Blog: Focus on the Future of L.A.

In my 'Focus on the Future of L.A.' series, I will isolate what I consider the biggest problems our city is facing, and offer my vision of how to fix them.

Chris Ashe is a candidate in the March 5, 2013 election for a new Los Angeles City Council District 13 representative.

Historically, our economy has been driven by aerospace, film & TV production, and tourism.  We had a robust local economy, with plenty of high-wage jobs to go around, and our housing market boomed for over 20 years because of it.

Thankfully, we still have tourism… but that’s where the good news ends.

Aerospace has been in severe decline for the past 20 years, with Boeing moving manufacturing away, and most recently Northrop Grumman moving it’s headquarters to D.C. in 2010.  

Over the last dozen years, both Los Angeles and the state of California has watched as our (now, but soon to be then) primary industry, film and television production, has been outsourced to Canada and beyond, lured by government subsidies.  This year, only 8% of hour-long drama pilots were filmed in Los Angeles, down from 50% in 2010, and down from 80% in 2005.   Some $3 billion has left our local economy in the last 5 years in direct salaries from high-wage production jobs.  With the multiplier effect of circulation, in effect that number is possibly $10 billion or more.  Is it any wonder why the city’s finances are melting down?  Is Los Angeles, with budget deficits compounding with an additional $250 million every year for the foreseeable future, slipping towards becoming the next Detroit?

The city of Los Angeles doesn’t need one more politician looking for a toehold to the next office, nor do we need another person in city hall beholden to special interests.  In the coming city elections, we must have two things… a clear vision for the future of Los Angeles, and a plan for how to get there. 

That’s why I decided to jump into the race to be Los Angeles Council District 13’s next Councilperson… because, despite the vast field of candidates, when I was looking for someone who was talking about the major issues the city is facing, I found that conversation to be surprisingly absent.  That’s simply not good enough.  The city needs direction, now more than ever.  The city also needs to be nimble enough to change at the break-neck speeds that the world now moves.

So… where does the city go from here?  Allow me to paint the picture of my vision for the future of Los Angeles, which I will write about in the coming weeks and months.

Part 1: Silicon Beach?  How about Silicon Hills?

Technology.  It’s the industry that drives life forward.  Whether it’s computer technology, bio-technology, or manufacturing technology, advances are regularly made in leaps and bounds.  We have four top universities, USC, UCLA, CalTech, and CSUN, all right here, all producing highly skilled graduates, who then move away to pursue careers in technology hubs around the country.  Our District 13 is the most diverse district in Los Angeles, and we have a pedigree of creativity.  With very little effort, CD13 could be the next technology hotspot. 

How?  Start by creating a climate ripe for creativity.  Work with private companies and incentivize investment in the community to create shared or communal workspace with the infrastructure to support technology.  Increase the walkability of the district by offering more localized public transportation routes that connect our amazing neighborhoods, adding dedicated bike lanes, and more open/green space.  Cultivate relationships between venture capital companies, technology programs at the local schools, and notable mentors who know exactly what it takes to create successful tech startups.  Create a feeder program at LACC that produces employable workers, equipped with skills fine-tuned for programming, design, and other aspects of the industry.  And, above all, we need to fix LAUSD, so that our public schools produce the high-value educations that our city so desperately needs to both create engaged students who then go on to higher education, and to attract young professionals who want to settle in a place where they can feel good about the public school system.

By doing a few simple things now, we can create a nurturing environment for industries that we want to attract, and seed our future for success.

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