The Los Angeles Times’ recent editorial on county government was earnest, unbearably long, condescending, pompous and just plain dumb.
“The nation’s largest local government is broken, but few Angelenos seem to have noticed,” the piece began. What is the reason for this inattention? “…not noticing government is the birthright of every Californian. We pay our taxes if they’re not unreasonably high, and serve on juries when summoned; sometimes even vote. But otherwise, we’re not especially captivated by state and local politics.”
I have not seen a single paragraph that better expresses the distance between the new managers of the paper and its readers.
It’s impossible to generalize about “every Californian.” I have been in every part of this state and talked to all types of people. What I took away with me was a respect for the incredible diversity of a place that was settled by waves of immigrants, one different than the other. These immigrants created an economy as diverse as they are. Anyone who has traveled at least through a portion of the state would never generalize about “every Californian.”
Some Californians are not “especially captivated by state and local politics.” Others vote for bond issues for schools and roads; participate in parents’ groups in public school; march and rally for and against immigrants; worry about weak levees on the Sacramento and American rivers; suffer through Los Angeles neighborhood council meetings; mount recall campaigns; organize against pollution at the harbor; campaign for and against three strikes.
The Times’ new bosses fret about getting their arms around this place. They want it tied up in a neat package. That is why they write about “every Californian.”
I never tried to put my arms around California or L.A. They were too big. I couldn’t wrap up California or the Southland in a package. My editors would not have permitted me to do so, even if I wanted. They let me hit the road, from the Mexican to the Oregon borders, from the coast to the Sierra, from the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys to the harbor.
Then they encouraged me break it down into manageable pieces, sometimes using a narrative form to tell a broader story, but always with a respect for the diversity of the state. The editorial writers saw it the same way. They knew the people, the places and the issues. That is why the editorial writers won two Pulitzer prizes in the years just preceding the arrival of the Tribune people.
Instead, on Sunday, February 25, the Times labored long and painfully to come to this conclusion about county government: “Democracy may be sacrosanct but its current format in Los Angeles County isn’t. Everything must be on the table.”