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It’s about 6 p.m. and I’m speed-walking to the Seventh and Figueroa Red Line stop to make sure I catch the train after work. At 6:10, the train promptly arrives at the platform and I’m home in 12 minutes. Fortunately, I never have to think twice about hopping on that train or worry about whether the train will shut down or collapse. I also have a convenient alternative to sitting in traffic, and while riding the train I feel secure knowing that our subway system was safely built by skilled hands thanks to government investment in our transit system.
But with the state of the economy and all the talk about the decline of our infrastructure in the United States, I wonder if I have taken what public transportation we have for granted. Then I say to myself, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.” (Pun may or may not be intended.)
Here in Los Angeles,
Recently I was invited to speak at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement. Never heard of it?
In 1962, at a United Auto Workers conference center in Port Huron, Michigan, about 60 student activists collectively hammered out what they named an “Agenda for a Generation” with the strong belief that this document could help create the world they hoped for. “We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love,” it optimistically declared.
Most were in their 20s, several veterans of civil rights sit-ins or campaigns to end the nuclear arms race. Participatory Democracy was the overall framework – a political vision in which people have power over the decisions that affect their lives. In all-night sessions they argued about wording and emphasis and produced a document that addressed the major challenges of unrepresentative politics, a profit-driven economy and inequality at home and abroad.
“James, would you mind driving me to Wal-Mart?”
My mother-in-law asked me this question on a day when my wife was at work and I was desperately trying to get some writing accomplished. I knew it was going to be a tough week to entertain, long before Gerry arrived — a clash of union meetings, picketing and writing classes at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.
I was typing at the computer in our small, one-bedroom apartment when she posed the question to me. I tried not to overreact, but I’m sure my eyebrows constricted tighter than I had intended.
“Wal-Mart?” I replied. “You want me to drive you to . . . Wal-Mart?”
She nodded. “I’d like to go the garden center and pick up some things.”
I didn’t want to drive to Wal-Mart, but when it came down to it I decided I would rather be on the wrong side of my union than on the wrong side of my mother-in-law. » Read more about: My Mother-in-Law’s Wal-Mart Moment »
The emergence of Los Angeles as one of the world’s great cities, despite its location in a resource-stressed desert basin, has always been the surprise outcome of an unnatural act. L.A.’s stunning growth has been fed by a vast network of electric transmission wires that have, for 100 years, drawn in power from around the West to fuel the always-enlarging economic engines of the city.
This form of urban nourishment has been orchestrated by the city-owned Department of Water and Power (LADWP), which has historically provided L.A. with extremely reliable power at an unusually low price. But now, like utilities around the nation, the DWP is facing serious challenges.
First, the DWP will have to provide more and more power to the city. The population of Los Angeles is going to keep expanding, and with technological innovations like electric vehicles, the need for power will only increase.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision declining to hear an appeal of the L.A. Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance sparked protests from the California Grocers Association. The CGA claimed that the ordinance, which protects the jobs of grocery employees following an ownership change, will do more harm than good in communities suffering from lack of access to healthy food options. Dave Heylen, speaking to the L.A. Business Journal on behalf of the CGA, had this to say: “Our industry and community health groups have long been working to bring more stores into these underserved areas.”
For decades, as grocery stores fled South and East Los Angeles, community groups demanded answers from the industry, only to hear the same refrain over and over again. “It’s too difficult to operate in poor neighborhoods.” “Costs are too high.” The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency,