After a protracted tally of mail-in ballots, hundreds of thousands of which entered the system after Election Day, my beloved Los Angeles has gone all in on Venezuelan governance.
Kenneth Mejia, Hugo Soto-Martinez, Katy Yaroslavsky prevailed by comfortable margins, joining Eunisses Hernandez in the de-policing caucus.
Angelica Duenas is waiting to join them after the special election in April to replace Nury Martinez.
Karen Bass, who did notcampaign in any meaningful sense, and whose platitudes about wraparound services and the “broken policies of the past” (i.e., law and order) went unchallenged by the local media, defeated open wallet chump Rick Caruso, who could not name a single enforcement mechanism he would deploy in service of the only two issues people were talking about: homelessness and crime.
Let us pause here, and consider the long march through the institutions in two photos:
No knock on our new Mayor, but she didn’t have to do much to cross the finish line. We have quietly enacted a paradigm shift from elections based on persuading voters to a contest of ballot retrieval. The county clerk mailed 5.6 million of them, unsolicited, to addresses across the county. Two million come back, the majority without a chain of custody, and not necessarily in the hands of the people who “voted”. This is an arrangement highly advantageous to the most ruthless. In a one-party city, take a guess who that might be. Here the 50 year march may have reached a satisfactory Maoist conclusion.
Take a good look at this map, Bass in purple. It looks like two cities. My precinct, majority Latino, went 60% for Caruso. My former pre-home ownership neighborhood in Los Feliz; white, hipster, went 72% Bass, suggesting not just a geographic division but one between renters and homeowners. Or, if you prefer, the rooted.
It’s a pretty good argument for separation. Why shouldn’t the Valley become a municipality of its own? Since we can’t file domestic abuse charges against City Hall, why not annex ourselves to Greater Burbank? We appear to be united on at least a few basic principles.
Actual Venezuelans are streaming across the southern border. Cosplay Venezuelans in New York, Martha’s Vineyard and Silver Lake want nothing to do with them. Sensible people don’t have Another America to which to emigrate, though we do have Florida. We can only seek out jurisdictions which are a decade behind the crazy curve, kidding ourselves all the while. Eventually the fight will come there. It will sniff you out in your outpost of Eden. There’s no avoiding what we’re dealing with.
I’m staying. I’m making my own pocket of Eden, in an unraveling city.
If you want to know who rules you, ask who you are not allowed to criticize. If the last three weeks in Los Angeles have taught us anything of our meticulously curated hierarchy of intersectional grievance, Mike Bonin, westside councilperson and Injured Gay Parent™ stands at the top. His tears are his megaphone.
Dabbing theatrically, he had a prescription for setting things right. To ameliorate the grievance suffered at the mouth of Queen Nury, the banished witch, the good citizens of L.A. needed to vote in a slate of progressive candidates. Then he named them, one by one. On live local TV.
All DSA or DSA-endorsed people.
We are asked to pretend this is about Doing The Work of this Journey We Are All On, and not, you know, a City Council coup, a brass knuckled back room putsch.
In January, before the timely intervention of County Clerk Dean Logan (an act of bureaucratic grace extended seven months later to George Gascon) Bonin was on the verge of being recalled.
Now he’s dictating terms to the rest of us for after he leaves. Starting with demanding the additional defenestration of Kevin De Leon who said nothing which merits resignation. A man whose political crime was one of being changuito adjacent on a surreptitious recording.
The recording, over a year old, was held in reserve until it would trigger two special elections, favorable to the left. A thunderous silence, a journalistic incuriosity bordering on senility, hangs over its provenance.
Now the BLM/DSA mobs are camped in front of De Leon’s house in Eagle Rock with laser pointers, giving the full Kavanaugh treatment, demanding capitulation. How many times must he be told to resign? wonders the Times. They can’t get their heads around this defiance, this bucking of the pecking order.
For 30 years Harold Meyerson predicted a Los Angeles run by a critical mass of Latino labor. The mass was achieved decades ago yet Latinos remain underrepresented on the Council, four seats out of fifteen, two of which are about to be decapitated to satisfy the demands of a coalition of gentry liberals and Gen Z socialists. Progress! It only seems like an obvious turn of events in retrospect.
Herein the elusive dividing line is laid bare. On one side: essential labor, working class striving. On the other: the laptop class and young people with too little wisdom and too much time on their hands.
Wokeness launders privilege. You end up with the absurdity of people in $1.5 million houses in Glassell Park decorating their yards with signs for Eunessis Hernandez, who supports the abolition of the police department. You end up with anti-gentrifiers picketing Dunsmoor restaurant because it has $23 lentils on the menu, while ignoring the massive tip pool it creates front and back of house down to the busboy who works double shifts on Sunday and banks a $3000 check.
The road to working class uplift is paved with bougie lentils. The road to civic perdition is paved with language police but no law and order.
Can’t believe I’m writing this, but hang in there, Kevin de Leon, you corrupt ambitious political hack. Apres toi, le deluge.
In 1987 Ruth Galanter was nearly murdered by a transient on her front porch in Venice weeks before a special election for city council. In a moment of public sympathy, she would become the last non-machine candidate to gain office in Los Angeles at any level, for the next 35 years.
Elections have become entirely pro-forma. The Democratic Party selects the candidate internally, funds her lavishly against token opposition, do-gooders and neighborhood gadflies who offer themselves as road kill so Angelenos can tell ourselves we are not North Korea.
Termed limited pols leapfrog to a different legislative body representing the same district, from city council, to state assembly, to Congress, and back, inverting the normal democratic arrangements of selection.
As an illustration of dynastic politics, here’s my state Senator Bob Hertzberg, at a staged photo op with his son Daniel and hand-picked replacement. Bob is rotating over to the Board of Supervisors next year. Daniel is rotating into Dad’s warmed legislative seat. Do I have a choice in the matter? Depends on how we define “choice”. If Twitter de-platforms me, I have the choice to build my own social media network. It’s a free country and nothing but a billion dollars in capital is standing in my way.
Thus we have been governed in my beloved Los Angeles, long before Mrs. U and I arrived with our possessions piled in the back of my pickup truck like the Clampetts.
Enter the black swan. Changito-gate. If you’ve been anywhere near media this week, you already know the jist.
Nury Martinez, my Nury, longtime foil of Mr. UpintheValley, has been elevated overnight to national villain status -Trumpified- and is on the chopping block along with Kevin DeLeon. The White House itself just called for her resignation. Suddenly, Van Nuys is the center of American politics. Who knew?
Lost in the woke posturing is the actual scandal of the recordings: pols carving up their own districts, hand selecting voters. Also, the obsession with assets, like the airport and the Budweiser brewery, which can be leveraged for donations. You have to squint pretty hard to find the outrage over that. But “negrito”? Oof. Ecstasies of sanctimony. To the guillotine with her! But first, everyone must listen to the Oaxacan Peoples Band bleat discordantly in front of City Hall in response to being insulted as short, dark and feo by la Nury who is now somewhere in seclusion, sprouting a white streak in her hair and gassing puppies.
Here’s the thing. Black people call Asian merchants Ling-Ling and white folks Opie and Becky, and do so without apology. People on the alt-right refer to Central Americans as squatemalans. Butch gays refer to swishy gays as extra. Mestizo culture has an elaborate pecking order based on skin tone, with Jorge Ramos and the pneumatic telenovela blondes at the top and Oaxacans off-screen, sitting at home watching. White people have constructed a caste system based on educational pedigree and cultural signifiers that places TheNew Yorker subscribers at one end and Southern Baptists at the other.
In unfiltered settings people always tell on themselves.
Spike Lee nailed intra-ethnic insults around the time Ruth Galanter was elected. Watching this clip is to pay a visit was a whole other America, refreshingly truthful. Also an entirely different Spike. I kinda miss that guy.
Assume all ostentatious offense to be cover for other things.
The real question would be who made the recording and sat on it for a year? Qui bono, who was the Brutus in the room? Gil Cedillo, already a lame duck (and whose comments are the least damaging) has the least to lose. But I don’t think it was him. What does he have to gain? It’s a murky play.
I think it was a staffer. With a socialist agenda.
Here’s who has an entire city to gain: the DSA cadres in waiting. Changito was not first black swan of 2022. In July, baby socialist Eunisses Hernandez eliminated Cedillo in the primary on a platform of police and prison abolition and a permanent extension of the eviction moratorium. She prevailed by several hundred votes corralled by activist ballot harvesters after Election Day. It’s called E+7 voting, and it was quietly enacted this year. Get used to it, all close races will be decided this way going forward.
That’s one seat. They already have Nithya Raman in district 4. There’s two. Hugo Soto-Martinez is running in CD13. Erin Darling on the Westside. That’s four. Kenneth Mejia, twice endorsed by the Times, is the odds on favorite to be Controller. Add two special elections next year for the Martinez and DeLeon seats and that’s a potentially solid caucus for Venezuelan governance. No evictions. No law enforcement. Fungible private property rights.
Rick Caruso, here is your moment. If you really want to be mayor, defy expectations and side with the principles of privacy and free speech, and remind the city that no one is a virgin. Predictably, he is calling for resignations all around. His plan for winning the Latino vote is to demand Latinos surrender 3/4 of their representation on the City Council in the name of cancel culture.
Billionaires, hacks and socialists. Given the choice, I might stick with the hacks, grasping self-interest, potty mouth and all.
If we build it, they will come. If we fund it, they will stay. If we tell them there shall be no rules about flammables, there will be five encampment fires a day.
We are four decades into abatement schemes and the more money we throw at the favela, the greater the number of tents we have, the larger the encampments. We have multi-story structures now, cobbled out of scrap wood and plastic, kitted out with big screen TVs and slash pools, generators and barbecue grills. We spend a billion dollars a year now in LA County, not including police and fire, to service the unhoused. Let’s call it what it is: a business, an industry, farming people like a crop.
Ugly metaphor? Perhaps. Inaccurate? You tell me.
Here is the Raymer Street pedestrian bridge, an ADA compliant right-0f-way for students atttending Fulton Middle School. This is what 11-year-olds have to walk through twice a day. At either end people smoke crack openly, within grabbing distance of passerby. This state of nature has been in place, uninterrupted, for over a year.
Would you let you kid walk here? Probably not. This is known as adverse possession. A public conveyance now belongs to the favela, managed by Homeless, Inc., the key participants whom feed off the giant tit known as the City of Los Angeles, then go home to sleep in the neat orderly satellite cities like Glendale, where no one is allowed to camp or park overnight.
Don’t look now, but change might be brewing in Los Angeles. In July the City Council quietly altered Municipal Code 41.18 as follows:
“The ordinance prohibits sitting, sleeping, and keeping belongings within ten feet of a driveway or loading dock, within two feet of a fire hydrant, or in a way that obstruct sidewalks or right-of-ways. It also gives council members the ability to flag encampments near sensitive sites in their districts—daycares, schools, parks, libraries, freeway underpasses and on ramps—without establishing a blanket ban on camping in those places. Enforcement in those locations can’t take place until the City Council has reviewed the location and voted to approve action being taken.”
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the ordinance, says it gives he and his counterparts the freedom to “take action as deemed appropriate” when a problematic encampment has been identified in a sensitive area.
Yay, fiefdoms! Mr. UpintheValley approves.
There are two interpretations of 41.18: it’s either A) Kabuki theater, unenforceable by design. What is the criteria for “obstruction”? If its statutory, why should each eviction require a vote? I see opportunity for the Council to masquerade as responding to public outrage while pretending their hands are tied by others.
Or B) Leverage. 41.18 has usable teeth and each council member will now have the ability to establish how much chaos will be tolerated in his/her district, and act accordingly. Nury Martinez, in theory, could turn Van Nuys into the Glendale of LA by enforcing anti-camping laws within her district. Mike Bonin can continue to hand over the beaches and parks to temporary™ housing solutions and answer to his voters. Performance discrepancies between districts will no longer be off-loaded to “systemic complexities” of the issue.
Self-responsibility is not a burden I see the council taking on willingly. So I suspect the answer was going to be A. Or would have until recently.
Now there is a wrinkle. A big one. The recall elections in District 4 and 11. Don’t know about Nithya Raman, but Bonin might be toast. I work his district every weekend and hear the loud talk of people determined to speak freely and to cast ballots in anger.
There are lots of angry homeowners in the Valley as well, but we are too busy subdividing amongst ourselves over Trump or BLM or personal grievances to organize. Besides, who would listen to us? Venice eats up all the good press.
Tellingly, the last non-machine candidate elected to the City Council was also from Venice, Ruth Galanter in 1987. Since then, the uniparty has gone approximately 120-0 in local races. With dominance comes disregard. The recalls might alter that calculus.
About thirty years ago a revolution took place in urban policing, beginning in New York. Precinct captains were required to stand in full dress before their peers and answer for the crime stats in the neighborhoods under their watch. No longer could one shrug: don’t blame me. It’s Snake Plissken country out there.
It’s time for each Councilmember to be made the sheriff of his district.
The most impactful structural changes come in under the radar. Has anything done more to increase housing supply within the zoning footprint of LA without distorting residential neighborhoods than the ADU law? It has added to the tax base, put additional equity onto homeowners balance sheets and didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.
If successful, the Recalls + 41.18 might, might, set in motion an era of accountability. What a delicious irony it would be if the first blow against the machine occurred as an expression of tribal solidarity by upscale white liberals.
*Historical photos courtesy of LA Herald-Examiner Collection