Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No learning curve in sight

Americans like to hopscotch around European capitals to sample cozy city centers. That part of the continent is now our Disneyland-for-adults.

Some tourists return with the idea that we can reproduce such places here. And a few sign on to the idea that U.S. cities' traditional downtowns can and should be "revitalized."

The 800-lb. gorrilla in the story is the city-backed industrial policy that feeds on jobs programs and other hand-outs to favored groups.

The front page of today's LA Times includes "L.A. Convention Center to Get Major Hotel Tower ... The complex would give dowtown the magnet for business conferences it has lacked for year ..."

One has to get 90% of the way through about forty inches of breathless prose to find that, "[t]he project has attracted controversy because nearly half the cost will be financed by city subsidies and loans."

This is all standard. L.A.'s downtown has been trembling on the brink of revitalization for half a century and taxpayers have regularly been asked to shell out mega-bucks to redeem the long list of previous mega-project fiascos.

Even when we visit the new downtown Disney Concert Hall, most of us scurry home at the end of the performance rather than stick around to sample the charms of downtown L.A.

Among offialdom and its booster club, there is no learning curve to speak of.