Engaging Los Angeles politics as a citizen or homeowner is to face the limits of patience. I offer a small illustrative example from the Special Election in District 6 to replace Nury Martinez:
Dakota Smith of the Times asked the candidates in a recent forum what the proper staffing level of LAPD should be. Who says we’re not talking about public safety? See, the box is being checked. Look!
In an exercise of pure conjecture, the progressives proffered fake numbers: 9700, 9200, 8500, abolition. None of it mattered. Left unaddressed was the wee inability of the LAPD currently to recruit at all. We are losing 50 officers a month to attrition. The recent Academy class was 27, a number only achieved under relaxed physical standards and lenient background screens following a billboard and online recruiting drive.
So, having installed a Soros D.A. and a Police Chief who banned the Blue Lives Matter flag from all precincts and tolerated a Mayor who literally kneeled before BLM and called them murderers, having de-criminalized theft, assault and civic disorder, having emptied the jails and closed four prisons; having incentivized miscreants to refuse handcuffs and turn any garden variety police encounter into a Jerry Springer-like throwdown for the benefit of social media, Los Angeles is discovering fewer and fewer are willing to sign up and now draws an academy class of 5’3″ single mothers and middle-aged recovered alcoholic ex-cops from the Midwest looking to put hay in the barn for retirement. Six foot 23 year olds with proper upper body strength and cardio fitness? Not so much.
In a reasonable media environment the obvious question would be, if the veterans are taking early retirement or transferring to Idaho and young, fit men are not replacing them, what policy changes do you intend to make? But our world is not reasonable and the Times does not ask. Instead the candidates are invited to play rotisserie baseball and everyone gets a pass.
So let me be the one to say it: an inverted recruitment curve is a bit like eating the seed corn. A city might get away with it for a few years, but the remorseless mathematics of scarcity take over. Los Angeles has reached the inflection point of triaging 911 calls for lack of personnel. Is the iceberg next?
Thomas Andrews, in life as in film, could have been undone by pride as the ships designer. Instead of denying the obvious to save face for a few hours, he persuaded people to board the life boats immediately, sparing hundreds of lives.
This might be a good time to ask: who is our Thomas Andrews? Where is is he? She? They? Public safety is the first obligation of the state. Without it, there is no commerce. Reduced commerce, lower tax base. Fewer stores and restaurants call into question the price point for houses. Zillow beckons. Starlink. Amazon. The frontier. The next great American metropolis may prove a virtual one, where people live on farms and trade direct to consumer beef for solar panels.
I’m an urban guy. I kind of liked my city. In 2019.
Is there no one running for office or holding a position of influence willing to acknowledge our bulkheads have been breached? Perhaps not yet five, but do we really want to put ourselves to the test?
The delightfully wonkish Doug Sierra from Sun Valley, fresh off an endorsement from the Daily News, joined me for the second in a series of interviews with the candidates vying for the CD 6 Special Election.
Are you in favor of converting the Orange Line to light rail?
It never should have been built as a bus line to begin with. We have a right-of-way on the old Pacific trolley line all the way to the Burbank Metrolink station. The problem with the Valley is everything is islands. Not enough connectivity. If we had these nodes people would use public transportation exponentially more. I don’t understand why they didn’t extend the Red Line all the way to Panorama or North Hills.
I agree. I grew up in Sun Valley and looking at the map you wonder why does it stop there? If you keep going up Lankershim you reach the NoHo West mixed use development… After that it’s all service worker neighborhoods. Public transit people.
Right, and Metro doesn’t even talk about it, and I’m like ‘hey the Red Line is not finished.” If elected that’s something I would like to address. Unfortunately those decisions are made at the county level. What explanations, if any, have been given?
Tunneling being cost-prohibitive. But those were the same issues effecting the Wilshire line, and we’re building that. But again, it’s the same story. The Westside gets priority for these heavy infrastructure projects. In terms of transportation and the sales tax would you reallocate money from the Metro system towards greater roadway capacity?
From my research its more cost effective to build trains than expanding freeways one lane.
The Sepulveda pass is a great example of where we spent billions for very little. I was commuting to UCLA at that time and the marginal utility for an extra lane is not that great.
The one thing I want to emphasize is, and I strongly believe this though I can’t prove it, when it comes to these half cent taxes, the Valley is not getting its fair share. We’re basically subsidizing L.A.’s transportation infrastructure.
Shifting to homelessness, does someone have the right to get off the bus, pitch a tent on the sidewalk, declare residency and begin collecting county benefits?
According to our legal system, yes. That’s one of things I try to explain to people as to why the problem is so bad, it’s because we’re importing this problem from the states. Places like Michigan can just ship em here. They actually brag about it: “we don’t have a homeless problem,” then give them a bus ticket and send them to us. The warm weather and services we provide encourages it. This is a national problem and we are the recipient of a burden. We need federal dollars. There’s been talk of sending them to the Antelope Valley. Obviously they don’t want them. So the question is: does the buck stop with us? If we are taking the brunt of the homeless we need federal and state dollars. We don’t have the capacity at the city council level to contend with it. Then there’s the Homeless Industrial Complex… Thank you for using that expression. It needs to be applied more often.
I’ll give an example, and I’m for building as a solution, but there’s an apartment building they did in Sylmar, $700K per room. I could have bought an entire house for that price and housed five people. This is where my business acumen comes in. I can read a financial statement. I can audit. My opponents can’t. They haven’t worked in the corporate world, except for Isaac. This is where I can bring that voice to City Hall. For the last three or four years people have been living under the assumption the printing presses are going to keep running forever and that worries me. No one is thinking about deficits.
In terms of enforcement, we have a lot of carrots for people living on the street but no sticks. As an example, we built Tiny Home Villages that are not being utilized. Would you compel people to accept shelter and how would you do it?
Right. So I’m more on the caring side. If you want to completely eliminate the problem there has to be a stick side, I’m not sure what it would be but
I would use the example of what Traci Park is doing in district 11. I don’t want to enforce 41.18 unless we are offering housing. In that case all you are doing is playing whack a mole with human life.
My understanding of what they are doing in Venice is mostly carrot based, as you put it. They were able to clear encampments that had been occupied for years. That is a model I want to look at closely to see if it would work for CD6. It has worked in the hundreds. Obviously we are dealing citywide with tens of thousands, but it gives me hope. Do you support a ban on sleeping or drug consumption on the Metro system?
So this goes hand in hand with another program. Passenger fares only account for only 5% of Metro revenues. So it almost makes sense to have free fares for everyone. But if you can’t make Metro attractive and safe for working class people then that’s probably a bigger deterrent than fares. Right now, a lot of our police are doing fare enforcement. If we had social workers on the trains flagging behaviors -a line has to be crossed- if someone is exposing their genitals or defecating, at some point when you do nothing the riders get frustrated and say ‘screw this, I tried it for a month.’ At that point is not about the money. Picture a hypothetical street person, no shoes or shirt, standing in the street screaming at cars, doesn’t have a weapon but has a crowbar, not accosting anyone physically, but clearly deranged, do you send a psychological outreach team or the police?
In that hypothetical with the crowbar its one wrong turn from injuring somebody. If you send CIRCLE teams and they get injured you just sent a message to the social workers and first responders you are not safe and that doesn’t make sense for anyone. I know people have suggested eliminating the police but that doesn’t work in the real world. Back to your hypothetical if there’s no crowbar you can send a psych team in an integrated system where the police are a block away and can be summoned at the press of a button if needed. Moving on to economic development… This is where I can make the most impact. Unfortunately the city gets in the way of businesses. I’ll give you an example:
the al fresco dining program saved a lot of restaurants during the pandemic. There is almost no downside to al fresco and businesses spent $10-20K in infrastructure to be in compliance. Now the City is telling businesses they have to pay $10-50K in fees and they may or may not get permanent approval. If you are a business owner who nets maybe $3K a month after expenses thats super cost prohibitive.
So someone may have taken a loan for the al fresco program and now you are telling them it sucks to be you. This is where I feel people in city hall have never worked outside of government and it shows. There’s a taco restaurant in Panorama where someone has placed a taco cart in front of his establishment and when the owner asked him to move he was told he couldn’t because rival vendors have claimed the other spots, and he will be harassed and there is this mafia thing going on. So now the business owner wants a wine permit because he can’t compete in the taco market anymore. He’s drafted plans, he ready to invest $20K and the city is very draconian about that. He has to pay $10K just for them to look at it and there’s no guarantee of a yes or no. You want to invest in a business but you can’t because you are not sure how the city reacts. Do I have to curry favors with politician? Thats one thing I want to address immediately. Creating transparent processes. No one jumps the line. We want to encourage innovation and investment. Looking at the shape of the race, you have six fairly liberal people, Antoinette being the DSA lane, the three establishment candidates being in the middle. Where do you place yourself in this arrangement?
I think a linear left-to-right axis doesn’t cover enough. I consider myself a progressive capitalist. But too much progressiveness gets in the way of common sense.
Bigger than the difference between how progressive or un-progressive we are, is the difference between Imelda, Marco and Marisa, the three establishment candidates, and the non-establishment ones. Those are the lanes. Establishment and non-establishment.
Isaac, Antoinette, and I are not politicians. I see that as a much bigger difference. So you would be opposed to de-funding the police?
Oh, yeah. I’ve said this publicly. Totally opposed to defunding. In Sun Valley, where I grew up, historically a bad neighborhood, when you hear the police sirens you know the cavalry is coming. They are welcome. I’m not in favor of lowering staffing.
You’re very much the immigrant success story, parents coming from El Salvador, and you making it to UCLA and Berkeley in one generation…
Yeah, so my parents lost their house in the mid-90s and then they split up and both remarried, 11 children in all. Fortunately my mother was able to buy a new house in 2000 despite working a low wage job, which is where I live now, with my wife and three kids. That’s one of the frustrations of Millennials and Gen Z. Home ownership is way out of reach. My mom was able to buy working two dollars over minimum wage. No one can do that now. She built an ADU and she lives there and my wife and I and our kids live in the house. My b-school classmates all live in Playa Vista. I’m at Deloitte, and I can work virtual out of anywhere. If elected I would be the first Councilmember of Salvadorean lineage. Imelda worked for Nury and Marisa has been endorsed by Nury’s old rival Cindy Montanez. Are they representing two different factions in the political machine?
Imelda is definitely inheriting Nury’s place. Marisa place is more of a bilateral one. She works for Curren Price, so she’s part of the Los Angeles political machine, mixed with the remnants of the old Richard Alarcon Valley machine. I’m part of no machine, so I’m not sure who’s who, but I know there are rival factions. Should voters look at Imelda as Nury’s mini-me, or is that unfair?
That’s up to the voters to decide. If the tape never leaked and Nury were to serve her term, I would bet my house that Nury would be supporting her in the next election. Thats a very diplomatic answer. In a couple weeks we are all going to be buried alive in mailers. What is your plan for counteracting that as a non-establishment candidate?
Yeah, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to take canvassing. Here I’ll lump myself in with Isaac and Antoinette. The challenge we have with resources, and I’ve been quoted in the Times on this,
L.A. has become a modern day Tammany Hall. What I’m asking voters is: ‘here are your three establishment candidates, now take a look at the three people not connected to any machine’.
People are tired of business as usual. If you keep voting for the same type of politician, don’t be surprised you get a different result. Look past the mailers. Look for someone who isn’t part of the Homeless Industrial Complex, look for someone who hasn’t been affiliated with someone who has been (indicted vs. investigate) by the FBI [as part of the Huizar scandal]. When you have a multi-headed monster and you hack off one head and the others are still there, the best way to get rid of it is to pull it root and stem. I offer that opportunity. It’s a one and half year term. Give me a chance. If it doesn’t work out, you can get rid of me.
The special election to replace La Nury is in full swing and UpintheValley has reached out to all the campaigns. First to respond is Issac Kim, small business owner, Columbia University graduate, political first-timer, and as it turns out, a neighbor. He joined me at MacLeod for some cheerful talk about purpose-driven politics. Isaac is relentlessly cheerful. We got substantive and he was open about the evolution of his thinking and the elusiveness of certainty in policy questions.
What has surprised you the most so far?
The importance of fundraising. How many people have you heard say “if I were on the council I would do this and I would do that,” but no one actually steps up. No one does it. Now that I am running I understand why. I thought with the short four month window it wouldn’t be as important. But I’ve been blessed to have a lot of volunteers of successful campaigns including from Kenneth Mejias campaign for instance. They came up with the logo of the phoenix encapsulating the rebirth of our district, a fresh start. I don’t want to be for just Asian people.
I want to gain the trust of our community by doing the small things right.
That’s one that rarely gets attended to because the districts are so big.
I would love to expand the number of council seats. To be honest its very hard for one person to help 200-300,000 people, let alone fight corruption. If you could give us your three policy objectives.
My three tiered platform is to redefine the role of council member. To be less political, more of a good and helpful neighbor. The second would be to regain the trust of the community. That’s as simple as having a virtual town hall once a week. Where people don’t want to use the Windows 95 service portal, or their emails aren’t getting a response, they can log in on Thursday evening and speak directly to me about their issues and I will be honest with them. To be clear, a weekly availability to the constituents online?
Yes. The third thing would be to restore the health and well being of the district, that everything from public transportation to climate. If you look around the district, the majority of bus stops don’t have shade. People who take the bus are more vulnerable, frequently older. We can put some shades up at bus stops for them. That’s a low bar. We also should subsidize Wi/FI accessibility for low income people. Do you support ending the eviction moratorium?
A tough one. I did support the one that just passed, in terms of extending it a bit further. But it can’t go on forever. This is the last warning, the last buffer. Its a band aid solution for a lot of people who might have been in trouble. Does someone have the right to get off the bus from Ohio, pitch a tent on the sidewalk, declare residency, start collecting county benefits?
Another tough one. I would have to say yes, but only because I don’t think homelessness is a crime. There may be one off cases, but no one really want to be on the streets. Or they are just different. For the vast, vast majority, they don’t want to be there. Even if they say differently in the moment. Or they tried getting services before and the system let them down. Those might be the people saying they are refusing help at this exact moment. In general no one wants to be on the streets. We built Tiny Home Villages to be compliant with the Boise decision. But they are not being utilized. Can we compel any homeless camper within half a mile radius to accept shelter?
Yes. I would do everything we can to compel them short of forcing them. If carrots aren’t working, what is the stick?
I just don’t think we can force someone into something they just don’t want. On the other other hand there are situations, troublemakers, people doing something totally illegal or causing a lot of trouble . I don’t think you’re going to get them into a tiny home. The more realistic situation is they are taken to a program, a clinic, some mental health facility.
Do you support care courts? The parallel legal system for mental health?
I would have to look into the specifics of that. Theres a local measure to ban sleeping or drug consumption on the Metro system.
I definitely support no drugs or sleeping. I believe the police budget just for the Metro is more than the Metro’s revenue so if they are not enforcing that, if that still an issue, we need to revise that whole budget because its not working. On the issue of crime. Shoplifting up to $950 being de facto legal…
Wow. I didn’t know that. I’ll be honest that is something I never thought of. They go into stores and fill their carts and security lets them walk out. You can’t call the police, they no longer enforce misdemeanors. Would you lower the felony trigger to say, $100?
Yes. Definitely. You can’t stay in business and take a thousand dollar loss every day. We need to set a precedent. People can’t always think that is always okay. That they will always get away with that. It’s a fine balance. We can’t have public safety without the public’s trust. Whether its the police, or whoever it is. we all have to act with reasonability. And if something is unreasonable, like stealing at that level we need to confront that. That will also increase the public’s trust. What is your response to people who would say you are supporting the police, the carceral state. It’s crypto-racist…
I have friends who are cops. They are good people. Do we have shitty examples of bad policing? Definitely. The phrase “de-funding the police” is terrible marketing. I hate even saying the words. I’m not about either expanding or retracting the budget. Like any business, the budget needs a review. A real business will do that to find efficiencies. People like Antoinette Scully want to de-fund.
If you really think you are going to defund the police in the next five years, you’re crazy.
If that’s the headline, is that going to hurt you?
Maybe. But it’s the truth. For people who are reasonable and logical are like: “that’s not happening, that’s not realistic.” Unchallenged rhetoric can have a discretionary effect on policing even if the laws remain the same. Police can just stop enforcing things.
Yes, but I think a lot people who were saying defund the police have changed their rhetoric. For example Eunisses Hernandez, who used to be an abolitionist. She’s changed to lets re-invest. Lets reimagine. Let’s pretend there is a guy standing in the street with his shopping cart, no shirt, no shoes, speaking in tongues, holding a crowbar, blocking traffic. Do you think it’s viable to send a psychological team, rather than the police? Unarmed officials without handcuffs or police powers?
A crowbar could be a weapon, so no. If there is nothing in his hand, then yes. This is one of those things that is discretionary. I’m not saying in all situations don’t send guns.
Looking at the candidates, I see six people sharing the progressive lane, broadly defined. The person who claims the angry homeowner lane is going to take a big chunk of the vote by default. The public is tired of being scorned for expressing normal impulses about disorder.
I understand that. That’s a fair feeling. I think a lot of people do. I see an opportunity for someone who wants to go down that road. But I don’t want to influence you. (laughter)
I think a lot of my stances are semi-geared towards that, but at the same time not. What has surprised me as well is having to re-examine and come to understand what my views really are. Is there anything you’ve changed your mind on since getting in the race?
This might bite me in the butt but I put my foot down on (Ordinance) 41.18. The tag line being homeless people can’t be within 500 feet of the school. Of course its much more overarching than that, but thats what sounds really bad, if you explain it that way. Are you in favor or opposed?
As written now, it’s not allowed. I would actually repeal and replace 41.18, and this is the biggest surprise to myself as well.
I’ve been yelled at by both sides, including my parents, but to be honest, at the end of the day I don’t believe Jesus would kick homeless people off the streets because they are 500 feet from a school.
At the end of the day the data doesn’t support that there is necessarily so much violence and terrible things happening to children due to proximity of encampments. I’ll be honest, it’s the hardest choice I’ve had to make. Los Angeles has had a very fossilized politics for decades. Suddenly this year a DSA breakthrough in the party machine: Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martinez, and Kenneth Mejia. My question is: are we going Venezuela?
No. I would not say so. What is the reassurance to the middle of the road voter who is wondering what the hell is going on? Why doesn’t it matter that DSA people are winning?
Why doesn’t it matter? For starters I don’t consider myself DSA at all. I’m a small business owner. Walking into some of these union endorsements, I’m like, “well I’m not getting this one. I’m walking into hostile territory but I’m here.” The left and the right, it’s just emotional. You say one thing that might make sense and they hate you for being you. I thought I was a moderate Democrat, but when I reflect on it issue by issue it turns out I’m positioned as progressive, and to be fair, that sort of comes as as surprise to me. It’s a process of self-discovery. We need to chill the f— out. Build relationships. Talk to people who don’t agree with you. You might surprise yourself. That’s the attitude we all need to move toward, especially now.
Imagine making lattes for eight hours and coming home to this. Or crawling into the muck to snake a drain. Or changing bedpans, wearing a name tag and a customer service expression all day, subject to Yelp reviews. Hanging asphalt shingles in the Palisades sun, then returning to a penitentiary: rolling gates of steel bars, begrimed stucco and a palimpsest of tagging thinly covered in beige.
It may not be the picture Americans have when the golden phrase Californialifestyle is invoked, but for half a million people in our city this is reality, not the Potemkin village Los Angeles conjured by scripted content and advertising.
This is the California finger hold. The ten year waystation for essential workers, who might be grateful for the bars, their framework by necessity one of resource protection. A tenement with an unhappy face.
In 1964 the Dingbat was very modern, with spacious balconies, aluminum windows and crisp rectangularity stripped of ornamentation, unlike the bungalow courts of Hollywood, with their tiny portions and absence of parking. Cheap and purpose-built, requiring no skilled craftsmen in woodwork or tile. Across SoCal the bedrooms-over-the-carport rent factories spread like kudzu, many of them built on former ranch lots. It was affordable housing before there was a phrase for it. A good dingbat evoked a mood by way of a fanciful name: The Troubadour, La Traviata, the Something-Something Palms. A wink between landlord and tenant.
If you started life in a mud hut in Chiapas, it probably tasted like heaven for awhile. If you started in Riverside you might re-think your life choices. The dingbat fell out of favor as it descended the class structure. The neglected decor peeled away and now the buildings are unnamed and mute to the world but for notices from a management company: Secure parking. Premises under 24 hour surveillance. Section 8 OK.
Then there’s Sherman Oaks, where 1964 looks as timeless and inviting as an episode of Mad Men and one ascends the waterfall staircase like a minor deity. Beyond the double doors awaits a world of good taste and better appliances, and a view.
Most of these domiciles weren’t built as mansions, just larger ranch houses for the professional classes. An ambitious Boomer could climb from Panorama City to here in 20 years. The wealth effect has put paid to such notions now. A house above the tree line is mansion priced, even if only 1600 square feet. You’ll never afford it, but your cardiologist daughter might. She’ll be able to affect modesty. She’ll be sure to let you know she’s not one of those vulgarians in a Persian palace in Encino.
To be wealthy in America is to be exempt from aesthetic depravity. Or noise. Or sweaty people lugging buckets of takeout past your open window while you sweat in front of the box fan. It is to have dignity in egress, always. It is to be far from the locusts. To quote Scott Galloway, it is to be loved.
It’s illegal to build dingbat housing now. Zoning. Earthquake codes. Fire laws. So we gets lots of upscale mixed-used development, four stories of Bento Box matchstick atop a two story concrete pour, with an AmazonFresh at street level, a good fit for the urban core. For the Valley, not so much. The existing dingbat stock will be kept alive with soft story retrofits. In Santa Monica and West Hollywood, where the juice is worth the squeeze, some landlords lean into the mid-century theme and trowel on a modern skin, restore the name, re-dingbatize their buildings.
But the Valley dingbat won’t get the 2.0 treatment. Nor will it age into shabby gentility, like the San Bernardino Arms evoked by Nathaniel West. It’ll look like a penitentiary. In class terms, it kind of is one.
Who were you? Where did you begin, that you would end so far from home, bearing detritus like water from the well? Did you find the magic dirt you were looking for? What wide-eyed, greedy baby replaces you come Sunday?
If only we could recycle years like plastic bottles.
Demonic caterpillars have burrowed wormholes in my mothers memory. She can play Wordle. She will correct your spelling of obscure French names, like Daignault. But she won’t remember who is sitting on the couch on the other side of the room, even if it’s her first born. She parks herself for hours in front of the fireplace pretending to read The New Yorker, staring at the object in her hands, not turning the pages. She proclaims herself an eternal victim of the wine fairy. “Whose glass is this?” she will announce, clutching the offending stemware she has been sipping from for hours. When my father explains to her she has three glasses going, in different rooms, she apologizes for taking his from him.
To spare her feelings, he refuses all offers of caregiver assistance. They go it alone in rural Mendocino, stoically, as though the calendar read 1972, but with WiFi. Everyone pretends she’s not peeing herself.
“Lying awake at night I have rushes of anxiety that, if she goes first, I won’t be able to deal with it. I wonder at times if there is a me without her. One of the paradoxes of her dementia is my dependence on it. The more she needs me the simpler life seems. I worried at first if I would be able to deal with her illness. Now I worry I won’t be able to deal without it.”
If you knew this man as I did, a selfish, incorrigibly lazy, entitled Boomer asshole, his late life transition to Saint Theresa-like grace has been nothing short of baffling. A lifetime of curated resentments, one of the earned pleasures of middle-age, has been snatched from Mr. UpintheValley.
That’s what I used to feel. Now I’m grateful. She’s not a burden I or my sister are eager to take on and our history with her is darker, more complicated.
In October I bought them a trundle bed to place closer to the downstairs stove, sparing them from building two fires a day this winter. He cuts all their firewood himself. She has woken in the middle of the night, demanding to know where he has taken her. Whose house is this? What’s happening? He explains it all, they are sleeping downstairs for awhile, no one has kidnapped her, it’s closer to the fire. He gets up and plays the piano for her and she settles down, seeming to reorient herself. In the morning she forgets it ever happened, which can be a separate mercy, kinder than eerie moments of perfect clarity.
She is blessed to have him, and he’s blessed to remain able to shoulder the burden, which is as Christmasy as it gets when you hit 80.
John is my neighbor. On Jan. 3 his house, in which he has resided since the age of childhood, is going to be auctioned off at a trustee sale at the courthouse.
His mother, before she died, took a $350K cash out re-fi against the house she purchased for $34K in 1977, signing John’s name to the loan. At the time he was working at WalMart. He no longer does. They covered the mortgage by renting rooms and illegal structures on the property to people on disability, the marginally employed, the precarious. No one has paid him anything in two years, allegedly. Consequently no mortgage payments have been made since 2020.
He survives on SNAP benefits and General Relief. He has no credit, no family laying claim to him and apparently no friends to move in with. The responsible tenants have rotated out, replaced by a motley crew of drug addled spongers. His world has shrunk to a barcalounger and a bed in the living room which he shares with a motorcycle. The other rooms and outbuildings are locked and he has no keys. He’s neither fish nor fowl, falling into no protected class. Slow, but not special needs. Unfit for work but not elderly. Just a man without resources or survival instincts at a moment when America is unraveling economically.
In a reasonable world I could easily buy his house, pay off his mortgage and put some money in an account for him to relocate, but no bank will lend on it in its current condition, doubly so on a short sale. To the sharks it will go, the Armenian mafia or some BlackRock-affiliated institutional buyer, paying all cash.
Jacob Marley, rattle your chains.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Blogging has been light of late. Thanks for sticking around.
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.
We voted Friday after work, at a polling center a mile from Chez UpintheValley, not far from our normal precinct. There were eight poll workers waiting for us. The place was empty.
They scanned my bar code and I signed for a ballot on a mobile device. The officiant checked a box cancelling the vote by mail ballot sent to our house.
The ballot was a long piece of thermal paper I inserted into the machine. I worked my way through a series of touch screens. Upon completion I was prompted to review my choices. The tabulator then printed them on the ballot itself, and I was prompted to confirm the physical document matched what was shown onscreen. All was copacetic. I pushed the VOTE button and the machine sucked the ballot inside.
Let’s review. An idiot-proof process, with two fail safe moments, an electronic signature printed on the ballot, a PDF of which is on file with the County Clerk. An electronic tabulation sent to the Board of Elections, and a hard copy to be held in the event of a manual recount.
The imperatives of convenience and integrity duly satisfied, I left with a bounce in my step and an “I Voted” sticker affixed to my shirt like a Boy Scout badge.
Why would we ever alter this? Why would we mass mail unsolicited ballots to every address in the county, and allow those ballots to be collected or completed by ballot harvesters, members of paid advocacy groups? Why would we allow for drop boxes when we have the Postal Service? Why would we allow a growing portion of the ballots to enter the system without a chain of custody?
Above all, why do we no longer have an Election Day? What reason, but for fraud, do we allow ballots to be accepted for 7 days after this Tuesday?
You didn’t know that? Neither did I until the primary in June, when Rick Caruso “won” the vote 41-38, only to “lose” in July, 43-36, after all the E+7 ballots trickled in.
That’s what they call it. E+7. If it has a plus sign, it must be harmless, right? Helpful. Progressive and Good. The Times deployed various linguistic constructions to explain the tardy ballots: last minute; late arriving; or just late; while remaining awfully coy as to just what the percentages were, before and after Election Day.
Allowing large tranches of votes to arrive after Tuesday is like allowing extra innings in a game in which one team is leading by a run with three outs in the bottom of the ninth. It’s a form of do-over.
Get ready for plenty more of this pre-emptive scolding, pre-bunking, to use NPR terminology, encouraging you to discount the evidence of your own eyes, and the memory sickness you retain of the old, bad, revanchist America of 1776-2016, when votes were tabulated on Election night.
What happens if Rick Caruso is leading by two points on Tuesday? Around the rest of the country -Red States mainly- races will be tabulated and called by midnight, concession speeches made, recriminations begun, but in L.A….the gaslighting descends.
As hours become days of uncertainty, in which no local journalist demands explanation from the Kremlin-like County Clerk in Norwalk, and we are progressively acclimated to the idea Los Angeles as uniquely helpless in tabulating votes in a timely manner..is anyone going to do anything about it?
If the numbers are going against Bass, I can guarantee the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter will be doing something. They’ve been working for this moment. They have their shit together. They’re organized. This is their make-or-break year.
You and me? We’re only homeowners in the Valley. Back in the day, we passed Prop. 13 and stopped busing in its tracks. Now we’re just schmucks with unconfirmed claims™…
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.