Opinion: Los Angeles is Dragging California Down

“California has a big problem: It’s called Los Angeles.” That’s the brutal lede in the latest column by Zocalo Public Square commentator Joe Mathews.

Matthews says that the city and county of Los Angeles have been holding the state back for decades. With lagging job numbers, wages, education, and health, the state’s largest metropolis has been a drag on the economy and the primary driver of economic inequality.

LA’s troubles became most apparent during the coronavirus pandemic. The region saw one-third of the state’s deaths.

Possible solutions, Matthew says, lie in a 2020 report from the Committee for Greater LA, USC’s Equity Research Institute, and UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. That report, entitled “No Going Back to LA,” recommends a series of policy changes, including:

  • Addressing anti-Black racism
  • Building an economy that prioritizes marginalized groups
  • Improving health services for the underprivileged
  • Creating housing for all as part of a regional housing program and ending unsheltered homelessness
  • Promoting small business and supporting the right to work without documentation
  • Addressing learning loss sustained during the pandemic and closing the digital divide, in part by making internet access a civil right
  • Investing in youth leadership
  • Strengthening the nonprofit sector and other facets of civil society
  • Developing new metrics to hold various systems accountable
  • Aligning business, government, and philanthropy with the principles of social justice

LA’s problems didn’t develop overnight and fixing them won’t be easy, Matthew’s says. “But California needs to save LA, so it can save itself.”


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