5 Actually Good Los Angeles Policy Ideas From ‘Mr. Mayor’
Ted Danson as LA Mayor Neil Bremer gives a speech on a set that’s a dead bell for the real LA City Hall Briefing Room.
Photo: courtesy of NBC
When the NBC sitcom Mr. Mayor debuted – the day after a failed coup against the US government – the show is firmly positioned as a light look at much less consistent politics. Ted Danson plays Neil Bremer, a wealthy retired businessman who earns billions in outdoor advertising, is bored and runs for mayor of Los Angeles to impress his teenage daughter. Here in Los Angeles, the show aired at the absolutely non-light peak of the winter wave of the pandemic. In the very first scene of Mr. Mayor, we learn that Neil’s predecessor abruptly resigned during an overnight coronavirus briefing, leaping off the podium with a perfect portrayal of city signage, reading: “HANG IT: WE ARE ¼ OF THE WAY.” On the night of the scene airing, actual LA mayor Eric Garcetti stood at his own podium (actual sign: “SAFE AT HOME”) and reported that Angelenos was dying from COVID-19 at a rate record of one every eight minutes. Mr. Mayor may have been sold as an escape comedy, but honestly, it’s not much of an escape for Angelenos. Even Garcetti himself was too concerned to watch, according to a spokesperson: “The mayor has grabbed bits of the show and can’t wait to binge watch the whole series when he has more time.”
For city hall insiders, it’s the details that make Mr. Mayor hit very close to the house. Neil lives in a large Tudor-style mansion that is a dead ringer for the LA mayor’s residence, Getty House. The cramped Art Deco offices of City Hall, which the show’s production designers visited in 2019, are accurate down to the rolled ID badges. There’s the very Garcettian naming convention of programs like SafeLA – in this case, a helmet sharing system for the city’s dockless scooters, which is derailed by a lice infestation. Chrissy Teigen shows up as herself at various community meetings, springing from the quintessential NIMBY logic to oppose everything from energy efficient street lights to social housing projects. (“I have already have a house, ”she said. “I have ten houses.”) And along the way, this LA-of-the-very-near-future offers better political solutions than today. At the end of the season, here’s a look at five great ideas from Mayor Bremer’s fictional town – and how likely they are to happen in real-life Mayor Garcetti in Los Angeles.
Why this is a good idea: When the fall of the fronds of palm trees planted on the land of the city caused material damage to the school of Neil’s daughter (it happens!), Deputy Mayor Arpi Meskimen (a really delicious Holly Hunter) is ready with his report “LA Palm Trees: Death From Above”. As well as being dangerous, she says, the palm trees are expensive to maintain and they are not native to the region – as many as 25,000 may have been planted before the 1932 Summer Olympics for, as the Arpi says, “fool people into believing that LA is’ not a scorpion graveyard without water.” That’s all absolutely true, and it gets worse: the palm trees – which are not, technically, trees – are currently aligned hundreds of streets in LA who have no canopy, no evaporative cooling effects and no shade; replacing them with real trees would be quite transformative.
Could this happen? After years of deferred maintenance, the Los Angeles Urban Forestry Division is finally working on repair the city canopy, starting with a tree census to determine the location and species of each tree in town planted. (The 1990 census estimated that there were 75,000 palm trees on the streets of Los Angeles.) Even though there is no current plan to remove existing palms, palms are no longer on the approved list for planting. of the city, they will therefore be eliminated subsequently. , especially because they are be infested with both fungus and weevils. But Arpi’s plan to eliminate them – “Seize the Rams Stadium by prominent estate, fill it with dead palms, then sell the mulch” – is what many Los Angeles sidewalk advocates, Native Plant’s Twitter and anti-Olympic coalitions would prefer to happen tomorrow.
Why this is a good idea: Throughout the series, the progressive vision for Los Angeles’ future is often offered by Arpi, a career vegan, zero waste, and foldable bicycle politician; for every problem Neil faces, she has a plan to relate. When presenting her plan to stop oil drilling in the city, she notes that “Los Angeles has more than 1,000 drilling sites, many within 100 yards of schools and homes. Neil agrees with her – “Oil is stupid,” he says. “We are California, we should be leading the way in this area” – and sends it to Sacramento for approval.
Could this happen? Angels stopped oil production on city-owned land in 2019, but Arpi’s facts about the location of its other oil wells are 100 percent correct: The city does not have prohibits private drilling in residential areas. However, keeping fossil fuels in the ground would not require a yes from the governor; the truth is that LA could restrict oil and gas drilling on its own, without any state intervention. But many Los Angeles board members still agree donations from oil and gas companies and are unlikely to retire from drilling until they are removed from their posts.
Why this is a good idea: For years, Arpi has been pushing for his favorite plan to be to ground the private plane serving the wealthy so that they stop traveling between the city’s small airports. As its report “Private Plane Paths Over Residential Neighborhoods” – with the dubious acronym PPPORN – explains, the flight paths of the rich end up creating noise pollution that undermines the health and safety of low-income neighborhoods.
Could this happen? Flying taxis – electric vehicles with vertical landing and take-off – are still a long way off, but last December the city announced its plan for a flying taxi division that may soon prepare new landing sites for Sky Ubers. In the meantime, there are already many services offering short-haul helicopter flights at astronomical prices, and while some smaller airports in and around the city have been successfully closed citing both air pollution and noise pollution, it’s clear that the battle for Los Angeles airspace is only heating up.
Why this is a good idea: When a recycling plant is proposed in Brentwood to allow the community to share the burden of tackling the city’s climate crisis, wealthy neighbors prove in force to oppose it in a meeting. Neil, a longtime Bel-Air resident, thinks he can convince them otherwise, but he’s charmed by Andie MacDowell, herself playing the role of president of the Brentwood Homeowners Association, who thinks the trash – a metaphor here, surely – should stay in the east. “The taxes we pay,” she said, “we don’t deserve this.”
Could this happen? The forces of NIMBYism remain strong. Unlike the Pride of Neil’s Neighborhood, the Westside isn’t the ‘better side’ when it comes to adding more housing, public transportation, or any other type of urban amenity that might help. reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Brentwood Homeowners Association, in particular, is actively working to end what it calls “bad housing bills“who would be allow the construction of more houses on land zoned for single-family homes and increase the number of homes that could be built around public transit. He also fought for decades against the expansion of transit in the region.
Why this is a good idea: Neil has his own strong policy proposition: “I am committed to developing and improving public transit because it is hard-working Angelenos like these who are the lifeblood of our city,” he then said. that he was driving a real metro. But later, when he appeared on a talk show to promote his grand plan to build a single, dedicated bus lane (the show is hosted by fictional former Los Angeles Mayor Chet Danville, played by public transport enthusiast Ed Begley Jr.), Neil is reminded that the city’s crushed budget has no money for expanding transportation infrastructure.
Could this happen? Despite the austerity measures of COVID-19, here is one area where real LA life has unfolded ahead. Last summer Garcetti cut the ribbon for two new city-center bus lanes and another in October, and at least half a dozen more have been proposed. As the current president of Metro, the regional transport agency, Garcetti has the power to direct even more investments to bus users, an idea that fits directly into his strategy of Help Angelenos drive less as part of his climate objectives for the city. No word though Mr. Mayor will be back for a season two, but Garcetti won’t be renewed – he called it in 2022 – and leaving town on faster, more reliable buses would be a legacy for LA crowded with cars.