TRENDS, they say, have a way of starting in California and...

GALLIMAUFRY

July 24, 1993

TRENDS, they say, have a way of starting in California and working their way east. If so, a recent development in Los Angeles bodes ill for Baltimore.

Right after the South Central Los Angeles riots last year, Peter Ueberroth, the business genius who turned a profit on the 1984 )) Olympics there, was named to head a commission to rebuild the devastated area. His vision was to combine federal and state aid with a heavy infusion of capital and talent from Southern California businesses to provide jobs and a brighter future for the blighted area.

This spring, Mr. Ueberroth quit, barely a year into what he thought would be a five-year effort. Little has been accomplished, aside from political squabbling. There has been some private investment, but a lot of it was offset by other failed businesses. The hoped-for aid from Washington and Sacramento proved ephemeral. Worst of all, to Mr. Ueberroth, was the failure of the Southern California business community to respond.

The failure of Mr. Ueberroth's redevelopment effort can be blamed on a number of factors. But the most ominous from Baltimore's point of view was the failure of local leaders to respond.

"The corporate power-brokers who dominated Los Angeles a decade ago when the Olympics were about to be staged -- the oil moguls, the aerospace kings, the old movie-studio emperors -- have now mostly left the scene: their firms broken up, in the hands of bureaucratic managers or wholly owned by foreigners," commented the Economist of London.

"A decade of merger-mania has changed the face of Los Angeles. According to Joel Kotkin, an economist at Pepperdine University, Mr. Ueberroth 'never truly adjusted his strategy to the fading fortunes of the old elite.'

"No one was there to capture the new elite -- newcomers in biotech, health care, environmental engineering, entertainment software and the like -- who are busily remaking Los Angeles in a different image."

City Hall and Greater Baltimore Committee, take note.

* * *

REP. DAVID BONIOR has a new way to spend tax dollars: buy all those historic baseball parks for posterity. He wants the Interior Department to buy Fenway Park, Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium if the owners decide to sell or tear them down.

What a bonanza for the owners! What a rip-off of taxpayers.

Part of the allure of baseball are the legends that grow up around the great players of the past, and the great ballparks of the past. But you can't hold onto the past, or legislate the survival of aging fields of dreams. Fenway is not Yellowstone National Park. It's an absurd proposition, one that probably plays well in Mr. Bonior's home state of Michigan, but earns a "boo" from this corner.

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