Recently, I attended a residents association meeting in our little pocket of San Fernando Valley, all part of the city of Los Angeles, where almost four million people live. There was one topic on the minds of the almost one hundred attendees: homelessness.
The homeless are everywhere in this city, as much part of the everyday life here as the cars, the sun, and the surf. There are homeless tent camps to the west of us, as well as to the east. They seem entrenched, as after a large cleanup the other day, when new tents sprung up the day after with new people and, soon, new piles of trash.
Los Angeles County with ten million people is said to have 66,000 homeless, or twenty percent of all unhoused in the United States. 41,000 of them are found within the city limits. There might be many more. How do you count them accurately in the time of Covid?
On Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, between 4,000 and 8,000 homeless live steadily, of all age groups, 58 percent of them Black, 24 percent Latinos, and 13 percent White. But they are really omnipresent in the city, an everyday witness of a larger societal failure to take care of, to treat, to house, the poor, the mentally sick, the addicts, as California’s wrestles with a serious lack of affordable housing and mental healthcare facilities. That failure, accompanied by rising homicide rates and other crime numbers, is the central issue for the voters on Tuesday.
Yes, inflation will also be on the voters’ minds, particularly in view of the highest gas prices in the nation, now at seven or even eight dollars per gallon, but there’s not much the individual voter or the local politician can do about that. Inflation is fought by the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. And although the recent tragic mass shooting in Texas and Buffalo, New York have shaken up people here just like everywhere else in America, California already has the nation’s toughest gun laws. So, here are not the glaring policy failures of the homelessness crisis.
The Democrats dominate in California and there are no signs of change in that respect. Governor Gavin Newsom will be reelected, so will his attorney general and his choice for US senator, Alex Padilla. To win outright on Tuesday, over 50 percent of the vote is needed. If that is not achieved, the two top candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will square off in November’s general election. The Republicans will be hard pressed to win any state-wide races, but they will likely have some success in the 53 races for the nation’s largest congressional delegation in Washington.
In the race for who will be the new mayor of Los Angeles, America’s second largest city, the mood among the voters is bad, as Steve Lopez reports in today’s Los Angeles Times: fatigue, irritation, cynicism. The question is: how many will actually vote? Few, is probably the answer
The leading candidate, Black congresswoman Karen Bass, is a former Speaker of the California Assembly, whom the Los Angeles Times has endorsed, calling her “an extraordinarily qualified, battle-tested, mission-driven leader.” In the last poll before Tuesday, Bass has the support of 38 percent of likely voters.
But, once again, many voters are seeking solutions to problems from a non-politician. In the efforts last year to recall, unseat, Governor Newsom, disgruntled voters sought the answer in a libertarian talk radio host with no political experience. He lost badly, and rightly so.
Now, their savior is billionaire developer (sounds familiar?) Rick Caruso, a Republican until recently, who has bombarded the city with political commercials, using over 30 million dollars of his own money, promising to “clean up” Los Angeles and break what he claims to be the “long chain of corruption and failure.” Caruso, “the Donald Trump of Los Angeles” as the Los Angeles Times once called him, is supported by 32 percent in that same poll. A November runoff is likely.
When will we ever learn?