fbpx

A Measured Response to Remote Work

COMMENTARY - Many Angelenos took the opportunity offered by working from home during the pandemic to move to a new house – often outside the City and sometimes outside the state. 

No long commutes, no inhaling exhaust fumes while stuck in traffic jams, no threatening gestures from other irate drivers, all while helping reduce global warming. 

For many of us much, if not most, of our work can be completed just as effectively seated in front of our home computers. 

Some meetings require hands-on participation beyond the current capabilities of Zoom or Teams.  Trainings are often more effective in person. 

But it’s hard to stop a robbery in progress, rescue a cat from a tree, perform CPR or fight wildfires remotely. 

Before Zoom, cities usually relied on employee desires for short commutes to ensure their workers reflected those for whom they worked. 

Generally, it has only been at the level of elected officials that residency requirements have been imposed. 

That may be why the Charter of the City of Los Angeles has no such requirements.  Or perhaps the City Attorney’s office nixed it as discriminatory, or perhaps they never considered the ramifications two decades on. 

There is also the aspect of recycling City funds within the community, an aspect of significant benefit for our economy. If everyone buys Chinese-made goods from Amazon or groceries in Palmdale, how can businesses based in Los Angeles thrive? 

To what extent do they or should they pay taxes that support the City (property, sales, hotel, parking, etc.)? 

And while employees of the LAFD and LAPD may enjoy the quality of life opportunities of living in Calabasas or Austin or Hilton Head – be it for cheaper housing, a less ‘woke’ community or to be closer to elderly family members – how does that impact their work in Los Angeles? 

It’s one thing to work from out-of-state on a job that does not entail a physical presence, quite another for those who operate firehoses or chase crooks. 

Even then, there are degrees of impact. 

Is the person commuting on perform a daily basis or weekly? How far? 

In an emergency, how soon can they report to their station? Would some emergencies – roads shut or air travel suspended – impair their ability to report at all? 

Interactions for many in-person jobs benefit when both individuals are part of the same community with similar values and understandings. 

How much is lost when a Caucasian residing in Brattleboro, Vermont has to evacuate Guatemalan residents in Boyle Heights? 

Just living in a homogenous community can limit ability to effectively perform in hugely cosmopolitan Los Angeles. 

Which is more discriminatory – to restrict a worker’s choice of residence or impose another layer of risk on a panicking Angeleno? 

Ultimately the equity lens must be applied on a case-by-case basis. There is no one size fits all. 

And that applies to every employer and every person in every job in the land.

 

(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)