From the Publisher: Summer Has Arrived

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2318
Arnold G. York

Summer has arrived. Weekend traffic is horrendous. Guys (some occasional gals) with their very expensive autos, which were all gassed up with no place to go, are back on the road. My Sunday late afternoons are often lived to the tune of incredibly expense auto toys strutting their stuff along Pacific Coast Highway in the region of Nobu with nary a cop in sight. It often seems like the gendarmerie come out early weekend mornings, quickly writing a book full of moving violations and then disappear. But to give them their due, they recently did nail a couple of speed racers, charged them with reckless driving and towed away the cars. Not to be outdone, the city is out there writing parking tickets, never mind that there isn’t anywhere near enough parking for all the maybe eight, nine or 10 million visitors in the summer that fill the town on any hot day. The city has lots, even paved lots, but turning one or two into a summer parking lot, perhaps even with a summer shuttle to the beaches, doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Writing tickets is not law enforcement, it’s just a way of shaking down the local and visiting denizens for a few dollars into the county and city coffers. And as long as I’m in a bitching mood, I will state unequivocally that the Pacific Coast Highway is a pigsty with paper and garbage and plastic bottles, food wrappers and worse strewn all over the place curbside. There doesn’t seem to be any systematic roadside garbage pickup. Additionally, there is all the garbage from the homeless and whomever. And, yes, I know the highway belongs to Caltrans but that doesn’t cut it because we have to live in the garbage no matter who owns the road. It’s time for the city to think out of the box. With the COVID-19 restrictions lifted, I’ve been traveling around a bit and you begin to notice that most cities are much cleaner and better maintained than Malibu. There are plantings and flowers and at least an attempt at a congenial and beautiful environment. We pride ourselves on being a rural town but it kind of looks to me like a rural town in impoverished West Virginia, with our main street, which is the PCH, looking like Pico Boulevard by the sea. Malibu has an international reputation and mystique but it’s best if you don’t look too close.

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There isn’t a city or town in this country that isn’t drowning in homelessness. California, which has some of the most expensive real estate and some of the most expensive rentals, is overrun, and Los Angeles has among the worst problems in the state. In days long gone, they arrested the homeless, charged them with vagrancy and locked them up. That turned out to be an expensive proposition even back in the 1930s, so they quickly gave that up and also, the courts began to say you can’t turn poverty into a crime. In the 1930s there were numerous homeless encampments all over California, people living in tents much like today, except they had lots of children, and generally speaking everyone was broke in the Great Depression. But there was room because in 1930 there were only 5,677,000 people living in California in a country of then 123 million people, roughly five percent of the population of the USA. Today, there are almost 40 million Californians, which is roughly 12 or 13 percent of the USA  and a lot of that population lives along the coast. In 1940, there were only 6.9 million living in California and in 1950 about 10.6 million and then, post World War II, California exploded. Even then, the way most towns handled the homeless was to shuffle them off to any place you could push and just get them out of your town. So, the local cops leaned on them, arrested them and confiscated their stuff and, generally speaking, it worked, and they moved on. It wasn’t very legal and it wasn’t very nice but few cared and there was still enough open space to push them into. But today, the affluent are more affluent, the poorer are even poorer, and every community has the same problem, so if you try and push your homeless into the town next door you will  probably find at the same time they are sending their homeless to you. So, there is the problem, plain and simple, plus there is also mental illness and drug and alcohol problems. We’ve closed state mental hospitals and local mental health facilities are overwhelmed.

There are solutions. They are expensive and many are not very appealing. For one, we could make every community accept their fair share of the homeless and set up some sort of facility or encampment with sanitation and showers and social services. We could incentivize some communities with dollars. We could build large tent cities with amenities and support services. We could change empty high rises to small apartment residential or change commercial to residential in many areas. But I suspect little of that is going to happen. Why? Because it’s far easier and less costly to pretend to solve a problem than to actually do it. A case in point. Recently, our LA County Sheriff went down to Venice and Venice Beach, witch certainly have more than their share of homeless. They always had homeless in Venice, but before, Venice was sort of low end and cheap, and today it has become Silicon Beach and expensive. Now, Venice is in the City of Los Angeles, which is covered by the Los Angeles Police Department, so it’s unusual to see the Sheriff there but our Sheriff is never one not to do a little campaigning, and sensing political opportunity, he and some of his boys went to Venice, made some news, had some photo ops and definitely tried to create the impression they were through being soft on the homeless. Then they packed up and went home. That, unfortunately, is the way most politicians deal with the homeless: a photo op or two, a short speech and “see you around.” It’s a no-win issue for them so they avoid anything real. The LA councilman there is Mike Bonin and he’s actually trying to help find some solutions. Needless to say, many of his voters would gladly string him up, and they are quite vocal about it, so you see why most politicians don’t want to touch an issue that’s a political loser no matter what they do.

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P.S. The city is actually working to try and get some water into Legacy Park. Kudos to Council Member Steve Uhring, who brought it up and pushed it.