Bill Boyarsky
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Inequality and city hall in Los Angeles

City-hall-night.jpgLos Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin has a perceptive take on why city government has such trouble getting anything done -- income inequality and economic and social class differences.

The impact of this gap has been obvious for some time. Government's failure to provide for the disabled, mentally ill and substance abused people who make up the homeless population is a graphic example. The fortunate don't want to share their neighborhoods with housing for these people.

Bonin discussed this Friday at a Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum luncheon at the Palm downtown, arranged by public affairs consultant Emma Schafer, who also runs the Emma's Memos website.

Bonin talked about his advocacy of the plan, beloved by Mayor Eric Garcetti, to put bike lanes on some heavily used streets. This, advocates say, would reduce traffic, and encourage use of bikes and public transportation. Some neighborhoods and businesses are strongly opposed but Bonin said he's gotten a positive reception for the bike lanes he has backed in Mar Vista, a neighborhood in his Westside district.

"The rationale behind a lot of these projects is safety," he said. He said there's an economic class factor involved. Bonin said that those mostly likely to die as pedestrians or occupants of cars are children, the elderly, the disabled and the foreign born.

Look at a map of the city, he said, and you will see that the neighborhoods with the highest number of deaths are the poorest. Any measurement of poverty correlates with such deaths. For example, neighborhoods with few markets -- the so-called "food deserts" -- have a high number of deaths.

Another proposal where the debate is being influenced by income inequality is for congestion pricing, levying a fee for driving in congested areas. The Southern California Assn. of Governments has proposed a study of creating one of those zones in Bonin's district.

Residents would have to pay just 10 percent of the $4 fee and workers in the area 50 percent. Bonin, who opposes the idea, said rich Brentwood residents would get off almost free while their gardeners and housekeepers would pay much more.

Class differences such as these, seldom mentioned in city hall debates, help explain the fury that makes compromise so difficult.

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