Magazine article The Nation

Edge City

Magazine article The Nation

Edge City

Article excerpt

6

Los Angeles was a good place to be when gridlock returned to Washington. A nervous City of Angels survived the second trial in the Rodney King case and went on to hold elections. Days after the verdict, days after the police and the National Guard mobilized in preparation for riots, days after millions worried that flames of rage might reappear, only 481,000 of the sprawl's 3.5 million residents bothered to vote. With a mere 145,000 votes, Richard Riordan, a conservative Republican businessman (a cross between Resgan and Perot), finished first in the twenty-four-person mayoral primary. Mike Woo, the so-called liberal hope, motivated only 107,000 Angelenos to drive to their voting sites. The two will face off in June.

L.A. is a de-electoralized city-one in which a couple of hundred thousand angry conservative voters might be able to dictate the future for millions. ("Tough Enough to Turn L.A. Around," proclaims Riordan's lawn signs.) In the vacuum created by ballot-box apathy, a handful can thwart popular sentiment. One ballot measure called for a property tax increase to cover the hiring of 1,000 police officers. Concern about crime--car jackings, slayings at bank machines--is nearly an obsession. I sped up every time I entered or exited the Hollywood Freeway after reading that someone killed a California highway worker on the access ramp a mile from where my brother lives, and made off with his truck and 400 traffic cones. While no cure for crime, more cops--and a different breed of cop--are probably needed. (Some members of the L.A.P.D. opposed the initiative, preferring that the money go to salary increases and fearing the prospect of hundreds of black, Latino and Asian officers being selected by Willie Williams's department.) Fifty-nine percent of those who voted backed the initiative, but since the measure required a two-thirds vote, it went down. …

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