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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Insights : About This Section

July 17, 1994

First came the decline of the aerospace industry and the collapse of the real estate market. Then the litany of now all too familiar woes all pointing to the fading of a dream--riots, brush fires and, finally, the Northride quake of Jan. 17, 1994.

Now, six months after the deadly temblor, the world is coming back into focus. Memories of quake and fire and riot are beginning to fade, as the seeds of optimism and renewed prosperity take root. Now comes perhaps the most vexing question of all: Where do we go from here?

On Feb. 13, The Times published an unusual special section called The Next Los Angeles, in which we challenged the experts to dream of a new city that had licked some of its most intractable problems. What would such a place look like? How would it run, be governed, produce jobs?

The answers were provocative. And they succeeded in sparking lively debate.

Now, The Times is publishing a second special section of The Next Los Angeles--not about dreams, but about reality. Its purpose is to generate practical proposals aimed at solving tangible problems within a reasonable time frame and at an affordable cost to the community.

This time our reporters fanned out across the community to interview not only experts, but community activists and ordinary Angelenos who are making positive contributions and can offer useful perspectives on how to solve real-world problems.

The idea was simple: Elicit from each subject one specific step--to take effect over the next two years--that would significantly improve Los Angeles, whether it be about crime or culture, race relations or jobs.

Then we asked the public to evaluate these and other proposals. The result are included in a special Times Poll. Finally, we compiled a special pull-out guide--People Helping People--listing ways people can get involved to better their community.

From this enterprise, some common themes emerged about Angelenos' attitudes toward this place and how it should change:

Despite the problems, and the lure of possible greener pastures elsewhere, most people like it here.

The most fertile ground for change lies close to home--the individual, the family, the neighborhood.

Big institutions can't be counted on to lead the way. Government, police and schools are financially strapped, and even in flush times, they are slow to change. Look for private sources of money and support, and proposals that rely on individual and family commitment.

Challenge yourself and those around you to solving problems. Your idea may be just as good as the next person's--even better.

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