THE BLOG

L.A.'s Human Face of Big Data

06/25/2015 08:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2016

Whereas. That's how my work day began. With a festive farewell breakfast and City of Los Angeles proclamation in the Mayor's Press Room for outgoing Deputy L.A. Mayor for Budget and Innovation Rick Cole. As Cole leaves us to take on a new role as Santa Monica City Manager, LA's loss is the beach city's gain.

Despite his wonky L.A. job title and mind like a steel trap for data, there is something throwback in the best way about Rick Cole. One feels it meeting with him in his blue-walled City Hall office with its giant portrait of Bobby Kennedy. One experiences Cole's old school warmth and wisdom in his enthusiasm for big ideas and research and the candid way he speaks his mind on all things urban even when he is departing from the City Hall script.

I have enjoyed our banter in person and on Twitter about City services and public transportation and hope and expect it will continue when he moves to the beach. There is a generosity to Cole, the human face of big data, that one doesn't always find in the corridors of power.

Standing in the Mayor's Press Room surrounded by those who have worked with him, it felt as though Cole's contribution to the City of Angels will not soon be forgotten. The warmth for the man was manifest and suggested that Los Angeles is not losing a civic leader but is gaining a great ally in one of the County's other 87 cities.

Along with Mayor Garcetti's presentation of the proclamation from the City to Cole, the crowd was treated to some words from Cole who returned the love and predicted the Garcetti years would be pivotal ones in Los Angeles, like the Tom Bradley era.

I wasn't living in L.A. when Bradley was mayor but the signs of Bradley's positive influence on Los Angeles still abound. Though the coffee hadn't kicked in, I think I heard Cole express confidence that under Mayor Garcetti Los Angeles would become the best run big city in America, and it often feels that way to me.

We are of course not without our challenges including the tens of thousands of homeless living on our sidewalks and underpasses and the long distance that remains to be traveled until we have a world class public transportation system and network of complete streets. Our affordable housing shortage shows no signs of abating, our jails are full to capacity, the chronically unemployed remain without prospects and the education offered by our schools in many neighborhoods remains a disgrace.

Even today's welcome approval by the Metro Board of a new bike share program was not without its bumps due to concern that it won't integrate with bike share in Santa Monica and Long Beach. Bike share should arrive in downtown L.A. in 2016 with 65 stations and more than 1,000 bikes.

Of course, the challenges we face as a city and region are not those of a Mayor or City Government alone. And as a city we are in a better place than Los Angeles has been for quite some time. Thanks to civil servants like Cole who helped develop the Mayor's data driven, back to basics approach, Mayor Eric Garcetti and many in the Mayor's Press Room, it feels as though L.A. has genuine, engaged and able leadership at the helm.

When I emailed Cole back in May congratulating him on the new job he quickly wrote back, "I know you will be on one of the first trains to 4th Street next year. I'll be there to greet you!"

Whereas I know he will be there, I look forward to riding the subway (OK it's really light rail) to the sea.

Yours in transit,
Joel