Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 56

In a recent interview with Gustavo Arellano for the L.A. Times, Patrisse Cullors, a leader of the movement to reform L.A. jails and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, discusses “lessons” from the coronavirus over these last two months:

“The coronavirus is telling us, and when I say us, I mean the world, what organizers have been saying for a very long time: which is [that] we live in a capitalist system that benefits only a few, that is laser-focused on money over people…and [that] you would think in the middle of one of the biggest pandemics we’ve seen in our lifetime, that it would shift the course for everybody. But in fact that hasn’t been the case.”

Walking through Los Angeles, it’s clear how much of the city still depends on its business–or capital–particularly its small business, for significant portions of its movement; restrictions or not, people continue populating the city streets making exchanges, reducing, canceling or acquiring debts, and in effect maintaining their advancement towards another meal, another check-point, another logarithm.

Not far along from the small businesses, a great many people left behind for failing to submit to the motions of this renter’s town, or this place belonging to no one or nothing but the movement itself, also conduct business, though in what might be called a hyper micro-economy, taking care of the most fundamental needs for themselves with what they can afford from bodies worn by constant exposure to the concrete.

What’s also true is that each movement has its costs. The more that people populate a place, the more of that place’s ecosystem they affect; with more food comes more packaging to throw out, as with more electricity comes more bandwidth to extend, and on. Eventually every system requires an update; even the mayor’s press briefings are an example of this, going from five days a week recently for L.A. residents to now twice a week.

But what if we could update the capitalist system that Cullors calls attention to, in order to allow more people to reduce their work–and the costs accrued–in the same way?

In the midst of a world that continues spinning on its axis, coronavirus notwithstanding, it may seem like a waste of time to ask about “some day” in a future or theoretical world other than the one right in front of us.

But if we don’t ask about this update, and move forward incrementally towards it, it’s not just that we may find ourselves at the losing end of a wasted opportunity costing only more human life and health. It’s that, as the last two months, and as the last twenty years, and indeed as many decades prior show: wasted opportunity for a change when time calls for its is precisely what costs people their lives.

In any case, the honorable Ms. Cullor says:

“I don’t know what elected officials are going to do. But I know that the people of Los Angeles who have always cared about Los Angeles, who’ve cared about Los Angeles and the country. We are going to continue to do the work.”


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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 51

Sprinkled along Santa Monica boulevard, coronavirus notwithstanding, sun-baked tios and tias clad in face-masks offer bouquets of red roses in time for the dia festivo. Inspired by the gleaming spirit of their calls, one day before Mother’s Day, I am gifting readers with a new category for mom’s Newsstand in East Hollywood, facilitating for visitors of the webpage some time to connect with a few of her cuentos; I offer the collection of words nestled by the category as my mom’s newsstand has offered the community literacy and information for nearly two decades: with an utmost belief that words can in fact change the world.

Happy Mother’s Day, Los Angeles


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Public Restroom at Vermont avenue & Santa Monica boulevard

LAPD will receive nearly 1.9 billion dollars next year while housing & community investment will lose millions

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 50)

In East Hollywood, walking through the neighborhood these last few days has led me to realize it’s going to get significantly more polluted over the next year, especially since the mayor has announced a budget for 2020-2021 with a reduced amount set aside for certain basics like clean-up & graffiti removal due to COVID-19. This column reviews just a handful of numbers taken from the mayor’s proposed budget for 2021: Exhibit A: Summary of Appropriations.

In fiscal year 2020-2021, the Bureau of Street Services, for one, which oversees street walkability and safety, including management of street trees and the urban islands where many of L.A.’s encampments can be spotted, nearly 32 million in pay-cuts from the previous year will leave the bureau with a total of $167.6 million for services in 2021.

Similarly, for the Housing and Community Investment department, a resource for L.A.’s renters and property owners alike, including for complaints or forms to report abuse, its budget will be slashed by almost 9 million for a total of $81.1 million through 2021.

Transportation, meanwhile, which runs and maintains services such as the DASH buses that particularly serve L.A.’s elderly population, will lose $6 million, operating on a budget of $180 million during the next fiscal year. Other investments on the local level, such as Neighborhood Empowerment, or funding for the Neighborhood Councils around which local citizens organize for their communities, will also have their budget reduced by over half a million, to operate on just $2.8 million for 2021.

But while these services, which for years have been under-resourced and over-worked, will have to make due with less the following year, the Los Angeles Police department will actually receive a pay-raise of 122.6 million, amounting to nearly $1.9 billion in payments from the city’s budget through 2021.

To place that into perspective, even L.A.’s Fire department will see only a third of LAPD’s pay-raise, with an increase of 44.6 million to operate on a budget of $732.2 million dollars through 2021.

Years ago, I remember getting together at least a couple of times with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, when it still organized neighborhood clean-ups once a month. Groups used to cover at least 3 – 4 blocks picking up trash and beautifying the neighborhood; gloves, brooms, rakes, large plastic bags, massive dumpsters, and a truck or two available for hauling were all provided by teamwork between various groups such as the neighborhood council, Mitch O’Farrell’s office, and more. It was literally some of the closest I’d ever felt to some of the city’s local leadership, and after a morning’s worth of the activity, I can still remember thinking how I could only want more of my peers alongside me for such work in the neighborhood, if only there was more support for it.

In the years since those days, there have been less clean-ups, and–as any local can tell you–definitely more encampments throughout East Hollywood. With budgets like the one proposed by the mayor’s office above, I fear the trend will continue down this way; the Los Angeles City Council will review the proposal during the next few weeks before it’s approved, and The L.A. Storyteller will continue close behind to report back.


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In our sixteenth episode, we discuss Japanese American history in Boyle Heights, Roosevelt High school, the Metro Gold Line’s impact on communities in the area, and much more with Victoria Kraus, of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council. A can’t-miss session for listeners.


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