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Los Angeles Following in the Footsteps of Detroit

The long, slow, steady decline of a once-great city.

by
Jack Dunphy

Bio

November 20, 2012 - 11:22 pm
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If a man sits on the bank of some great river and looks across to the other side, so tranquil does the current appear that it might seem to him as though the water isn’t really moving at all. Only when he looks closely will he see that the river is running steadily, ever so steadily, to the sea.

And so it is with the course on which the city of Los Angeles finds itself.  Visitors to the city will still find it to be a vibrant and interesting place to spend a week or two, with its pleasant climate and many tourist attractions, and there are still plenty of nice neighborhoods where home prices, despite the recent housing slump, are well beyond the reach of most Americans (most certainly this one).  And there is a revitalized downtown, where you can grab a nice dinner and take in a movie, a concert, or a game of professional basketball or hockey.  The entertainment industry, too, is still centered in and around Los Angeles, even as the actual production of many television shows and nearly all feature films is carried on elsewhere.

Yes, to the average tourist and even to most residents, Los Angeles would seem the very picture of civic vitality.  But like that mighty river, powerful forces are now propelling it on a course that will take it, if you will, right out to sea.

Except for a few years after college, I lived my entire life in Los Angeles, and by that I mean within its actual boundaries.  And even for those few years when I lived outside those boundaries, I was never more than a ten-minute drive from the city limits.  But I don’t live there anymore.

I take no joy in reporting this, for I always assumed I would live out my days in the city where I was born and where my roots are deep.  My father was born in Los Angeles, which by L.A. standards is akin to tracing one’s roots back to the Mayflower.  But some time ago the Divine Mrs. Dunphy and I were faced with a decision: Where would it be best for us to plant our own roots and make the best possible life for our family.  Having had the perspective offered by many years with the LAPD, I was armed with as much information on the city as anyone is likely to have.  I was like that man on the riverbank watching all that water flow inexorably downstream.  For us the choice was clear.  We now live in a suburban community outside Los Angeles, close enough to enjoy L.A.’s many charms, but far enough away to avoid its many flaws.

Seldom does a week go by that I am not presented with evidence that we made the right decision.  Most recently I read this story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the city council’s desire for a half-cent sales tax increase to help plug the city’s deficit.  This comes on the heels of the passage of California’s Proposition 30, which raises the state sales tax, already among the highest in the country, by a quarter of a cent for four years.  (And do you suppose that the tax will actually go away after four years?)  Proposition 30 also raises state income taxes on individuals earning over $250,000 per year and couples earning over $500,000.  (This second facet of Proposition 30 was sold as lasting for seven years, but again, anyone who thinks this tax will go away is probably mailing off his letter to Santa Claus right about now.)

In short, a majority of the Los Angeles city council has endorsed the proposition that L.A. should be one of the highest taxed cities in the one of the highest taxed states in the country.  What could possibly go wrong?

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