A homeless encampment in East Hollwood, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is not represented by its elected officials. It is trembling on the knees of dying men & women on its sidewalks

(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.

J.T.

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East Hollywood, Los Angeles, as seen from Manzanita street

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 65

This weekend is another that will go by without meaningful action from the city’s elected officials to address the crisis posed by tens of thousands of unhoused people lingering on the streets while COVID-19 continues battering our communities.

It’s also a weekend that will go by with Jose Huizar retaining his seat at L.A. City Council even as the world can see that his commitment to Chinese real estate tycoons disqualifies him from being able to meaningfully serve his constituents in the 14th district.

The weekend is also one in which Jose Huizar’s successor, Kevin de Leon, will once again fail to make a meaningful statement condemning the Huizar case’s embarrassing exposure of the L.A. City Council during this critical moment for Los Angeles. De Leon is seen by many as likely running for mayor when Garcetti is termed out in 2022, and so it’s probable that the future candidate doesn’t want to stir the pot regarding real estate’s endemic connections to decision-making at L.A. City Hall.

Is this the best that Los Angeles can do?

A few years ago, during an LAUSD board race for the 5th district, a panel was held at Los Angeles City College featuring the various candidates vying to represent the area’s constituents on the board. For the panel’s moderator, a high school student who couldn’t have been more than 17 years old was chosen. We can call her Monica.

The candidates seated for the panel were adults of various walks of life and credentials, and thus people with much to say. As a moderator, especially one still in high school, Monica would have been forgiven for being overly polite, or for making a few too many mistakes in her facilitation of the discussion. But that was not the case at all.

Monica read each question for the candidates clearly, and stood at the podium facing the candidates emitting nothing but confidence. Most of all, when it came to the strict time limits for each candidate to make their statement, while even another adult might show some flexibility for the limits out of respect for the candidates, or simply to let them finish what they had to say, Monica, by contrast, was fearless.

At every indication that their time was up, it didn’t matter that most of the candidates making their statements were more than twice her age. And it didn’t matter if they spoke with conviction or if they spoke with experience.

Fair was fair, and Monica stuck to her moderation of each statement so consistently that by the end of the discussion, it was clear she had upstaged the candidates for the evening and left many people wondering when she would run for public office.

That panel was held a little over three years ago, which means that soon, probably as early as next year, Monica should be graduating from college. As I look around at Los Angeles, I know that the city will benefit greatly from leadership like hers and that of her peers, but also that such things are easier said than done. 

Even with all her talents, Monica and other young professionals like her cannot reshape the city’s politics alone, and much less so if they only inherit those politics in their current form, which, as so many of our current elected officials make clear: are not only antithetical to fairness, but steeped in loyalty to foreign capital and the interests of the more powerful.

As Monica demonstrated in her moderation, fair is fair no matter whose name it is, but it will take something special before Los Angeles can reach such fairness under the current circumstances. We the people have got to demand it.

J.T.

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An encampment outside of Union Swap Meet on Santa Monica boulevard in East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 49

At the middle of the week, I am staring well and long at days into the future. For a moment I see myself as a sentient being on earth here temporarily before I sojourn towards other celestial bodies. At another moment, I think I’m more like a machine, in need of a tune up before my parts tumble beneath my head like a sack of potatoes.

But I am only as ambitious as those who came before me. I am only filled with as much wonder as the minds of those who wandered before mine.

I look at the streets of my vicinity for a moment, however, and I’m drawn back to reality. I can still remember the first college essay I turned in when I was only a fresh-faced seventeen year old at Pasadena City College. Believe it or not, I wrote about walking through Los Angeles. I wrote about travailing past encampments along Vermont and Prospect avenues before boarding the Metro 181 bus to Pasadena, which took over an hour. And I wrote about the endless disconnection with the great wealth of my city, which seemed mostly to go to waste. I also wrote about the fountain spring of my mother’s strength, and how her cuento helped bridge my way forward past any impediment over the concrete. Professor Kennedy let me know that he enjoyed the essay, and I felt more than affirmed. I felt at home.

I’m not sure if a person is supposed to “know” their destiny, but I do know that they’re supposed to believe in it. I also believe that as any first great hit can be a young rap artist’s last, it’s also true that any one of these brief meditations can be my final consolidation with the world.

That said, I’m happy to note that I’m finally putting together the final touches for Episode 16 of J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast this evening, which, if the laws of rewards for great efforts continue in service as they usually do, should mean for readers and listeners that the episode will be available sometime tomorrow. I will feature it here on the site, as well as on Apple, Spotify, & Google Play.

“Know your worth.” Another saying that comes to mind. I don’t know if I fully yet grasp the worth of J.T: The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, but I can definitely tell you how much I believe it’s worth. Yet that’s a cuento for another time.

Today also marks one full month with the new Quien Es Tu Vecindario web-page for families, workers, the disabled, and more in East Hollywood. The site now has over 24 “bulletins” for the community with links to nearby resources and other extensions of support. Tomorrow’s post is the 25th.

Tell your friends, Los Angeles. JIMBO TIMES is neither a bus nor a train nor even a spaceship. It’s a planetary wavelength of over 3.5 billion years’ worth of music, ricocheting marvelously through every end of the galaxy, as far as time and space will allow us to go.

J.T.

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