(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 90)
Earlier today walking through the city I witnessed something like never before in my nearly thirty years through Los Angeles, which almost took my breath away. As I made my way through a sidewalk, a gray-bearded, African-American man, who couldn’t have been less than 65 years of age, sat on his knees in the middle of the sidewalk, his penis sticking out.
Before I knew it, as my legs crossed in front of him, the man began to pee. I turned my head in his direction then, almost in disbelief, but he did not return the look. He seemed almost unconscious. Of course, from the outset it was clear that the instance was nothing malicious on his part, but that it was from a pure need to relieve his body at a time when public restrooms in Los Angeles have been severely reduced in number, affecting most of all the unhoused.
What did feel malicious was that Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, and more of our elected officials have allowed this throughout Los Angeles after decades in public office.
In particular, history wont be kind to Mayor Garcetti. “In real time,” meaning right at this very minute, under Mayor Garcetti the rate of unhoused people in L.A. is on track to reach more than 100,000 bodies on the streets over the next few years, up to nearly 700 civilians shot and killed by police, and well over tens of thousands of more empty high-end lofts than occupied affordable housing units.
In turn, by the time Garcetti leaves office in 2022, Los Angeles will likely be a poorer, more unhealthy, and thus more hostile city for its working-class than when he became mayor in 2013. For yours truly, this begs the question:
What is it to truly love Los Angeles?
I contend that it is not to love Dodger baseball, or to follow Lakers basketball, or to adore Kings hockey. And I contend that it is not to build luxury lofts, or to celebrate Hollywood films, or even to promote its multiple ‘cultures,’ notwithstanding those of its working-class masses.
I contend that loving Los Angeles is loving its most vulnerable, represented most of all by our nearly 70,000 unhoused, the last count of which was released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority just a week ago. What a name, for that matter, with the word ‘authority’ in its title.
What authority can a city-funded organization tasked with serving its unhoused legitimately claim, when its efforts have failed to serve the thousands of bodies, overwhelmingly African-American, abandoned on the city’s sidewalks?
Make no mistake about it: In the same amount of time that the city drove tens of thousands of its residents down to helpless tents over the barren concrete, elected officials like our L.A. City Council members have taken home millions in taxpayer dollars.
They were not alone, joined by other officials tasked on paper with the public good. Take police like chief Michel Moore, for example, who, in 2018, retired briefly to collect $1.27 million in taxpayer dollars, to be rehired by Mayor Garcetti just a few weeks later. Our elected representatives were also joined by non-elected big wigs such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which, in 2018, contributed over $1,000,000 to then-candidate Newsom’s campaign for governor.
In the end, however, the fact is that such men are still small fries compared to billionaires like the real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, a known Trump supporter, whose “Da Vinci” apartments in downtown Los Angeles go towards funding a $21 million mansion of his in Beverly Hills, not to mention properties in Malibu, St. Tropez, France, and more.
Palmer is one of a generation of men who, over the last twenty years in Los Angeles has benefited tremendously from a cataclysmic “transfer”–but more like high-jacking–of wealth that will play a decisive role in determining the next eighty years for our city & country, that is, unless something is done about it, and brazenly fast.
What will we do, then, Los Angeles, while a handful of men sit atop empires? Will we stand by as only more of our neighbors, and as more of our families, collapse under their weight? Is such a loveless city, and country, what we want history to remember us by?
The choice is ours.
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