The hottest topic of the local elections has got to be . This Elephant, never allowed in the room, is the catchphrase, political power grab, and powder keg of all issues rolled into one. Despite the fact that this has been a growing issue since the infamous failed “trickle down theory of economics” of the 80’s Reagan years. Except for being pissing on and pissing them off, very little has trickled down to solve this behemoth problem. We seem half used to the fact that a greasy haired stranger in rags with a blinding odor may ask you for 20$ while you sit bewildered trying to enjoy that 8$ croissant and 5$ cup of coffee. Waking up early to see the morning sunrise over the Santa Monica bay, I’ve gotten used to the fact that those piles of garbage intermittently strewn on the beach are actually people; human litter strewn about aimlessly. Seagulls screeching, pooping and vying for their belongings.
Two candidates come to mind with quick fixes for the fiasco. Rick Caruso comes from his billion dollar heart, because he declares he cares for this city, not for the millions in building contracts he hopes to obtain from his governor gig. Tracy Parks has ‘had enough’ andthough arelative newcomer to Venice herself, has a sorta kinda solution that she insists will be immediately implemented. Both of their solutions require authorization by many others in the district so unless they get to be absolute dictator and everyone gives up their power to them in unison, their plans are more pie in the sky talk.
Let’s start with Tracy. She points to the criminal element of the homeless. If you point to the speed and opiate addiction population , that terrorize everyone, including the non addicted homeless, I can certainly agree with her there. But haven’t we learned that addicts actually have physical and mental problems that need to be addressed? And while it is smart for the health and safety of society to give them a safe place with clean needles to take their drugs, where’s the rehab plan? Where’s the tough choice of these people for rehab or jail, so that everyone else can be safe.? But mostimportantly, the police budgetfor LosAngeles alone is going to be one billion dollars! ONE BILLION DOLLARS! Now explain to me, with all this resource, why can’t they ever find the person bringing the drugs? I mean, no one is making speed in their car or their tent. These drugs, speed, opiates, heroin, are coming in from somewhere and they’re all over the place. There seems to be a free for all going on. But the police have not given any big reports on where they are coming from. And I don’t mean the two bit dealer living on the streets. I can guarantee you that whoever is on the supply chain is living very comfortably in one of these multi million dollar homes, maybe even more than one. That’s just been the nature of the drug game from the onset. But isn’t it about time the supply chain gets figured out? Don’t we have undercovers anymore or do they need another billion to do their job? What exactly are the police doing, outside of harassment of the homeless when commanded to do so? Being a local mom, I overheard a couple of girls discussing other girls who recently got out of ICU for opiate laced ecstasy saying that they could find the dealers before the police could.
In another recent incident reported to me, a young man was walking in Culver City drinking a coffee after a long day at work. He passes an old homeless woman with an unwieldy mess of things who shouts at him as he goes by and attempts to assist her with her load. So, he keeps walking until he hears the police sirens go off and two policemen get out of the car and begin talking very rudely to this elder who in her confusion gets louder and more agitated. The young man returns to the scene to see how it’s going to be handled. The police question why he’s there and he calmly says to watch what’s being done. “You know her,” says one cop. “Well, you know, I live here, and work here and she’s living on my block so she’s my neighbor.” The police are visibly annoyed and give a look of being offended and suspicious. His presence makes them less loud and then they make a call. The young man asks, “Are you actually asking for backup?” “That’s what the law says, that’s my job so yes.” Is she being arrested? The young man asks “no” , says the cop. “So she’s free to go” asks the young man “No, she’s being detained” An ambulance and a fire truck show up shortly after. In the meantime they continue to talk harshly to the woman and go through her stuff ignoring that she is visibly shaken. Besides her hardships of sleep deprivation, mental imbalance and just being old, now she has two police men, two ambulance drivers and a team of firemen all expecting something from her that she can’t understand. Besides costing the city hundreds if not thousands of dollars for this “intervention”, nothing is done. The woman is so frightened she stops talking. The fireman and ambulance leave.” So that’s all you’re going to do” asks the young man. “ Well, she’s not yelling now,” the cop snaps back. “ So she’s better” “Better?”, says the young man, :”you just subdued her. That’s not helping her. Nothing in her circumstance has changed nor improved”. “Well what do you care?” says the cop. The other cop seemed to understand him, but this one remained obstinate. “ “Because I find it absolutely terrifying that this is what you think your job is. You did absolutely nothing to help her, you are only there to harass and subdue”.`” I’m following the law. And next time you interfere with an investigation I’ll put you under arrest” affirms the officer. “Like I said, you are absolutely terrifying and you did absolutely nothing to help”. With that he leaves vowing to forever film any encounter he has with the police in the future.
So this is the Tracy Park solution; more of the same; more homeless blame; more money wasted on a broken system game. In a recent gathering she garnered the support of scared seniors who too want a safe Venice without homeless people. “Send them to the desert!” cry the nimbys (Not In My Backyard), whose ancestors bore numbers tattooed on their arms, to be draggedinto ‘sanctuaries’ awayfrom civilization. Myquestion abouther solution to bringthem to a lot by LAX with airplanes flying overhead, away from everything and everybody, is one, how is that going to happen in a week like you promised? And two, how are you going to get them there if you’re not planning to “round them up like the Jews of Nazi Germany”, an idea you vehmently oppose? I ask the same to the quick fix promise of Rick Caruso, a man who made billions building malls which took jobs from small mom and pop shops and created a must drive culture; Many of his buildings sit vacant and crumbling all over the country. I point to Shanghai who miraculously put up 100’s of thousands of skyscrapers in ten years who now force people to abandon them as they are crumbling and lying in shambles;and most of them still standing, do not have proper maintenance. The point is talk is cheap, and infrastructure takes time and you’re talking about people, not puppies. People with lives that no matter how they appear to us on the inside, have made connections and contacts that are dear to them and give them hope to endure. If you insist on taking that from them just to put them in an” out of sight out of mind” shelter far away you don’t get to call yourself humane.
Slander is continuously spread, mostly by developers and their allies, against a handful of politicians who suggest the use of police funds diverted to social services, mental health and other outreach programs to get to know the homeless individually so that a real permanent solution can be found. Solutions other than chasing them from encampments to just find them reconvened on a different corner. Solutions other than the cold storage in some far off place,, with curfews as early as 5 pm that make it impossible for any resident to get out of the place. Solutions other than criminalizing the poor ,and robbing them of the little dignity they muster to hold on to.
We, as a society , are at a great crossroads. We can easily mosey down the ‘easy ‘ road and find ourselves in the throes of fascism, and wonder how we got here. Right now, we have diverted nearly a trillion dollars to our proxy war in Ukraine and have only brought ourselves closer to complete annihilation through a nuclear halocaust. Was this really more important than taking care of our problems at home? Again, can’t we ever sit at the table and come to a resolution, or must we always be mudslingers enforcing our way or the highway? Why can’t we evolve and change and redirect our energies and resources toward resolving a problem which is not going away and not getting better and may get far worse in the near future. With rising rents, food , gas costs, the ending of eviction moratorium, the raising of interest rates for borrowers, we may well see new faces on our street corners. And it’s not just here, and it’s not just in other states’’ it’s becoming aworldwide epidemic. Because endless expansion of capitalism coupled with mechanization has its limits. People become expendable and resources become extinct. Pollution runs rampant and our food and water and air take the toll.
And while I am aware of my many diversions in this discussion, I also want to remind you that the pandemic showed us that slowing down has its benefits. Let’s all try to slow down and listen to one another and question our beliefs and question those who claim easy fixes. Easy is not as easy as it seems and can lead to the greatest of failed projects and hardships. We Venetians have a choice to let the hater’s reign or to let people in with knowledge and courage to face the problems and fight for real change and social justice. Please vote with your heart as well as your head. There are many vulnerable lives at stake and karma is real.