You know a newspaper editorial means business when it calls for a czar. Like a few months ago, when the Downtown News called for a Homelessness Czar.
Of course, L.A. already has a handful of czars. There's the Earthquake Czar, Dr. Lucy Jones; the Film Czar, Tom Sherak; L.A. County's Child Protection Czar, Michael Nash. LAUSD had, at one point, a Food Czar, but he was removed on allegations of corruption.
That's the trouble with czars — they can get a little carried away with themselves. But that's also what we like about them — they take matters into their own hands, rule with an iron fist, et cetera and so forth. And best of all, we know who to blame when the shit hits the proverbial fan. When there's an earthquake, you can be damn sure that Dr. Lucy Jones is gonna take the blame.
Last week, City Council president Herb Wesson called for someone to oversee oil drilling in the city of L.A. Now he didn't use the word “czar,” but we're sure it was some kind of oversight. We're positive that when the position is filled, someone will call him a czar, and he will show up to his first press conference with enormous sideburns and a 19th-century military dress uniform.
Come to think of it, we could use a few more czars around here. For example:
7) Sports Czar
Sports in Los Angeles are out of control. Where do we start? First, the NFL is coming back. Huzzah! To Inglewood. Wha? Anyway, we're getting the Rams, which is like, fine, whatever. And we're not getting the Chargers, which is definitely a good thing. But what we really want/need/deserve is the RAIDERS! That's right. You never saw Ice Cube walking around in a Rams sweatshirt. You know why? Their logo sucks. L.A. deserves a sports team with a cool logo and cool colors that go with any outfit. That's what the Sports Czar will tackle (pun intended) on Day 1.
Next, basketball. The Lakers are terrible, Kobe won't stop shooting, the Clippers have all these players that are kind of amazing and therefore belong with the Lakers, and the Clippers are really good but not nearly good enough to win a trophy. How did things get so out of whack? The Sports Czar needs to restore balance to the universe.
And there are the Olympics, which may come here in 2024. We don't even know how we feel about that, and frankly, we need a fanatical despot to tell us! Which is why our new Sports Czar should be Casey Wasserman, the millionaire sports agent who's heading the L.A. Olympics bid.
6) Juice and Coffee Bar Czar
Have you been to Silver Lake or Echo Park lately? Every week, a new juice bar or pour-over coffee place opens up. These relatively healthy options are displacing their far more delicious and artery-clogging competitors. Take, for example, the wonderful K+C Donuts in Silver Lake. It's losing its lease, and is set to be replaced by some juice thing.
We need an autocrat to step in and tell these new juice places where to open: not within 300 feet of any schools, cupcake shops or liquor stores. And maybe open one south of the 10 freeway? Just a thought.
5) Pot Czar
Medical marijuana has been legal for decades, but L.A. still can't get its act together regulating it. Here's the L.A. Times editorial board from a few weeks ago, sounding like they could use a couple tokes to take the edge off:
Los Angeles failed multiple times to regulate medical marijuana, but finally in 2013 it passed Proposition D. That ballot measure allowed 135 dispensaries, all of which had been in business for at least six years, to remain open, while banning others. However, in a complicated, lawyerly maneuver, the measure did not actually permit those 135 dispensaries to operate — which, legal experts said, at the time, the city could not do because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Prop. D merely said the city would not prosecute those 135 shops.
Basically, no one knows what's legal and what isn't.
Frankly, this sounds to us like a job for the tech industry. The medical marijuana business needs to be disrupted. And we can think of no one better than Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, played by Justin Timberlake in that Facebook movie.
He's already donated half a million to a ballot measure that would legalize pot in California. Hey Sean, half a million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? Working for the city, putting together a set of coherent regulations that make it easier for businesses and consumers to get the medical help they need. That's cool, bro.
4) Unemployment Czar
Once upon a time (2010, actually) we had a Jobs Czar, a guy named Austin Beutner. What was he supposed to do? It wasn't exactly clear, and he was also called first deputy mayor, and he quit after like a year to go run for mayor, which he also quit after like a year, then he ran the L.A. Times for like a year, and then he got fired. Or quit. Anyway …
Los Angeles' unemployment rate may be falling, but it remains stubbornly kind of high, at 5.4%, well above cities like San Francisco (3.9%), New York (4.4%) and even godforsaken Baltimore (4.8%). What gives?
Sure, we could do the obvious thing and hire a Jobs Czar. But what if what we needed was actually fewer jobs?
L.A., after all, is famous for its army of underemployed actors, musicians and “artists” hanging out at coffee shops and dashing up and down Runyon Canyon as if it was the weekend. Maybe we just need to make unemployment a bit more fun. What if, in a addition to unemployment checks, the city gave people free yoga classes, Starbucks cards, Uber discounts. I'm just brainstorming here. There are no wrong answers.
Again, Sean Parker feels like a strong pick for this job.
3) Malibu Czar
How did L.A. let Malibu get away? I mean, we have Woodland Hills and San Pedro but we somehow missed out on Malibu?
Time and time again, the city of Malibu has demonstrated a complete inability to govern itself. They don't even have a sewer system (yet – they're working on it)! They don't even have a Whole Foods (yet – Steve Soboroff is working on it)!
L.A. needs to forcibly annex Malibu, à la Vladimir Putin and the Crimean Peninsula, and restore some order to that wacky city.
It's win/win. Malibu gets all the cool things that L.A. is known for (traffic, nightclubs, an inferiority complex) and we get Malibu's sweet, sweet tax base.
2) Oscars Czar
This one is so obvious, I can't believe I even have to say it. The Oscars are in desperate need of a retool. They need diversity.
They also need to make their show something approximating watchable. Once a year, the eyes of the world cast their gaze upon our city, and what do they see? Line dancing, sound guys thanking their agents, boring speeches, awful jokes and idiosyncratic political statements.
Let's get the thing down to two hours. Let's get some fresh blood into the writers room. Let's get the self-adulation down to a manageable level. I would love to see what Soderbergh can do with this nonsense.
1) Czar Czar
Someone's gotta get these czars in line.
Also, is it czar? Or tsar? And are we going with tsarina? Is this a gender-neutral thing? The city needs answers now.