(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 59)
After nearly two months of the city’s great slow-down, the past week might almost seem like a forgettable one, another shot down the drain of the lurid whirlpool of days and nights the pandemic will become in our memories.
For a handful of the city’s voters and observers, however, this week will mark one of the most explosive in history for Los Angeles’s political leadership. Mike Davis is affirmed.
On Wednesday, L.A. City Council had one of its former consultants, George Chiang, plead guilty to charges of racketeering for buying his way into the city’s favor to advance his clients’ investments in the Luxe Hotel downtown. Two days later, L.A. City Council’s board president, Nury Martinez, stopped short of demanding a resignation from Jose Huizar, the council-member for the 14th district, for being the main figure in the FBI bribery case related to George Chiang’s plea.
This Friday also saw the entire city council team & L.A. county board mandated by federal judge David Carter to move hastily toward sheltering its nearly 60,000 unhoused, the order arriving only after a lawsuit from downtown residents and advocates charged the city with failing to sufficiently respond to the needs of its residents in Skid Row, even despite the pandemic. Now, one can’t help but wonder:
If Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi had “Russiagate” for the president’s pro-Russian heart, and if Tom Brady could have “Deflategate” for lighter-than-usual footballs, can Los Angeles have “Huizargate,” or maybe “Luxegate,” for how the latter expose city hall’s loyalty to millions of dollars, instead of its 4 million residents, workers and families?
“SkidRowgate” might also work because it’s a part of Huizar’s 14th district. Now, somewhere out there this weekend, the councilman is at a true crossroads, having to choose between showing himself out of City Hall’s doors, or waiting until he’s escorted by police officers and federal agents. It almost reminds me of Robert De Niro’s Heat (1995).
But more importantly, the scandal is about more than just Huizar’s avarice, even if we forget for a moment that the FBI’s probe against him also involves looking at other current council-members. The truth is that if Huizar’s fealty to foreign real estate developers hurt only himself, it would be one thing. But his crimes during almost 15 years on the council after Antonio Villaraigosa left the seat to become mayor have not hurt just Huizar. Drawing once again from the United Nations report from Professor Philip Alston:
“In Skid Row, L.A., (again, a part of Huizar’s district) 6,696 arrests of homeless persons were reported to have been made between 2011 and 2016.”
The scandal proves that those nearly 7,000 residents didn’t have to be punked in such a way. It’s just that they were collateral, to say nothing of the far greater number of bodies also forcibly taken to L.A.’s jail cells beyond the interval cited, which, to be sure, were dragged in as such during Mayor Villaraigosa’s and police chief William Braton’s tenure as well. Even back in the early 2000’s, advocates were calling for those residents to be helped off the street and placed into transitional housing, which, if done, could have made for a very different downtown Los Angeles today.
As professor Alston points out:
“Rather than responding to homeless persons as affronts to the senses and to their neighborhoods, citizens and local authorities should see in their presence a tragic indictment of community and government policies.”
We just may be edging towards the other side of that coin, finally; for one, there are now certainly indictments on the table. At the same time, so is Mayor Garcetti’s 2020-2021 budget, which proposes rewarding billions to the LAPD while slashing millions from Housing and Community Investment. The truth is crueler than fiction.
Here’s a proposal from yours truly, however: we can only use the “gate” suffix for Huizar’s story if we start to see some good eventually coming from the darkness it’s now exposed.
Yearning for more light all across Los Angeles,
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