L.A. Can Be the Future of Cities

10/19/2015 02:24 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2017

I love L.A. and the smiles events like CicLAvia put on the faces of those lucky enough to participate. Like the tens of thousands of others at yesterday's miles-long block party in downtown L.A., Chinatown, Boyle Heights, the Arts District and Westlake, I had a blast. And I am looking forward to tonight's Future of Cities event at LACMA.

Future of Cities is a civic initiative that aims to reinvigorate the involvement of civic leaders in creating a vibrant, cutting edge future for Los Angeles. Given our size and enduring economic inequality, we are indeed a city that needs to better marry vision, leadership and results to fulfill L.A.'s ambitions and achieve our potential.

I have high hopes for tonite's event and look forward to the discussion.

Regrettably, when Future of Cities held its inaugural launch over the Summer, one Debbie Downer kinda killed the buzz when he quipped that "Building a bike lane at the farmers' market won't build a great city. It would build a great Danish village." The speaker said he missed the notion that we're building a great city by talking about ports and jobs. He also whined about our preoccupation with "Anglo triumphalism about bike lanes," whatever that means. Maybe the rainbow of riders at yesterday's CicLAvia can help me out?

I don't see "Debbie" on tonite's program.

True, L.A. needs to focus on big issues like the creation of jobs, economic inequality, our still failing schools, rainwater capture, an epidemic of homeless and the lack of affordable housing.

In addition to the LACMA conversation, "Debbie" and like minded L.A. "leaders" should get out more, to the world's great cities including non-Anglo places like Mexico City. My passport's current if they need a tour guide.

No one would mistake the Distrito Federal for a Danish village. Mexico City with an estimated 20 to 25 million residents boasts Ecobici, a 6,000 plus bike share program, countless bike lanes, a weekly traffic-free bike and pedestrian fest like CicLAvia and arguably the best transit system in the Americas. The Sistema de Transporte Colectivo (STC) moves more than 1.6 billion passengers a year.

To its credit, getting out more is just what Los Angeles Metro is doing with its new Office of Extraordinary Innovation; looking high and low around the world for cost-effective transportation solutions that can work in Los Angeles.

As for a jobs focus, only the brain dead in L.A. could have missed the universally circulated memo, also known as Measure R2, on the building out of our public transportation system, the largest public works project since the WPA and the Great Depression.

You want big vision solutions and jobs? If we build it, Angelenos will have jobs aplenty, and all of us will have an efficient, clean energy alternative to the druggery of driving. And while we're at it, let's reclaim the Los Angeles River and build affordable housing. The multiplier effect on the region of all of this investment will be tenfold.

That buys a lot of danish.

Yours in transit,
Joel