A Bird’s Eye View of Los Angeles and Seattle…

I’ve finally returned from my two-week work trip to Seattle working with Progressive Majority. The trip was great and I had a wonderful time helping out some great people, and got to see some old friends as well. All in all, a fun and productive trip.
One thing that made the trip enjoyable was my plane ride to and from Seattle. Coming in we were treated to the route that takes you over Elliot Bay, and got a nice view of Seattle’s downtown, with so many new buildings since I left, including the Rem Koolhaas-designed Central Library, the new (and desperately needed) City Hall and the new Seahawks Stadium, among other landmarks.
It’s interesting to note that former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell was maligned by the press and critics based on the WTO protests, at the tail end of his tenure, yet it is largely due to his vision & hard work that Seattle successfully renovated key landmarks such as the Opera House, downtown evolved to what it is today, and neighborhoods saw many tangible improvements made while Seattle still had the resources to do so. History may well recognize his true legacy that partisans and politicians did not during the 2001 election season.
On my way home, I was treated to an incredible, close up view of Mount Rainier on a clear day as I flew out of town – possibly the only time I’ve been been so close to Mount Rainier during the many flights in and out of Seattle I’ve taken over the years. It’s one of those natural landmarks you see every day as you drive around the area, but never really get to see up close unless you’re flying over it, or climbing it, and I do not know when I’d be doing the latter anytime in the near future.
Coming home I also got an incredible survey of Los Angeles as well. As usual, the weather was clear and our plane seemed to fly rather low over every major neighborhood and landmark on the way in to LAX, something I never had a chance to enjoy in past plane trips (as I usually get an aisle exit row seat). It was a nice way to end a long and productive trip, and it felt good to be returning home.
In an era of lower expectations, potholes, high gas and home prices, and whatnot, cynics may deride anyone looking forward to returning to Los Angeles as misguided or deluded. As we flew over the city I realized that despite its many faults, Los Angeles is a great place to be, and can be one of the greatest cities in the world, if people really want it to be such a place. It’s not like there’s a city charter amendment that requires Los Angeles to be a polluted, lousy place to live – and people need to start recognizing that fact if things are going to get any better anytime soon.
That got me to thinking ahead about the things I’d like to do, and I began to figure out that what I really would like to do more than anything else, is live in a great Los Angeles, and get to do all the things I’d like to do (consulting, filmmaking, etc.) right here.
I don’t want to move to Canada or Mexico, or Arizona – right now, I want to live here and do all that I like here, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to. True, there’s tons of problems here, but there are problems everywhere, and frankly when all things are considered, I still prefer the weather and the scene in California, warts and all, to anywhere else. Now it’s time to stop whining and tell the cynics to take a hike, and for people to start doing something instead of just talking.
Seattle is a wonderful place, and I always enjoy the seeing the kind folks I know up there and revisiting old places, so my preference for California is in no way suggesting Seattle is a bad place. In the end, it’s California that’s truly home, and I’m tired of having to settle for a second rate version of what should be the greatest place to live.
Which brought me back to a conversation I had with Bob Hertzberg right before I left town. I’d written about Mr. Hertzberg’s candidacy earlier this year based on my own observations and comments from friends. What I did not know is that apparently Mr. Hertzberg read it and decided to give me a call. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I picked up the phone, and there he was, asking me about my concerns as a citizen of LA.
I ended up talking to him for over an hour and everything I’d surmised previously ended up matching up with reality. Rarely do you talk to someone in public life these days who has both the intelligence to understand how government and politics works in the real world, as well as an overall vision they really believe, in this case of an LA That Works, to go with it. I’ve got a fairly well developed “BS Detector” with politicos and it was not going off while talking to him – always a good sign!
I especially liked his concept of “political physics” – that is, the idea that you can use the motivations people and politicians have to achieve big goals if you understand what motivates them, what their needs are, and marshal people and resources to a greater good. Going beyond the transactional politics that too many of our politicians engage in, Hertzberg really seems to know how to match up a vision of the city with the means to get it done.
More importantly, it was clear after spending some time talking to him that he really wants the job to do the job of Mayor, as best he can. This is not a stepping stone to higher office or a pure power play – this is something he wants to do because he likes his city and likes its residents, and thinks they oughta get their money’s worth when they pay for city government. In an era when we’re told to not expect much from our leaders and the cynics keep deriding everything while doing nothing to improve things, it sure was nice to talk to someone who would seem to offer what I really want to see happen – an effort to at least try and make things better so that LA is a place where we can all thrive, not just survive. Go Bob!
Check out Bob’s recently revamped site at ChangeLA.com and read more about Bob’s plans for a Greater LA.
Also, check out some interesting blog coverage from Mark Sundeen. I’d write about the convention myself but a) I’m not there and b) I don’t have cable (opting for Netfix instead and frankly, no one is showing much coverage. Sure I can watch commentators talk about the convention on PBS, but as for seeing the actual events for myself, it ain’t easy….

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

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