For years, we have prayed, worried, and feared for our lives as both COVID-19 and a failing government ravaged what was left of our health, opportunity, and livelihoods. Simply put, it’s time to move on. But there’s just one catch: Los Angeles and its leadership have no plans, and neither does any other candidate for Mayor in Los Angeles. Removing mandates is one thing; planning for the future is entirely different. Government should plan for the future; ours cannot even meet the present. Here’s a roadmap on what we should do next.
Save our Children
No one has suffered more than the children of LA during COVID. LAUSD simply “lost” thousands of students and has no idea if they left or where they might be. Students are years behind where they should be in their education because of failing webinars masquerading as education. Essential social skills and life experience has been lost, and there is no remediation plan.
LA must institute comprehensive summer school and after school programs in remediation for every student in LAUSD to bring them back up to speed. We need scalable tutoring, in a comprehensive program using local college students and instructors, with quality controls and weekly accountability and reporting. We must start providing a guarantee of at least one year of a paid internship to every high school student to gain real world experience. And we must commit, above all else, to keeping our schools open, and children should no longer have to wear masks except in high-risk situations.
Vaccines and Masks
Everyone should get a vaccine; and individuals in high-risk situations should wear masks. However, the era of wearing a mask from the entrance of a restaurant to your table, only to take it off, and then wear it back out again, are over. That type of illogical direction has no place in our science-based society. We must encourage and incentivize vaccines, but mandates should be limited to individuals where public health is at risk. The City’s own health commission has provided clear direction and a summary of what works and what doesn’t. We must accept that this virus will be with us, and the goal now is to find a way to live with it.
Tourism has long been one of the primary drivers of LA’s income. If we have any chance of it returning, as we solve homelessness and restore public safety (two crises that must be addressed separately), we must create reasons to visit Los Angeles. We must foster and facilitate more festivals, more conventions, more gatherings, more opportunities and reasons to celebrate. We must become a beacon of joy to this country; not a locked-down meme.
Random small business grants of $5,000 with long, arcane applications are not enough. We must not only make it possible to do business in LA by removing unnecessary barriers, regulations, and costs. We must also drive new business to Los Angeles through innovative incentives and workforce development.
We need two new “hero” industries that will bring 100,000 jobs to LA; a “Los Angeles Innovation Fund” that will drive start-ups to call LA home; and zero-interest innovation loans to expand and modernize the businesses we have.
We also need to bring business back. If you were in business before the pandemic and went out of business, you will be eligible for up to $10,000 in seed capital grants to re-start your business; if you want to start a new business, you will be eligible for up to $10,000 in low- and no-interest loans.
An eviction moratorium is the wrong solution for the right problem. We need to keep people in their homes, but LA has failed to find a simple, cost-effective way to provide direct aid to its citizens their time of need. So, they have instead punished mom-and-pop landlords and small businesses, forcing them to bear the burden of thousands of individuals who no longer pay rent just because they don’t have to, while these property owners get cut deeper and deeper. The eviction moratorium must end, and be replaced with a 24/7 direct-assistance hotline to help everyday people stay in their homes with direct assistance when needed.
End Homelessness and Restore Public Safety
Let’s not kid ourselves: homelessness and crime got worse during COVID, and they will continue to do so. We need to focus on ending, not just addressing, homelessness, and bringing crime down now. We cannot hope to be a safe home for our citizens, much less a tourist destination, if young women are being murdered in our stores and our streets look like debris-filled chaos. We have to clean up LA, and with a plan proven to work in 14 other cities.
Build for the Future
We don’t have enough housing for the people who already live here – at any income level. We must build, build, and build, ethically and responsibly, while preserving neighborhoods and communities. And in the meantime, until the cost of rent comes down, we must provide essential workforce housing vouchers that offset high rents so that teachers, law enforcement, frontline workers, and young professionals can afford to live in LA. We have to make this a place where good people want to and can afford to come to live, work, and play.