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A New Kind of Politics in Suburbia

November 28, 1985

Suburbia had a new kind of politics, according to Theodore White, and only word-of-mouth to explain it. Most suburban communities knew little or nothing about how they were governed. Most suburbs cannot support good newspapers or sustain local television stations subjecting local government to daily scrutiny. Suburbia has thus replaced the big city as the heartland of petty corruption. Suburban politics revolve around land--the homeowners' use of land; where new expressways will go; where new factories will go; zoning ordinances and land-use variances that politicians broker among themselves for money. In suburbia, schools are generally good, police are usually polite to people, the old big-city graft from prostitution, gambling, ticket-fixing is minimal. But the graft that comes from real estate deals, zoning fixes and highway construction is maximal.

Suburbia had no tools, no mirrors, no way of finding out about itself except in such rare enclaves as the San Gabriel Valley, where the Los Angeles Times makes an attempt to explain. Suburbia is captive to ignorance locally, and captive nationally to the big-city press and television, which tell it what is going on outside and parade the symbols that stir national politics. It is in suburbia that professional manipulators and "hot-issue" men alike find their easiest loot of votes.

Councilman Robert Wagner

SOUTH PASADENA

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