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Cluster of Enclaves Must Become a City : Los Angeles: Location and resources mean nothing if people don't plan the future as a community.

February 21, 1996|HAROLD M. WILLIAMS | Harold M. Williams is president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. This piece is excerpted from a speech last month at a lunch honoring Robert Erburu on his retirement as chairman of Times Mirror Corp

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is forecast by many to become the economic and cultural center of the country in the 21st century. That is the vision, the dream. And with good reason. We are at the crossroads of this country and the future global growth areas of Southeast Asia, the Far East and Latin America. We are the most ethnically diverse area in the United States and probably the world. We have enormous resources.

But we lack an essential ingredient without which it will not happen. We are not a community. We are a cluster of governmental, economic and ethnic enclaves that are not coming together to address the difficult issues that will determine our future.

If we are to achieve the vision, we must build community. If this area is to continue to be where we want to live and raise our children and nourish the environment that attracted us here, we must build community. We need a proactive private sector, organized to work with government to identify and strengthen the values we have in common, build the economy and support our institutions to create the community essential to our future.

Further, we cannot flourish nationally or globally if our local communities are not strong, the places where our children learn responsibility, where the bonding and accommodation of group functioning are generated.

Even under the best of circumstances, the road ahead for Los Angeles and other American areas is difficult. Far-reaching institutional renewal will be necessary to deal with many interrelated problems: the environment, transportation, housing, ethnic separation and certainly economic issues. A strong economy is the only way to produce jobs and the physical resources necessary to deliver essential public services. The task is enormous, the effort is long-range and requires staying power. It becomes all the greater as responsibility is devolved from the federal level to the states and in turn to the cities.

And we cannot leave it to government. With the best of intentions, city and county government alone cannot deliver. Collaboration with organizations and leaders in the private sector has to be a major theme. The city and the metropolitan region must recognize their common destiny and do what is necessary to achieve it. It requires a coalition of all significant elements in the community.

Where will we find the leaders capable of forging the difficult but essential relationships between government and the private sector? In a few fortunate cities, there seem to be an endless supply of able citizens from every segment of the community willing to devote big chunks of their time to working collaboratively on the problems of their cities. It is happening in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, Cleveland, Chattanooga and Kansas City. Los Angeles also has such citizens, many of whom have demonstrated their commitment to building community. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, they are not yet pulling together.

Our responsibility is to foster a vibrant, growing economy while preserving and enhancing our physical, cultural and social environment. Our goal is for Los Angeles to realize its promise so that our businesses and institutions can thrive and so all of us who live here and our children and their children can share in its beauty and its bounty into the 21st century and beyond.

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