Juan, a nice young man who works for a neighborhood advocacy organization approached me last week with a petition. ‘Sign here, and Nury’s office will ask for streetlights for the neighborhood.”
How wonderful. Who could say no? Sure I’ll sign…
Not so fast. The streetlights are going to cost ‘only’ $6/month, per house. $72 a year, for life.
Juan was having difficulty collecting signatures.
Streetlights fall under the category of Things We Already Pay For. That is, in the normal run of things in the wealthiest state in the country, from the vast pools of property tax revenue, income tax, sales taxes, utility taxes there are ample funds to light the streets. Not so in the banana republic of Los Angeles, where we are now being asked to kiss the ring of jefa Nury, and pay a special assessment, to obtain what Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, even downmarket working class San Fernando already have by right of citizenship. How soon before we are issued shovels and asked to fill in our own potholes?
Hector Tobar, formerly of the Times, wrote recently the presence of a permanent caste of squatter communities is the signature characteristic of Third World cities. A life-long Angeleno, liberal, and son of Guatemalan immigrants, Tobar sees Los Angeles heading in this direction. This is true, but only half the story. L.A. has its own twist on the formula: Swedish levels of taxation and Brazilian levels of service. A two-tiered society with a narrow band of Beautiful People on the other side of the hill living in an urban playground of artisanal pleasures, and a vast workforce paying top dollar to live within commuting distance to serve them, then returning home to unlit streets.
All one has do is leave the city limits to see how different it can be.