LA CAN Opposes 2014-15 $3.7 Million Operation Healthy Streets Allocation

On Tuesday Morning (May 13), the LA City Council approved funding for Operation Healthy Streets.

The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) welcomes a bit of forward progress in addressing the deep disparities between residents that live east of Main Street versus their neighbors to the west. The City Administrative Office (CAO) report begins to cobble together resources that, if spent wisely, can be used as a down-payment to finally address the glaring apartheid-like conditions that exist in Downtown Los Angeles. We stand firmly behind the emergency allocations for fiscal year 2013 – 2014; however, at this time we cannot  support  2014 -2015 $3.7 million  allocation as proposed.

Community residents, members of LA CAN, have fought long and hard to ensure public health infrastructure would become a reality. In fact, residents conducted a participatory research project entitled The Dirty Divide, which captured and measured the true depths of the problem associated with a lack of trash cans; non-working and too few restroom facilities; no soap and water for washing and drinking; and, a heavy reliance on the LAPD and business community to serve as the voice of public health needs in our community. Many of the final conclusions and recommendations mirrored the items that the City of Los Angeles was cited for in multiple inspections by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

LA CAN prides itself in developing leaders so that we may have voice, power and opinion in the decisions directly impacting us. The CAO report and its expedited timetable robbed our members and other Angelenos the opportunity to weigh in with substantive feedback. In short, this proposal was waived passed two committees and placed on the City Council floor for its first and final decision. Moreover, the impetus to move the proposal so swiftly was nothing more than political double-talk – with the City Attorney informing the Council that this proposal was the only thing that could bring them in compliance with the Lavan Injunction, which prevents the City and its agents from stealing and destroying houseless people’s property. It also notes that in the event property is creating a health or safety hazard there are still measures that must be taken by the City before simply taking personal property.

As is the case with many things related to homelessness and poverty in Los Angeles, the only time we seem to move is when the heat is on. At LA CAN we plan to keep the heat on to ensure that the $3.7 million is not squandered and wasted in administrative costs and that Downtown’s poorer residents get their fair share. We believe that our City is better than the contradictions its elected officials continue to allow in Downtown.

What the Hell: So Jaywalking tickets are fine as long as they go to poor, predominantly Black, people in Downtown Los Angeles.

I’m taking this opportunity to call foul! The recent “firestorm” about jaywalking tickets http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-jaywalking-20131218,0,6633088.story#axzz2nyPUszgU in downtown would be laughable if not for the obvious…poor and homeless people of color have been targeted for the same offense (allegedly stepping off the curb after the light starts blinking); handcuffed and detained for inordinate periods of time; and ticketed over and over again on the same streets, for nearly eight years.

Since the launch of the Safer Cities Initiative in 2006 the LAPD has written as many as 1,000 tickets (mostly jaywalking) per month in Downtown Los Angeles. The majority of those tickets have been given to poor, homeless and disabled residents living within the rapidly gentrified boundaries of the city’s center. To put it in perspective that is 1,000 tickets, per month, given to a population of 12,000 – 15,000 people.

Ironically, this is not a new situation. There have been numerous studies and reports done; residents have lobbied the LAPD, the Police Commission, Mayor Villaraigosa, Department of Justice and numerous other duty-bearers; there have been numerous public actions and protests to decry the discriminatory actions  but the complaints fell on deaf ears.

The jaywalking tickets reached such outlandish proportions that it led to the development of the LA CAN Citation Defense Clinic. Week in and week out lawyers from the Los Angeles Legal Aid Foundation and large downtown law firms provided legal representation for residents in downtown to fight against a system that was clearly tantamount to the creation of a debtors prison. But it wasn’t just large firms that responded to this obvious targeting of poor people. Carol Sobel, Gary Blasi, John Raphling and many other lawyers and students brought their resources to bear to stop the ticketing. Research was done; numerous meetings with the City Attorney’s Office happened; meetings with judges in charge of Metropolitan Court happened and plenty of press releases went out…but never the type of FIRESTORM (editorials and such) that we are being bombarded with today.

So, why is that?

The only thing different  is the socio-economic status and race of those (few people) whose privilege is suddenly challenged.

Could it simply be implicit bias? Or, is it institutional and structural racism on full display before our eyes. Is it really the media’s way of saying that poor and homeless people should only be spoken of during holiday dinners served by celebrities? Or, in the case of Downtown poorest residents, Black and Brown residents, are you saying that their humanity simply doesn’t matter?

Rest assure, the FEW tickets given to privileged newcomers in Downtown Los Angeles pale in comparison to the 10’s of thousands DOCUMENTED tickets given to poor Downtowner’s. And, if this outcry is truly about injustice you would feel  duty-bound to lift the injustice in its entirety. You would say, “what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander!”

There is plenty of EMPIRICAL data, if you so choose to search. You can start right on our blog and that will lead to the United Nations (yes, they had something to say about this) and numerous reports and publications. We look forward to reading fair and balanced coverage of an issue that has crippled many in our community; oftentimes leaving them without Driver’s Licenses; with outstanding arrest warrants because they can’t afford to pay multiple tickets; and, short circuiting their ability to take a step forward.