Power in Contemporary Los Angeles: An Elite--Latino Coalition


Brett Safford

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The question of who controls political power in Los Angeles has long been debated. For most of the twentieth century intellectuals argued whether power in Los Angeles was controlled by a wealthy downtown elite or was fragmented amongst numerous interests. Los Angeles changed dramatically over the end of the twentieth century and continues to evolve into the twenty-first century. Evidence indicates that a downtown elite influenced many of the city?s decisions for much of the twentieth century and even today, a downtown elite exists and asserts its power to control decisions. However, Los Angeles continues to become more diverse demographically, and new groups have begun to assert themselves politically. The substantial influx of Latinos and their political mobilization has affected city politics most significantly. Los Angeles elected its first Latino mayor in over 140 years, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Latinos hold other important positions in city government such as city attorney and president of the city council. The emergence of a politically active Latino community has lead to a coalition between Latino interests, such as labor, and elite interests, such as development. Despite differing agendas, both Latino interests and elite interests realize that in order to accomplish many of their own goals, they must maintain a reciprocal relationship with one another.


Regina Freer




Ford Research Endowment

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