California Governor Gavin Newsom says the Republican Party is heading into “the waste bin of history.” But has he walked around human feces-strewn San Francisco lately, where he used to be mayor? He has a lot of nerve talking about waste bins.
California currently holds the largest number of homeless in the country, as well as the highest rate of poverty. Homelessness is an epidemic in large cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Here in Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti took office promising to tackle and solve the homeless issue. Of course to do so, he needed taxpayer money. Measure H was proposed and passed in 2017. This measure raised the sales tax in Los Angeles one quarter of a cent in order to raise $355 million a year, for 10 years, for homeless prevention services. This was after Measure HHH was already passed, which put a $0.348 per square foot property tax to fund a $1.2 billion plan to build housing for the homeless. These measures were promised to be enough to fund the necessary projects to tackle the LA homeless epidemic.
Last week, a new report was released on homelessness in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles County, the homeless rate increased by 12%, and in the city of Los Angeles, it rose 16%. Garcetti and his fellow Dems are now already talking about needing more money to fix the problem. This time, Residents are now asking, “what have you done with the tax dollars we’ve already given you?”
Usually, tax increases for a variety of issues in this city and State seem to be easily passed by liberals, but an example of the changing tide happened earlier this month when Measure EE was defeated. Measure EE was yet another tax increase (property tax) to help dig the LA Unified School District out of the continually hole it is, a school District that decades ago was one of the best in the Country, is now one of the worst. As the many before it, money from Measure EE was promised to go to the classrooms and to teachers and fix the current budget issue in education.
The Los Angeles taxpayers, tired of watching their money go into the black hole that is LA Unified School District, tired of being told once again that “we just need a little more money,” said enough is enough.
Keep in mind that Los Angeles has been receiving money from the state as well to combat the homeless issue, and is once again asking for more. To give credit where credit is due, Governor Newsom was clear with Los Angeles that in giving additional funds, he wanted to see action, not just another report.
All these tax dollars and promises, Los Angeles is sinking into a deeper hole, and the effect that the homeless problem on the city, goes beyond just dealing with encampments on city streets. The homeless issue and the lack of action for years by our leaders is literally endangering the lives of its residents.
Trash build up, syringes in the street, urination and defication being allowed on public streets, the rat population exploding as a result, is a perfect storm for disease. This was proven when a typhus outbreak hit downtown Los Angeles.
Yes, I said typhus. Some may have heard about it in history books or have heard of the disease in third world countries. Some may have never heard of typhus, and that is because, in first world countries like the United States, typhus typically doesn’t exist.
Due to one of the worst homeless encampments surrounding City Hall, and the buildup of trash as a result of these encampments and the lack of City Hall to properly address the problem, City Hall itself has a major rat infestation. A city employee recently became infected with Typhus as a result. Typhus comes from the fleas found on rats. The fleas carry the disease and the rats spread the fleas. Many employees in City Hall, and even visitors, have gotten flea bites as a result. The city is actually quite lucky there hasn’t been a larger outbreak of Typhus within City Hall itself.
Such unsanitary conditions, doesn’t just bring typhus, but there is a risk for multiple disease outbreaks. There have even been concerns of the potential for a bubonic plague outbreak. Yes, bubonic plague as in the disease called the Black Death which wiped out much of Europe in the Middle Ages.
Granted, with time and technology, we have medications to treat this disease that they didn’t back then, but it is still not a disease that people in a city like Los Angeles, in the Unites States of America, should be worried about contracting. The bubonic plague, like typhus, is spread by the fleas from rats.
While there hasn’t been any cases of bubonic plague yet, typhus isn’t the only disease that has hit the city. LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) headquarters, in downtown LA, recently had to be shut down due to rat and vermin infestations like that of City Hall, and this time, instead of typhus, an officer contracted typhoid fever.
These homeless encampments are no longer just an occurrence “downtown”, or on the fringes of the city, they are woven throughout the entire city, next to schools, in neighborhoods, from lower income neighborhoods to wealthy ones. The median home price in the community I live in is well over $1 million and climbing, yet, people can’t walk down the street to our local Starbucks, families can’t take their kids to the local park, without walking through an encampment under each one of the nearby freeway overpasses, as well as homeless sleeping throughout our neighborhood parks.
Walking through an encampment means the high possibility of stepping in human waste, stepping on a syringe or having a confrontation with a mentally ill homeless person. Beyond even that risk, also lies the uptick in crime. As many of these homeless are drug addicts, theft has been on the rise in the City and areas closest to encampments are at greatest risk.
The Los Angeles Police Department has been overwhelmed. Not only are officers facing health risks on the job from their close interaction with the homeless and the encampments, they are terribly understaffed. Officers I’ve spoken with have expressed how their hands are tied. One even said to me that residents of my community “need to stop voting the same terrible politicians back in” and went on to say what a horrible job Garcetti and Krekorian are doing.
Officers are not equipped to deal with the mentally ill which is a large part of the homeless population, they have been told to stand down on arrests for public urination/defecation, they are legally not allowed to touch anything that belongs to the homeless, and in many cases they have to look the other way with illicit drug use happening in broad day light on our streets.
Yet, when Garcetti and the rest of City Council do not get their way on taxes and funding, the first thing they threaten are to make cuts in the budget for first responders.
Maybe it is Los Angeles heading for the waste bin, if it isn’t there already.
Felicia Tweedy is a political activist and professional who has served elected officials and campaigns on both sides of the aisle, and an entertainment industry professional.