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OPINION

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti May Be Taking His Abysmal Performance on the Road—as Ambassador to India.

After years of failed leadership that's ballooned into an all-out humanitarian crisis in Los Angeles, the Democratic mayor is rumored to be cashing out his political connections for a different gig.

Word on the street is that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may take his years of failed leadership on the road as Ambassador to India for the Biden administration. If that’s the case, it means Mayor Garcetti won’t have to answer the many questions arising from the Homeless Mecca his policies have created—such as whether  L.A., now mired in squalor and a multi-level humanitarian crisis, will be ready to host the Olympics in 2028.

[Garcetti] has very little to show for this impeccable pedigree, however.

Garcetti has been in city government for 20 years, eight of which were at the city’s helm. Prior to city government, he taught diplomacy at the University of Southern California and world affairs at Occidental College. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and studied ethnicity and nationalism at the London School of Economics. His father is former L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti. He has very little to show for this impeccable pedigree, however.

Garcetti has served as the 42nd and current mayor of Los Angeles since 2013. His policy and leadership failings remained mostly off the national stage, however, until 2019, when the story, “L.A. Ignores Piles of Trash and Rats That Could Be Causing Typhus Outbreak,” broke on local news and was picked up nationally by shows such as Tucker Carlson. Seemingly all of a sudden, a full-fledged environmental, health, humanitarian, and security crisis could be seen everywhere; more than 60,000 people were living rough—the equivalent of a mid-size town—in the second-largest city in the United States.

As a 30-year resident of the city, I’ve seen first-hand the state that many of these people live in, zombified and suffering the worst imaginable in human degradation and filth due to severe mental illness or substance abuse. Profound street squalor and unimaginable subhuman conditions are now standard for the formerly world-class city.

Skid Row, Downtown L.A.

Skid Row, Downtown L.A.

ALL OF L.A. IS NOW SKID ROW

L.A.’s Downtown Skid Row, the repository of the down and out, has existed for decades. So those living a rough existence is not a new phenomenon in the City of Angels; the scale of the situation, however, is new. Conditions in today’s Skid Row have grown so bad that, at one point, they didn’t even meet United Nations standards for long-term refugee camps of one toilet for every 20 people. A year ago, the L.A. Times reported that the rate of homelessness had jumped yet again, just as it had for five of the six years prior. There is simply no escaping the relentless, grinding reality of homelessness in the city. As an average, working-class citizen, it’s exhausting just to navigate this reality, so imagine the brutality for those living on the streets.

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the problem, Garcetti’s ‘leadership’ has proven to be a case study in policy failure.

But it’s not just the 53 square blocks of Skid Row. Head out of Downtown to the Westside via Wilshire Boulevard, and the homeless, with their tents, have taken over MacArthur Park. Alvarado Street, which intersects Wilshire, became yet another homeless-lined multi-block, mixed with a multitude of street vendors. Continue on Wilshire, to the core of L.A.’s Westside, and you’ll likely see more people in various stages of misery, many of whom are veterans. They come from around the country to the VA hospital on the Westside, where 50% of the homeless are veterans, according to a 2018 report from the Brentwood Community Council (BCC). Most suffer from serious mental illness, untreated PTSD, secondary substance abuse, and “have been homeless for a significant period of time,” the study found.

For the situation to have grown this bad, it required a high level of complacency and acceptance over a long period by residents—not to mention the abject failure of the Garcetti administration. In 2016, the Mayor’s office helped pass Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond initiative (closer to $1.9 billion, with debt service cost) to build some 10,000 low-income housing units for the homeless and people at risk of becoming homeless, and to fund facilities that provide mental health care, addiction treatment, and other services for the housing insecure. The proposition passed with 77% of the vote.

Quickly, however, it became clear that 10,000 units would fall short of meeting the need, and the cost of each unit itself was exorbitant. One report found the per-unit cost at more than $600,000, or $50,000 more than the average cost of a condo in the city. This meant even fewer units could be built, from 10,000 to 7,600. In the meantime, substance abusers, the mentally ill, and others were still unsheltered and dying. Three years after the $1.2 billion initiative had passed, not one unit of homeless housing had been built.

Voters supported HHH because they believed it would fix the problem. When it didn’t, they began to wonder if there weren’t more cost-effective and better ways to help more people. For instance, our military deploys to countries 7,000 miles away and sets up secure, temporary facilities and operations. Couldn’t we do the same here? Other aspects of HHH came into question as well— where was the outreach and support to fund mental health care, addiction treatment, and other services?

At some point after HHH passed, I attended a meeting about homelessness in my own community, Brentwood, that was organized by the BCC. The organizers wanted to know how community members felt about fundraising for two positions for outreach workers. Of course, the question from those in attendance was: Isn’t there funding for that in HHH?

No. Not a single dollar, we were told.

In an email sent out to Brentwood residents, the BCC reported that “The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is not staffed to assist our neighborhood in a consistent, meaningful way at this time, nor are regularly scheduled outreach visits to Brentwood part of the current strategic plan. We have a specific fire hazard issue in the Brentwood hillside areas and require consistent aerial and on-site surveillance to ensure there are no encampments.”

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the problem, Garcetti’s “leadership” has proven to be a case study in policy failure.

Person experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

Person experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

FORMERLY WORLD-CLASS CITY IS A CRIME ZONE

Not surprisingly, crime and deprivation have become all too common among the tens of thousands of people living unhoused in L.A. In May 2019, Spectrum News reported that from 2017 to 2018, serious crime involving at least one homeless person rose 52%. The largest increase in crimes “with a homeless suspect” was rape, up 78%. Robbery and larceny were the top crimes where a homeless person was victimized, up 89% and 86%, respectively. An ABC7 analysis of LAPD data for 2019 showed crimes against derelicts increased 24%.

This is no surprise given the growing numbers of homeless and the consistent chipping away at tools to address homeless issues—liberalization of laws, which includes California’s Proposition 47, passed in 2014. According to the National Review, Proposition 47:

[D]owngraded a variety of ‘non-serious, nonviolent crimes’ that had previously been considered felonies to misdemeanors. These include shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing bad checks. As long as the total value of the stolen property is under $950, only a ghost of an offense has occurred. A thief may now steal something under that limit on a daily basis and it will never rise to felony status.

Last year, to disincentivize homeless encampments, the city considered a proposal “to greatly restrict where homeless people may camp in public places around the city.” Liberal advocates pushed back, claiming the city was trying to “criminalize homelessness.” Many of these same advocates were responsible for the riots in Echo Park earlier this year. For months, residents demanded a clean-up around Echo Park Lake, “where nearly 200 tents and an assortment of furniture lined walkways and landscaped areas for much of last year.” Hundreds showed up to protest the clean-up, and the park remained closed for two months, during which 35.7 tons of solid waste was removed by Sanitation and Environment crews. This included “723.5 pounds of biological waste and 300 pounds of hazardous waste, which included ignitables, paint, sharp objects, and drug paraphernalia.”

As ‘mass delusion’ took full hold on Democrat mayors, Garcetti was among the first to bend the knee to the “defund the police” movement…

Less than a week later, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin proposed “that two parks, three beach parking lots and a waterfront parking lot in Marina del Rey be evaluated as possible locations for sanctioned overnight camping, tiny homes or overnight parking for people living in their vehicles, depending on the location.” Turning parks and beaches, many formerly world-class tourist destinations, into homeless encampments is the best L.A. Democrats have to offer their citizenry.

On top of all this, there has been an outright failure to apply a basic standard of care in the homeless crisis and apply involuntary commitment. A recent audit of the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which established a system for involuntary civil commitments for the mentally ill in California, found the state has not ensured that individuals with serious mental illnesses receive adequate ongoing care.

These are all liberalized policies that Garcetti and his team have established. So it came as no surprise that in 2020, as ‘mass delusion’ took full hold on Democrat mayors, Garcetti was among the first to bend the knee to the “defund the police” movement—another move to enable crime and worsen the homeless problem. The $150 million budget cut to the police approved by the L.A. City Council on July 1, 2020, came on the heels of law enforcement expecting a $120 million increase. The cut shrinks the number of police officers to its lowest level in 12 years, gutting what had been considered sacrosanct staffing levels in a city that for years suffered chronic understaffing.

Law Enforcement Today reported that the LAPD budget hit has translated to downsized or closed specialized units for homicide, gang, and air support. Not surprisingly too, the article continues, “homicides have increased to a level that has not been seen in 10 years.” Garcetti’s kowtow to a radical movement that will compromise the safety of Angelenos led LAPD detective Jamie McBride to call the mayor “clearly unstable.”

Homelessness in Long Beach.

Homelessness in Long Beach.

RAT CITY

As the homeless problem worsened, Garcetti repeatedly claimed he had “the model” to fix it. At the same time, he portrayed L.A. city government as only being the clean-up crew for the homeless. In a digital town hall, Garcetti said, “The City is kind of like, at the Rose Parade, you know those folks who are dressed up in the cowboy outfits, but they’re behind the horses? Sweeping up everything that falls out of their rear ends? That’s kind of what the city’s role is when it comes to homelessness. We aren’t necessarily feeding or producing it, but we are having to clean it up.”

[Garcetti] did end up serving as a national co-chair for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Clearly, those political connections are paying off.

One of the 2019 flashpoints that focused attention on Garcetti’s L.A. was trash and rats. That an increasing rat population would be the natural result of a very large population of substance abusers and mentally ill people living, defecating, and urinating on the streets, and leaving a trail of food and trash, should not have come as a surprise. In fact, it was a given when the city of Los Angeles had no formalized rat control program. (A study from Reform California showed that the entire state was facing a rodent explosion, with areas such as Downtown Los Angeles particularly horrible.)

With rats come diseases, including typhus, a bacterial disease spread by fleas that live on rats. In October 2018, health officials reported a typhus outbreak in L.A. County, including Skid Row and other downtown areas. Later, a city worker was infected with typhus in the outbreak. Radio host and addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky warned in several interviews during the summer of 2019 of plague and other diseases, as well, with the rat infestation.

Even with L.A. in a full-blown crisis, Garcetti still had more important things to do than fix the humanitarian, health, and environmental disaster. In 2019, as the human excrement from homeless flowed from the street sewers of L.A. into the Pacific Ocean (a very real environmental crisis), the mayor flew to Denmark for the C40 World Mayors Summit to declare a “Global Climate Emergency,” sign up for a “Global Green New Deal,” and pick up the title of “Chair” with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. Just before the European trip, Garcetti flew to Hawaii for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he gave a best practices presentation on “Homelessness and Housing: Government, Philanthropy, and the Private Sector.”

In today’s California, controlled by Borg-like Democrats, there are few penalties for failure. Garcetti does not see his city being overrun by zombies and rats as an obstacle to a run for the top slot in U.S. government. And while Garcetti ultimately didn’t throw his name in with the numerous others of equally low vision (not to mention paucity of real ideas) vying for the Democrat nomination for the Presidency in 2020, he did end up serving as a national co-chair for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Clearly, those political connections are paying off.

Those who think Garcetti may still believe he could run for President one day see the potential India appointment as a way to build his foreign relations chops. Perhaps the great model Garcetti believes (on some days) he has developed in L.A. for addressing homelessness will be his contribution to India, which also has a huge homeless population. Or perhaps his value to the Open-Borders-Biden administration is to ensure the labor pipeline of H-1Bs from India remains open. If nothing else, Garcetti should feel at home in a densely populated country struggling with massive poverty and squalor.

Written By:

Maria Fotopoulos writes about the connection between overpopulation and biodiversity loss, and from time to time, other topics that confound her. Contact her on Facebook @BetheChangeforAnimals and Twitter @TurboDog50.