It was a confusing day at City Hall. In the nearly six months since I've attended the City Council meetings, about three days a week, I have never seen more television and radio reporters, more photographers and public comment speakers showing up on such a hot issue, and walking away more confused. Chief Bratton was even in attendance, seated in the front row, so I had to take the second row, today. (Tune into TV 35 Sunday afternoon.)
I'm serious when I say all in attendance were confused as to what just happened and what it means. One Councilmember wanted it clarified exactly what happened, because the Councilmember wasn't even sure everyone knew what they were voting on. (And that's no slam, because it is confusing.) But in the end, I think it is the first big step the City has taken toward addressing the homeless people, camped out in tents, on the Skid Row area of Downtown Los Angeles.
Previously, there has been an injunction preventing LAPD from arresting the homeless for sleeping on the sidewalk. Then the ACLU (I even saw Carol Soble for the first time) reached an "agreement" with the City that will actually prevent/disallow/ban/stop LAPD from arresting the homeless on the streets that homeowners and buisnesses are scared to invest in, and others are leaving, between the hours of 9p-6a. (Does that include holidays?) And today, City Council was going to decide, behind closed-door session, whether to appeal the agreement in court, meaning FIGHT to allow LAPD to enforce the streets of Los Angeles, 24 hours a day. (Without allowing an "anything goes" policy from 9p-6a.)
This guy, Tom, was there representing the business/building owners in the area who say these "tent cities" from 9p-6a do enough damage to property, let alone scares away all the investors/people who we want to attract to our Convention Center and future City Projects, to last an entire day.
Both sides felt it was a victory, and both conceeded to compromise. All the TV reports you know form 2,4,5,7,11,13 were there with their cameras huddled around first Tom, then Carol. I just happened to be elbow to elbow with Carol as the media surrounded her, so when she said, "We don't want to criminalize people for sleeping on the sidewalk", Zuma Dogg was quick to retort, "What about all the drugs?" And her reply was, "Go away Zuma Dogg!" (With all TV cameras in the city rolling, y'all...yeah, yeah!) But she was being good natured in her public annoyance, so don't hate on her for that.
Well, City Council decided, not exactly to appeal the agreement, but decided to keep the option open, while we try this:
LAPD is going to start enforcing Skid Row, because the reality is (according to those involved in actually patrolling the streets) that these tent cities have NOTHING to do with trying to get a good nights sleep, and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that they are really just a place where about the only thing going on is drug sales and beating up on each other in the process. However, ZD predicts they will stick to the hours of enforcement to 6a-9p, as per the ALCU agreeement. Then after ninety days, we will see where it's at, and if City Council still wants to preceed with their fight to overturn this in appeals court. (Today, they voted to leave that window open.)
So, I'm sure the ACLU has the best of intentions, but it seems like all this agreeement you cut with your ACLU alumist (Mayor Villagrossa) does is allow the police to be disallowed from making sweeps of Skid Row from the hours of 9p-6a, the hours when we need them most. And the mere sound of it is like one big, gigantic, "PLEASE DON'T INVEST IN LA" billboard at the airport.
But LAPD doesn't want to look like their turning into a "police state" and ruffle the feathers of all these outspoken activists, so they're gonna give it a try the way ACLU wants, and Council said they won't stand in the way, for now.
However, ALL the reporters were shouting, "How do we judge if this is working? Who decides?" (Measure and accountability.) That's been left unanswered. And, so has what actually happens next. All this stuff about LAPD probably sticking to the ACLU agreement is based on talking to those in the know. But, I can't claim it's official. (But, I'm not the LA Times or Daily News, so I can roll with it, y'all...)
A few people I spoke with on the phone wanted to mention that there are empty beds at nearby shelters, left empty, every day...so, "Hey Bud, What's your problem?" Now, the problem, for some, is that you cannot stay in these shelters if you are using drugs or drinking alcohol. So that keeps the most dangerous elements out of the shelters, and on the streets, leaving open beds for those who are not using/drinking, and a truly the one's ACLU are fighting for. However, again, I spoke with an officer in charge of patrolling Skid Row, himself (no one else noticed him , or spoke with him), but he was VERY clear. HE IS HERE TO TELL YOU, these tent cities have NOTHING to do with getting a good nights sleep and EVERYTHING to do with being a 24 hour drug dealing safe haven.
So for now, with a guy like Chief Bratton running the effort, ZD mentioned during public comment, that the hours of 6a-9p will be all you need to remove the criminals, get the mentally ill into social service programs and the rest of homeless who are there, that don't want to be there, will have room in existing shelters and new ones that might be on the way with that $29 million the Mayor approved this week for these causes.
So although I may be percieved as the biggest nemesis to City Hall (Mayor & Council), if you are FOR doing something about Skid Row, City Council stood-up for round the clock enforcement rights, LAPD may try it under the ACLU agreement and see how it works. And the Mayor approved $29 million that I think goes to this. (It ain't always so easy to figure it all out, y'all...So post a comment.