CityWatch, Nov 8, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 89
RETHINKING LA - Occupy LA’s greatest opportunity to impact the policies and actions that are responsible for eviscerating the middle class, for destroying our economy, for unleashing predatory greed and for selling political access to the highest bidder is to mobilize voters at the polls on election day.
In LA, that’s today in Council District 15 as the seat that was occupied by Janice Hahn is filled, or potentially filled, by one of the 15 certified candidates, 11 on the ballot and 4 as write-ins.
So far none of the candidates have made a strong play to embrace Occupy LA and at the same time, Occupy LA has failed to lay down campaign positions for the Candidates.
The Occupy LA movement has established a strong presence on the outside of City Hall, creating an environment that is a microcosm of a healthy community, complete with health care, child care, education, sanitation, security, food service, and a system of participatory government that raises the standard in its commitment to the individual.
But the refinement of the Occupy LA village will only result in a higher quality of life on the outside of City Hall, no small feat, but it’s still on the outside of City Hall and not on the inside where the dangerous policies and actions are taking place with unfettered abandon.
Now is the time for the 99% to move inside and to ask the hard questions of the Mayor, the City Attorney, the City Controller, the City Council and the City Department managers who are at the helm of the largest city in the most populated state in the most powerful country in the world.
Now is the time for the 99% to identify the candidates for office who can account for their policies and actions and who have a demonstrated commitment to economic justice.
To be sure, the Mayor and the City Council have pandered to the Occupy LA crowd and they were treated like Rock Stars by a fawning audience who acted as if backstage access was a fair trade-off for failed leadership that has resulted in the surrounding collapse of a great city.
Missing from the dialogue were the hard questions:
Why is Los Angeles the Capital of Unemployment, where have you been and what are you doing about it?
Fully 11.7% of LA’s workforce is sitting idle, a rate that is 44% higher than the national 8.8% rate of unemployment. This situation is compounded by the City of LA’s poverty rate of 19.1%, which is 44.7% higher than the California poverty rate of 13.2%. [link]
Why is Los Angeles the Capital of Home Foreclosures, where have you been and what are you doing about it?
One in every 293 housing units in Los Angeles received a foreclosure notice in 2011. Five states account for 53% of the US foreclosure activity and of those states, California leads the pack and continues to show increases in default notices.
The recent increase in new foreclosure actions is attributed to the prior slowdown as a result of robo-signing and other documentation problems, a situation that foreshadows more bank repossessions in the coming months as the default process picks up. [link]
Why is Los Angeles the Capital of Homelessness, where have you been and what are you doing about it?
Fully 6% of LA’s population without a home. LA’s homeless population of 23,539 includes 8,131 Veterans, an increase of 9% over the last two years. African Americans represent just 9.6% of LA’s population but make up fully 43.7% of LA’s chronic homeless population.
The City of LA’s population of 3,792,621 is just 1.2% of the total American population of 308,745,538 yet its homeless population is fully 3.6% of the national homeless population of 649,917, fully three times the rate of homelessness as the rest of the country.
Why is Los Angeles the Capital of Collapsing Infrastructure, where have you been and what are you doing about it?
LA is leading the nation in collapsing infrastructure with fully 64% of its major streets in poor condition against a national average of 23%. This failure is complemented by 10,000 miles of sidewalks that are a full generation behind in maintenance, resulting in nearly half of LA’s sidewalks in need of repair with a projected price of $1.2 billion. This situation has resulted in debate over responsibility and an American with Disabilities Act class action lawsuit filed against the City of Los Angeles.
Adding to the threat of collapse is LA’s sewer system, on the one hand an engineering accomplishment, on the other hand a neglected network of 6,700 miles of sewage pipes, nearly a third of them more than 80 years old.
Why is Los Angeles the Capital of Dwindling City Services, where have you been and what are you doing about it?
Los Angeles is currently enjoying the largest municipal operating budget in its history, one that actually increased by 1% over last year and now exceeds $7 billion, yet is referred to as the budget that requires the citywide reduction in city services while residents pay more in fees, fines, penalties and permits.
LA’s 2011-2012 budget was presented as a response to “the most difficult financial circumstances in generations” and came with a claim that the budget addresses more that $1 billion in budget deficits, reduces the workforce by more than 4,000 positions, and stabilizes revenues. The Mayor and City Council then went on to cut the Police Department by $100 million, the Fire Department by $50 million, and the surviving City Departments by an average of 10% each while eliminating positions and implementing cost-recovery mandates that resulted in the restricted delivery of city services to only those who can afford to pay extra for them.
Mayor Villaraigosa delivered 100 ponchos to rain-soaked campers and City Council President Eric Garcetti sang a few rounds of Kumbaya but nobody has accounted for the lack of political leadership that has allowed Los Angeles to take its place as the Capital of Squandered Potential.
Now is the time for Occupy LA to demand that candidates for office, whether local or citywide, firmly commit to fair elections that belong to the people and are free of special interest money.
Now is the time for Occupy LA to identify candidates who recognize that people aren’t property and that corporations aren’t people.
Now is the time for Occupy LA to reward candidates who demonstrate integrity with positions that allow them to bring much needed oversight and accountability to City Hall.
Now is the time for Occupy LA to work to elect candidates who embrace the human rights that have been trampled on by a power structure that rewards unfettered greed.
Now is the time for Occupy LA to shape the argument in the upcoming elections, moving from Rock Star politics to a real referendum on human rights and economic justice.
Today’s election in Council District will probably result in a run-off special election between the top two vote-getters on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.
If Occupy LA is to move beyond the demonstration phase and into the “take a seat in City Hall” phase of changing the world, it will start with an aggressive campaign to impact the outcome of the City Council District 15 race.
Occupy LA’s ability to organize in the CD15 race will send a clear message to the Citywide political aspirants that Occupy LA truly represents the 99% and that the Occupy LA platform is the substance of political success.
It starts now and it takes place at the polls.
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net .)