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Trivia Can Obscure Problems : Issues that are changing the face of the city are getting short shrift by media preoccupied with mundane trouble such as Heidi Fleiss.

August 22, 1993|CELES KING III | Celes King III is a local businessman and state chairman of the California Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. and

As Nero fiddled while Rome burned, the local news media are opting to focus on the trivialities of the Southland while the substantive problems burn away at the vitality of our region.

There it is, right on the front page and leading each news broadcast: Heidi Fleiss, the alleged Tinseltown madam to the stars, getting herself into a criminal pickle.

So what? Prostitution is the world's oldest profession. One can find it practiced either overtly or covertly within minutes of where you are--no matter where you are. And, heretofore, no one seemed to care. So-called madams have catered to the stars in Hollywood since the days of Fatty Arbuckle. So now it's news?

Our local media are focusing too much attention on the trivialities of old Los Angeles and are not spending enough time on the problems that face the new Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is in a crisis situation. Increasing security in the Southland is a must. Richard Riordan rode the tide of voter discontent into the mayor's office almost solely on that premise. He believes that an additional 3,000 law enforcement officers are needed on the streets by 1996. Why?

Because crime in L.A. is at an all-time high. One out of every 10 people in Los Angeles is a victim. The number of our sworn police officers has shrunk from 8,400 to 7,700. There is only one officer for every 457 residents. At any time, only 350 patrol cars are patrolling 470 square miles of the city.

To underscore the seriousness of the problem, Riordan dispatched Police Chief Willie L. Williams and Deputy Mayor William Violante to Washington to seek $27 million from the Justice Assistance Program to hire, train and equip 100 police officers. One needed a magnifying glass to locate the media coverage of this important mission.

Fleiss' alleged business activity notwithstanding, the area needs more media focus on the need to revitalize small businesses. They need to prosper because they employ our residents and contribute greatly to the declining tax base.

Yes, the new Los Angeles is in a struggle for survival, and our media needs to focus their attention on the issues that directly relate to that struggle. What someone does with his discretionary income with the Heidi Fleisses of the region is his business. How this city and its people will survive in the coming years, however, is of concern to the vast majority of us. Our local media should respond accordingly.

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