By Mark Lipman
The meeting started with the announcement that there would be no time limit, that the organizers wanted to hear what we had to say, that our concerns as ‘stakeholders’ (or was that ‘shareholders’?) were what was important and so the microphone opened.
As usual there was the customary trepidation, no one wanted to speak first. Finally, one thin, frail woman raised her hand. The topic was safety and by her manner one could tell that she was deeply worried, what she had to say was sincerely important. “There’s this ‘element’ that hangs around my fence,” she said. “They’re up to no good, I know it because they left trash in front of my gate.” She then proceeded to produce color blow-ups of a paper bag resting on the ground, very thoroughly captured from three different angles. She was so upset by this atrocity that she said she was thinking of moving.
Next, a gentleman spoke at length about how best to bar and lock your trash cans and gave advice on how to properly call the police. There was no mention of the apparent contradictions in this advice to the safety concern of illegal garbage in Venice.
Concerns were raised about gentrification and bias against the poor, to the moderator’s apparent discomfort, as he attempted to cut off one speaker until he was reminded that he himself set the rule for no time limit.
Councilman Rosendahl then spoke to the group reaffirming that Venice was strongly opposed to the war and asked for patience as he and others looked for the proper solutions in addressing the needs of the poor. Additionally, he advised that it would be a bad idea to lock our trash cans as many of the poor are able to eat thanks to their recycling of what we throw away.
Notably, a few residents from the Oakwood area, who have lived in Venice for nearly 60 years, pointed out that those who have only lived in Venice for a relatively short amount of time might find it better overall if they tried to adapt to the culture of the area they moved into, instead of trying to make the area conform to them.
The second half of the evening offered a panel of interlocutors, representing both the fire and police departments, as well as local officials speaking on disaster preparedness.
All in all, as someone who is normally skeptical of anything official, the government representatives were very impressive. Both Captain Eisenberg and Lieutenant Merlo answered community concerns ensuring the body that they were well prepared for the summer months ahead. It is important to note that Captain Eisenberg presented the latest crime statistics, which show a 9 percent drop in crime for Venice over this time last year. By adding that to the 5 percent drop in crime from the year before means that in just two years Venice has become 14 percent safer. I feel better already.
Another bright spot to this report came from Lieutenant Merlo of LAPD, who confirmed that legally parked vehicles may not be arbitrarily towed by vigilante homeowners no matter how bad the paint job is. “Parking on public streets,” he said, “is for the public, that means everyone.”
Safety though is not just a matter of one neighbor pitted in deadly combat against another, as we all know. To be truly safe we must also protect ourselves against the wrath of God. To that, representatives from both the LA Fire Department and Mayor Villaraigosa’s office spoke on disaster preparedness.
To this important community information, LAFD Captain Hudson announced that Community Emergency Response Training classes were being offered free of charge to prepare for natural disasters. Please see: http://www.cert-la.com or call: 818-756-9674 for more information on this program.
Additionally, Stephen Cheung from the Mayor’s office spoke about The Great Southern California Shakeout Campaign, the largest earthquake drill in American history, which will take place on November 13, 2008 at 10am. In anticipation of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that is anticipated to take place in LA sometime within the next 30 years. All are urged to participate. For more information please visit: http://www.shakeout.org
Finally, Tsunami preparedness was a key concern of many residents. The city has prepared an evacuation map suggesting that in case of emergency people evacuate east past Lincoln Blvd. or to the highest ground possible (3rd floor or higher). For more information on a Tsunami, visit: wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov and for LA’s Emergency Preparedness Dept: lacity.org/edp or call: 213-978-2222.
Conversely, the Beachhead would like to offer a free lifetime subscription to whomever gets the best ride on the wave.