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Here’s What You Missed Last Week at LA City Council

A recap of Los Angeles City Council meetings on February 1.

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Art by Sandra Markarian for Knock LA

LA City Council Meeting 2/1/22

This meeting was pretty packed since it was the only one that the city council had all week. Lots of people would like to show up for one day of work a week, but don’t have the option. However, our City Council — who should be dealing with multiple concurrent crises — get to make up their schedule to suit their needs. 

One item with meaningful consequences centered on continuing the state of emergency declared at the beginning of the pandemic, which has been adjusted over the past two years as case numbers fluctuate. As was expected, CD 15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino called it special to talk about it. He egregiously claimed COVID-19 is no longer dangerous and whined about “mom and pop” landlords being hurt before voting no. What was interesting was that other councilmembers who spoke on the item — CD 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz and CD 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian, specifically — agreed with Buscaino that protocol needs to be modified, even while opposing lifting the order. If you look at our current COVID-19 numbers, it’s clear we are in a worse place now than when the emergency orders were first put in place.  

Several NIMBYs called in to complain about some RVs that are parked near the Ballona Wetlands, claiming that the people living in the RVs are damaging the wetlands. As usual, NIMBYs will stop at nothing to enact state violence against people they dislike. If you live in the area, you may want to do some outreach to make sure the people living in the RVs have everything they need. 

When all was said and done, Buscaino and CD 12 Councilmember John Lee voted against continuing the state of emergency. Every other councilmember voted in favor. Though certain councilmembers may feel that regular people can bear the brunt of the pandemic, all councilmembers voted to keep meeting virtually. One must wonder if they truly believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us…

The next item Buscaino wanted to discuss supported some state legislation to increase funding for mental health beds. This is something we sorely need, but the fact that council is passing the buck — instead of, say, defunding the police — shows they aren’t serious about improving mental healthcare. Buscaino is using these sorts of tactics to appear compassionate while advocating for carceral solutions to homelessness. Do we need more supportive services? Yes. Is the city council doing all they can to make those services available? Absolutely not. 

There was also some bloviating from various councilmembers about how much they hate that they can’t force people to accept mental health treatment. In response, CD 14 Councilmember Kevin de León made the point that most unhoused people are not unhoused because of mental health or drug abuse issues, but that most causes of homelessness are economic.

The next item, Item 3, might do a bit of good. It instructs the city attorney to write a ballot measure that would change the charter to specifically include the city of LA in the definition of “local” when assessing bids for contracts. As it stands now, the county and state are considered to be part of this process, but not the city. This ballot measure would allow for more local businesses to have a better shot at earning contracts from the city. This is one of those items that we need to keep an eye on, as it could allow for some corruption. But if we keep the city’s money in the city, that’s an overall positive.

Other legislative positions were discussed, the most consequential being a law that would allow anyone caught “engaging in a motor vehicle exhibition of speed, while participating in a ‘sideshow,’” to have their license suspended for 90 days to six months. We’ve got mixed feelings here. While we should be working to reduce the number of people who drive (for any reason), driving is still essential for many people — especially for them to commute to work. Imagine if your main mode of transportation was taken away from you for 90 days to six months. Street racing can be very dangerous, but having your mode of transportation taken away for a large chunk of time could push people into committing more crimes to survive. It seems like another carceral solution that sounds good in theory but may not pan out well in practice. 

One item that didn’t accomplish anything meaningful was an apology to Indigenous tribes for state violence committed against them in the past. CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell pushed this forward, and while an apology is nice, it doesn’t provide actual justice to Indigenous tribes. The atrocities done to indigenous Americans need to be reconciled, and an apology is not enough. Returning their land or paying reparations would be a good start, but O’Farrell is pretending that an apology is a good starting place.

One can only hope that in the near future, we will see more work done by the City Council.