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Southern California VOICES

Today's Agenda

July 19, 1993

If people were invited to talk with Los Angeles' new mayor, Richard Riordan, in their neighborhoods--to point out what needs doing--what would top their lists? In today's Platform, we find that it's bread-and-butter issues--public safety, community-based jobs, neighborhood preservation and local control.

Public safety was the premier issue of Riordan's campaign, most pointedly his promise to add 3,000 police officers in his four-year term--a promise whose feasibility is now disputed. But political observers say the area where he could actually have more impact is jobs, because of his business background and credentials.

In any case, "what people would ask of the mayor points up the schism between what they want and the reality of what the mayor of a city as financially strapped as this one can do," says Larry Berg, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "As you saw in the front-page stories (last week), he's promised what many of us knew in the beginning to be untrue, about putting on 3,000 new police officers during his four-year term. That's the usual gap between what is promised in a campaign and doing it."

Even if Riordan could succeed putting those thousands of officers on the street, the official crime rate would go up, not down, argues Berg, because there would be more arrests. That's because, under any circumstances, only a fraction of criminals get caught.

So Riordan may not be able to entirely fulfill his promises, but he can make some progress, and "he's off to a pretty good start," says Berg, with his appeals on behalf of the city to Washington and Sacramento.

As for jobs, the trick is to get existing development money into the neighborhoods that need the jobs and welcome municipal projects (unlike any number of upscale communities that are organized to fight development, not lure it).

"Here's an example that I was involved in," says Berg: "I'm on the board of the Air Quality Management District. When we made decision a couple of years ago on the location of our new headquarters, I and a few others wanted it to be built in an area, in need of revitalization. The vote was 5-2 against that, and it went to Diamond Bar. This is the kind of area where a mayor can step in. If a facility is going to be built in Encino for instance, and residents there are raising hell against it, the mayor can step in and say, 'Let's build it where people want it.' "

Berg concludes: "He'd be jawboning, but it can be effective. He's already had results with getting the May Co. to expand warehouse facilities in the Exposition Park area."

Jobs and public safety are also on the mind of the Rev. Vivian Ben Lima, but in Sermon, he's approaching urban ills from a different perspective. Crime and poverty are symptoms of the real problem, he says, which is the loss of spirituality and, as a result, the loss of our core value systems.

Ben Lima calls on religious leaders of every belief to work together, not in competition, to restore our cities' life of the spirit.

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