When Antonio Villaraigosa became mayor of Los Angeles in mid 2003, he promised to focus on quality-of-life issues the way Rudy Giuliani had so successfully in New York. To Angelenos, the number one quality-of-life issue is transit. Pretty much everything else pales in comparison (as long as you don’t live in a gang-infested area).
Villaraigosa has failed miserably.
And no wonder. He, like Mayor Bloomberg, mistakes nannyism for leadership. Every minute they spend figuring out how to protect adults from themselves is 60 seconds in which they’re not doing the job they were elected to do.
Hence, in Los Angeles, porn actors are required to wear condoms for their own safety (though gay men are not); it’s now illegal to park beside a broken parking meter; and stores are banned from putting your groceries in plastic bags.
Like night follows day, the city has become all but unlivable for anyone who drives anywhere at any time.
First come the potholes.
On Monday I had a meeting around noon on Sunset Blvd just east of UCLA. After allocating an extra 40 minutes for traffic, I exited the San Diego Freeway and drove east, dodging potholes—some of them approaching sinkhole size—as though the street was a slalom course.
Nothing had changed since the last time I’d driven there. If anything, the holes were deeper and more plentiful. Which is particularly telling given that that stretch of road passes through some of the most expensive real estate in the world—and the city touts its ability to get broken parking meters back up and running in no more than three hours after initial report. Potholes? Fuhgeddaboudit. Operation Pothole ended after 14 weeks in 2005.
My meeting ended at about 5:30, leaving me half an hour to make my 6:00 dinner in Santa Monica, which should’ve been more than enough time. So I drove side streets down to Wilshire (dodging potholes all along the way), and headed west. About two blocks east of Westwood Blvd., I screeched to a halt. And stayed stopped. Three lanes of traffic were gridlocked.
In 15 minutes I went maybe—maybe!—30 yards. I checked all the radio stations for reports that might shed light. Had the rogue cop, Christopher Dorner, shot up the federal building a ways ahead? No, not a word about any police action. Nor did I hear sirens or see cop cars racing to and fro.
I told my Droid to “call LAPD traffic division.” What came up on screen was “Wilshire Division LAPD.” I pressed send and got a recorded message telling me to call 911 in an emergency, “otherwise please hold for an officer.” I held. And held. And held. For five minutes.
At last a voice answered. I said I was theoretically driving west on Wilshire in Westwood but that I’d been stopped dead, along with everyone else, for 20 minutes now. “What’s going on? Why aren’t there any cops directing traffic?”
“I have no idea,” he said. “I’m not in that division. Call the West L.A. division.”
“What’s the number?”
“I don’t have that in my head.”
“So can you look it up?”
“I don’t have anything to look it up on.”
“Well, you are LAPD, aren’t you?”
“And you can’t connect me to another division?”
“What would you like me to do?”
“I’d like you to do you the [expletive] job I pay you for,” I shouted said.
He hung up.
In retrospect, I should’ve told him that I was talking to him on my handheld cell phone and parked in front of a broken meter while shooting a porn movie with plastic grocery bags as condoms. He’d have had a battalion there in minutes.
And so it goes in Antonio Villaraigosa’s Los Angeles. Where the mayor wants to raise the sales tax yet again.
“We’ve had consolidations of departments, we found efficiencies. We’ve done everything that we can.
“The fact of the matter is, when you look at the kinds of tough decisions that we’ve made … I can now support a sales tax increase,” he said.