in London and New York), and if elementary and middle schools could be governed as neighborhood institutions, the hope of Angelenos for a city at a human scale and with a human face might be realized.
Secessionists object that nothing in their civic institutions cares for Angelenos or their longings. Where Angelenos ask for hope, secessionism despairs.
Truthfully, the city of Los Angeles was never really needed, except as the container for an enormously successful lifestyle product, until now. Built out, transforming itself into the northernmost capital of the tropics, maximally diverse, more urban and more grown-up, Los Angeles requires courage to extend one’s moral imagination across its whole, flawed, tragic, sacred, human and humanizing body. Because it finally asks this courage of its unwilling citizens, Los Angeles is finally the necessary city.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city