Word on the Downtown L.A. streets Skid Row is quietly forming a Skid Row Neighborhood Council and their first order of business: Extend Skid Row boundaries: Alameda to Main Street and 3rd St to 7th St. Can you imagine if the “Skid Row” rules apply on Main Street? Walking through tents, filth, and a cloud of crack smoke to enjoy lunch with your family at Artisan House, or how about just making your way home to P.E. Lofts? Do I have your attention yet?
If you’re not aware of what’s going on in DTLA, Skid Row has its own set of rules. In the rest of the City, tents come down at 6:00 am per something called the Jones Agreement. When police at one time were enforcing the sitting/lying/sleeping ordinance (LAMC 41.18) in the city, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that ordinance as a violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Mainly, because it was deemed that enforcement of that law with insufficient shelter was inhumane. So the deal that was struck Jones Agreement is that between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am, unsheltered people may camp on city sidewalks except within 10 feet of a building entrance, business, or driveway. But in Skid Row, after lawsuits and court rulings and the fact that unsheltered in Skid Row don’t get first dibs on the housing being built for them in Skid Row, they are allowed to camp anywhere they feel like setting up as long as it’s in Skid Row, indefinitely. And apparently, this separate set of rules seem to have made Skid Row worse not better (higher violent crime, more rapes and human trafficking, and more than 11 murders so far this year (less than 90 days), not to mention the egregious violations in public health that continue despite the best of cleanup efforts. I personally know two people who have contracted staph infections volunteering in Skid Row.
Photo Source: cangress.org
So, are you ready for this? I found out that the city is pushing through the ability for parts of neighborhoods to secede and form additional neighborhood councils, with a set of easier procedures than regular neighborhood councils have been forced to follow in the past. And regardless of the size of the newly formed councils, they get the same amount of money the larger ones do. And the formation committees of those neighborhood councils make the rules for the election procedures: time, place, and manner – formation committees of councils that aren’t voted on or formed yet. So, the Skid Row Neighborhood Council, if voted into existence on April 6th, will be the first to secede under, again, its own separate set of rules. Can you believe that?
Here is how the process, in this case, is different: If you can’t verify you live or work in the area, all you have to do is show a reasonable interest in what happens there — meaning you have the same vote as a resident or property owner if you are just passing through. No need for proof – in this election, just because you say so. We have not seen “self-declaration” in past elections. Where other council elections had online voting and vote by mail in order to seek the broadest range of participation, this Skid Row Neighborhood Council is allowed to vote during a four-hour window in the late afternoon and evening at one polling location, preventing the thousands of early shift workers from participating at all. Why you ask? Seems like an act of voter suppression if you ask me. And I’m a huge fan of democracy which is why I am writing this down for everyone to read.
Why are some people going through all this effort to keep out the rest of Downtown Los Angeles? After interviewing an “interested party” who has participated in the two somewhat surreptitious “public” community meetings, the intention of this new neighborhood council is to create a body that represents a “voice for the voiceless.” The property owners and businesses already have one. But is that what a neighborhood council is for? I thought neighborhood councils were to give a voice to a broad spectrum of the community, including family-owned businesses that may have risked everything to open up in a given community. Am I missing something?
Everyone deserves a voice. Everyone deserves advocacy and support. That’s why you should know that if you live, work, or “have an interest” in Downtown Los Angeles or the areas of the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, you have a right to vote on April 6th, 2017 from 3pm to 7pm at the James Woods Center at the corner of 5th and San Julian – 400 East 5th Street. Vote if you think Skid Row should continue to live in isolation, or if it stands a better chance continuing to be incorporated into the rest of Downtown. The policies governing Skid Row are failing. Do you want a neighboring community of people continuing to suffer under these separate set of rules? If you vote yes you can be certain that the status quo will continue, and Skid Row will be crawling back onto Main Street to “set up tent”! I know where I will be on April 6th – voting a big, fat “NO.”
If you live in Downtown Los Angeles, like me, and want to learn more, the next community meeting to discuss this information:
March 29th 6 pm
Los Angeles Community Action Network – LACAN
838 East 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Featured image photo credit: npr.org