Mark Anthony Thomas is the MIT Sloan Fellow working with the city of Los Angeles as Senior Advisor on Livability. The above photoset includes some of Mark’s photos of illegal dumping in LA neighborhoods.
CTZN: You’re a poet, living in one of the world’s creative capitals, and your big focus is on street cleaning. What’s creative about that?
MAT: I’ve met with 70-80 people so far. I haven’t said no to anybody. I was recently looking at the illegal dumping issue with some day laborers, and getting their perspective on why people dump in certain neighborhoods, and that shaped my thinking. And by spending time in the fashion district, that’s when you see the entrepreneurial spirit of the city in an intense way. Manufacturing is so disconnected from so many people who curate conversations. LA has 300,000+ workers in manufacturing. To spend time with them and see the apparel marts, see people selling garments, see how a piece works its way up to the street, to the retail side, it’s an inspiring perspective. I’ve tried to have an open mind. I’ve been on rides with the sanitation workers. I’ve seen all sides of things. There’s things I think people would be really proud of with the city… there are programs that are models for the rest of the world. Then there areas that have room for improvement.
I actually think that’s where the organic takes over. You don’t necessarily, as the city, want to steer. You don’t want to control where creative artists will take a neighborhood. The city’s role is to make sure they have the minimum platform for success. We all know that the city is not in this place yet, but once we have walkable neighborhoods, clean streets, the creatives will take it from there and make this city more dynamic. That’s the future of LA.