The result is L.A. remains just an idea, the belief in unlimited freedom and endless possibility. It’s a place, not a city. Cities – real cities such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Paris, London – have a sense of community, of togetherness, that L.A. has never achieved. Real cities are inclusive; the quality of life in the neighborhoods is as important as the enhancement of public monuments, museums and gathering places. L.A. excludes the people. It is a city for privileged elites and special classes, a city where the middle class is being squeezed out and good jobs chased away. Neighborhoods are trampled by runaway development, and their residents, struggling to preserve their quality of life, are dismissed as know-nothing NIMBYs. It doesn’t have to be this way. The charter-reform movement and San Fernando Valley secession drive were efforts to break with the past and bring L.A. together. But they were taken hostage or crushed by the power elites when they should have been embraced as the best hope for a prosperous and healthy future. When it came to the Olympics, L.A. let out a collective yawn while Chicago showed widespread enthusiasm with plans to build a spectacular Olympic village on the lake. WHEN it came to sports venues, track record, certainty for economic success and quality of its presentation, Los Angeles was the better choice as the U.S. nominee to bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. But the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Chicago over L.A. for good reason. Chicago has a long tradition of strong leadership – political, business, civic, labor and neighborhood – that pulls together for the greater good, and a citizenry that believes in the city. L.A. has a great climate, but as a city, it’s run today as it’s always been run: for the betterment of narrow classes of people who see the public as a minor obstacle in the way of serving themselves. The contrast between the cities was clear in Washington, D.C., where the USOC was making its decision. Local television crews and local news reporters from Chicago were present in large numbers. Meanwhile, interest was so low in L.A. that local TV ignored the event and the Los Angeles Times was hardly present, leaving only the Daily News to represent local media at a major press conference. It doesn’t have to be this way. With its climate, with its aura of freedom, with its capacity for reinvention, L.A. has the chance to be a truly great city. Seeds of democracy have been planted in neighborhood councils. The mayor has the vision to see a Los Angeles greater than what now exists. And thousands of ordinary people have worked long and hard to make things better. But it will take thousands of others to wake up and throw off the chains of their apathy, as well as a sudden moment of enlightenment among the ruling elite. L.A. can learn a lot from Chicago. Whether it will is a question of whether there’s the will to put greed and selfishness aside and strive for something greater.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!