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Obstacles to Greatness

April 21, 1985

When I came to Los Angeles more than a decade go, I found a city of great natural beauty and warmth. Friendly people, a sprawling metropolis and the creative freedom it allowed convinced me that I had at last found 'my "real" home. However, in the past several years, a feeling of seeing potential greatness slip away indicates that some important parts of L. A.'s maturation have not happened.

Several recent items point to a consistent problem. The light rail system continues meandering through the Twilight Zone with plans for lines which would not go where they are needed to truly serve its users. Also, arguments for a subway system downtown continue, despite the very concept of riding in a dark underground corridor seems strange to rational people. Articles and pictures of the horrors which New York City's subways have become should convince (us) that the same fate is not an intelligent decision for Los Angeles.

A monorail system would be a more reasonable means of transportation. But every time a monorail is considered, it is shot down by "downtown merchants who objected."

Likewise, when people cite the advantages of converting our city streets into efficient, smooth-flowing transportation corridors using one-way streets, similar mention is made of the objections of "downtown interests."

One of the realities of Los Angeles seems to be a reluctance to grasp that the 21st Century is upon us. The West Coast is a leading edge of the wave of the future. But shortsightedness, avarice or incompetence are blunting that edge.

To aid Sam Hall Kaplan's continuing quest for sanity, I would ask several questions that might open a dialogue:

--What are the real obstacles to making Los Angeles a true 21st-Century city?

--Who are the people who really care, who could use the support of interested citizens?

--Regardless of politics (if possible), what method of gaining control of the seemingly aimless bureaucratic mechanisms is open to us?

--If you could ask for, say, 10 items to become priorities leading to an enhanced quality of life in Los Angeles, what would they be.?

A closing thought. I knew that "have a nice day" is more than slightly (and mindlessly) overused. But, if every one of us lived with the true meaning of civilization, treating our neighbors with kindness, courtesy and forebearance, possibly we could start to see that we are not separated by our differences but are absolutely connected by our sameness; true at the founding of this nation and true still today.

PAUL STUCK

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