Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Do You Hear the People Sing?

On this day in 1789, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille to free political prisoners and raided the Hotel des Invalides in search of weapons. The Third Estate - a whopping 90 percent of France's population - was fed up and fighting back. The French Revolution had begun.*

I had planned to elaborate more on the history of Bastille Day in LA today. In light of recent events, I am saving it for another day.

I hope the city's leaders, if you can even call them that, see this. They all need a very harsh wake-up call.

Eric Garcetti, arguably the worst Mayor of Los Angeles since Frank Shaw, is finally on his way out. He is leaving the city in MUCH worse shape than it was in when he assumed office. (I wonder if his parents ever taught him not to leave a mess for someone else to clean up. But I doubt it.)

That means electing a new Mayor. What if the next one is even worse? 

As President of the City Council, Nury Martinez will probably be the acting Mayor. She has proven ineffective at best, ignores Brown Act requirements, and can't even start a City Council meeting on time.

The remaining Council members all have their own shortcomings. By now, we all know Mitch O'Farrell can be bought. Nithya Raman has deeply disappointed constituents wondering why David Ryu's team got things done, but hers can't seem to return phone calls. There are more people on the Council, of course (and they are ALL complicit in ongoing violations of the Brown Act), but it's late and I'm very, VERY tired.

Speaking of Nithya, why did she win over incumbent David Ryu? Because the people of LA are sick of politicians, sick of broken promises, and sick of poor leadership. They want something better. You'd THINK the rest of the Council would take note and shape up. But so far, they have only gotten more brazen.

I also have serious misgivings about the direction some of LA's law enforcement officers are taking. While I've known enough people in law enforcement to know that some of them are bad and some of them are good, I cannot ignore or excuse bad behavior. I hope the ATF is giving the South LA explosion a thorough investigation, because the sad fact of the matter is that the LAPD has lost much of the community's trust.

Indeed, while discussing the explosion recently, my dad sputtered "I love LA, but it's become a Third World city." (My dad has been grumbling about LA for as long as I can remember. I have never before heard him admit he actually loved the place.)

Thriving cities don't become dystopian hellscapes for no reason. They become that way due to poor leadership and mismanagement.

Los Angeles is notoriously unkind to its own Third Estate (i.e. anyone who isn't rich, powerful, or well-connected). And it is only getting worse. Developers buy off politicians so they can get away with yet another luxury building that fewer and fewer people can afford. Hardworking street vendors often can't afford expensive permits or having their carts confiscated and their wares thrown away, but the city isn't making it any less difficult or less expensive to get permits. Echo Park Lake is fenced off, with even the wheelchair ramp inaccessible (ever hear of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mitch?).

And then there's the homelessness crisis. The city has now effectively made it illegal to be homeless, has not made any realistic effort to provide sufficient housing or more emergency shelters, has been kicking people out of Project Roomkey hotel rooms with nowhere to go, and reportedly turns a blind eye to abusive behavior at shelters. I'm sure I don't need to comment on the city deliberately removing the hand-washing stations.

Refusing to provide viable and appropriate solutions to a massive and growing problem is a sickening moral failure. People can't live on the street, but the city is now effectively pushing them from one street to the next. That will never solve the problem. The only people who seem to truly care about the homeless are the various grassroots volunteers who distribute frozen water bottles and food, work hard to connect people in a crisis with social services, hold sock drives, etc. 

The city is running full speed in the wrong direction. The people running the city are responsible for that. And before anyone calls this's really not. It's common sense, regardless of political leanings. 

Why do we study history? To learn from it. The people in charge either don't want to learn, or just don't care.

To the city's First Estate (elected officials and city employees of all stripes), I have this to say: You are supposed to be serving the people of the City of Los Angeles. Too many of you are doing it selectively, poorly, or not at all. You are not infallible and you are 100 percent replaceable. Take your work seriously and be better. If you can't or won't do that, quit. Louis XVI wasn't a bad person, but he was unfit to lead, and look where that got him.

Recently, someone changed a Broadway theatre marquee to read "Let's Be A City of Love, Compassion, and Kindness". Beyond the barricade, that's the world I long to see.

*My dad is a descendant of French kings and a distant cousin to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. My mom comes from French peasant stock. My relationship with Bastille Day is...complicated.