Based on a couple of drives around Los Angeles the last couple of Friday mornings, traffic in the city has distinctly increased from a few months ago, at the height of the pandemic. While a couple of drives are hardly conclusive, others have noticed, too. The days are growing longer, the California sun is feeling warmer, and the shutdown is, if not quite in the rear view mirror, at least in the slow lane, everyone zooming past.
American cities are about to undergo a unique experiment. The rise of remote work has made much office space obsolete. A friend of mine, an animator on a popular cartoon series, has been working remotely since the pandemic began. The producers recently told much of the staff that they won’t be required to return to the studio, once the city opens back up. They can continue to work remotely, out of state, for all the producers care. In California, the top tax rate is 13.3%, with anyone making more than $58,000 paying almost 10%. That’s going to chase people out of state, especially when Nevada is next door, with no state income tax.
Strange time, then, for new District Attorney George Gascon to hollow out law enforcement. Gascon, sounding like some Tea Party pork cutter, touted the hundreds of millions of dollars the county will save by reducing prison sentences for convicts. He’s also vowed to do away with the death penalty, and is going after police officers accused of misconduct. Gascon apparently kept up with how such reforms have treated Minneapolis.
Back in L.A., these “reforms” have so far prompted the city of Beverly Hills to issue a vote of “no confidence” in the district attorney, and L.A. suburb La Mirada is expected to do the same. And a victims’ group is launching a recall effort against the D.A., with support from the county sheriff. So things are going great in L.A.
Now with crime bound to rise, demand for office and industrial space collapsing, commercial property values sinking, city budgets reliant in large part on property taxes, and so city services dwindling — the city previously announced deep cuts to the police force — and with drought to only worsen, L.A. may soon resemble one of those wasteland dystopia’s the city’s artisans are so fond of depicting on screen.