"Does 99% of LA Have Any Remaining Rights?" by Daniel Guss
(Asking for four million friends)
I found myself unexpectedly redirecting traffic in the middle of Ventura Boulevard last week after slamming on my brakes to avoid driving over a deeply disturbed young man whose life had become so unraveled that he was rolling on the pavement and speaking incoherently in the middle of what had been a bustling intersection before he entered it.
As he repeatedly stumbled to stand and come in my direction, soiled badly by an agonizing existence, he repeatedly fell and rolled toward the curb in front of one of the affluent area’s four brand new supermarkets.
Beyond risking his own safety, being so low to the ground, he also risked the safety of everyone else in the area, such as another driver who did not see him when quickly changing lanes to avoid the jam he had caused…once again.
I write once again because the man’s situation became clearer when the first LAPD patrol car and LAFD ambulance rolled up.
“Hi Matthew… What did you ingest today,” one of the cops familiarly asked without asking for the man’s name as he and his partner pulled on rubber medical gloves. But in the minute or two between then and continuing about my way, the cops and paramedics left without Matthew, who refused their help and stumbled his way up the cross street.
Depending on who you ask, and how you define homelessness, there are between 40,000 and 60,000 people experiencing it in LA, a substantial portion of whom have some form of severe mental illness or addiction. With four million people in LA, let’s round off and say that slightly less than 1% of the population (40,000/4,000,000) lives in a similarly perpetual state of life and death crisis.
For perspective, that means that the other 99% of us just want to go about the business of living. We have others who need our care. We have places we need to get to. We have enough on our plate as it is.
Sorry, that’s not heartless.
That’s compassion fatigue.
We all pay into a system providing endless billions of dollars to help people like Matthew, and others who exist as he does. They should not be grouped with people who are homeless due solely to economic conditions, yet this < 1% sub-group still has an outsized impact on the other 99%.
This situation exists because we have politicians, agencies and activists who are flush with cash, long on words and consistently short on results. The rest of us need to get on with the day, but are consistently deprived of our right to do so.
Assuming the 99% has any remaining rights at all.
There are nearly identical situations on most days, including one just north of that intersection, where cops arrived as an equally disturbed woman threw herself in the way of approaching cars, alternately screaming and crying, endangering herself and everyone else, whether in cars or on the sidewalk.
Again, it’s tragic. Yes, we understand that. Like us, they are someone’s kid, parent, sibling and friend. We provide whatever the government says it needs to deal with, if not remedy, these human tragedies.
But the other 99% still needs to pick up the kids, do the shopping, get to Target, the veterinarian, therapist and periodontist before getting home, preparing dinner, collapsing on the sectional, then to sleep. We get up, get the kids out the door and walk the dogs so our jobs get done, the bills get paid and taxes deducted to do whatever it is that can be done for these lost souls.
So again — I’m just asking for four million friends — what about the 99%?
Now for a little story about how another deeply disturbed woman has been allowed to continually abuse and overrun this same community.
A mile east from where I encountered Matthew, a woman had set up camp on the sidewalk with lots of pedestrian traffic on Ventura Boulevard. Despite endless pleas from locals, City Councilmember Nithya Raman continually let conditions fester, enabling the woman to wreak havoc and violence on everyone in her path.
There was the time she violently prevented kitchen workers from getting to the their jobs on a steamy summer morning, locking her arms in the restaurant’s door handles. (There’s disturbing video of the incident, but this should suffice.)
With City Hall’s twisted view of “equity,” it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the kitchen workers who don’t live in this affluent area also need to get to work, have family to look after, etc.
Don’t they have rights, too?
They’re part of the functioning 99%, as well.
A cadre of first responders took her away, but she eventually returned because City Hall, namely Nithya Raman, has grown increasingly disdainful not of the disrupters, but their victims.
Victims… like the young female Starbucks employee the woman later violently attacked, resulting in an even bigger LAPD, LAFD response and the store closure for the day.
Again, just asking. What about the other 99%?
Did I mention the sushi incident?
Later, the Nithya Raman-enabled woman relieved herself (i.e., she took a fucking shit) along the patio of a popular sushi restaurant… (wait for it)…
…before plopping down at one of its tables demanding to be served, with shit and piss covering her hands and clothing, and consequently the table and chairs.
Normalizing the absurd and grotesque — which City Hall does splendidly — still doesn’t capture the essence of human feces, spicy tuna and Sapporo on a hot afternoon.
Trust me, a picnic it is not.
A while back, I gave Raman, whose husband is television screenwriter Vali Chandrasekaran, an encouraging benefit of the doubt.
I cited her early promise to clean-up rancid corners of her District. In fact, I wrote: “Do you know who the first female Mayor of Los Angeles might be someday soon? Nithya Raman… (she) graduated from Harvard before walking down the street in Cambridge to earn a master's degree in urban planning from an outlet known as M.I.T. She founded the research firm Transparent Chennai, whose goal was to improve sanitation in the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.”
But as Raman quickly became entrenched in City Hall’s enabling culture of failure, she became unreachable and disdainful of her constituents, most glaringly when another local homeless man hurled a bag of his diarrhea at a local businessman’s car.
When the businessman showed the video to Raman’s staffers, the lawmaker bizarrely claimed that sharing proof of the violent attack “crossed a boundary.”
It wasn’t until Gina Silva’s Fox 11 story on the attack went viral that Raman — now embarrassed on an international level — had the man arrested.
Raman, who was one of three councilmembers to vote against 41.18, a city ordinance that bans homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers, has two years remaining in her first term.
Raman’s constituents booted her predecessor, David Ryu, after just one term. While City Council took a political left turn in last November’s election, will the same calculus apply in Sherman Oaks the way it did elsewhere in LA?
Only time will tell. But with newly elected Mayor Karen Bass coming out of the gate clearing homeless camps in Venice and elsewhere, Raman’s rubber will soon meet the road.
She refuses to respond to these and related matters.
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(Daniel Guss, MBA, was nominated for three 2022 LA Press Club awards and was a runner-up in 2021 and 2020. He is City Editor for Mayor Sam, Featured Contributor for CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, KCRW 89.9 FM, KRLA 870 AM, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News and the Los Angeles Times in its sports, opinion, entertainment and Sunday Magazine sections among other publishers.)
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