The Whole World is Watching

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Dear Members and Supporters,

     Growing up, I remember it was special when Culver City was in the news. It was even exciting to see our neighborhood in the background of CHIPs or some other program. Before Culver City became “The New Chelsea,” we were the forgotten sibling of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and Hollywood. Even Pasadena and the Valley had hit musical tributes, but not us.

    That was a long time ago. Now we are the home of “America’s most talked-about restaurant” and the US base of one of the most popular and controversial social media companies, among so much more. Still, no matter how much we have gotten used to the spotlight, it has been impossible to ignore the most recent cluster of news coverage.

     The so-called “anti-camping” ordinance passed by the City Council on February 13th has been the subject of articles in the LA Times, Daily Mail, California Globe, USA Today, Knock-LA, LAist, Washington Times, and Los Angeles magazine, and coverage on NBC, ABC, KTLA, KFI, Spectrum, and Fox-LA.

     I say “so-called” because the ordinance is clear that it does not ban sleeping outdoors. Doing so would violate the 9th Circuit’s ruling in Martin v. Boise that a city cannot ban sleeping in public space unless it offers adequate housing. The ordinance attempts to circumvent this by allowing sleeping outdoors but banning temporary shelter. People are allowed to have bedding, but no tents, boxes, or other protection. It does not create any housing or services for those sleeping outdoors; it only deprives them of privacy and protection from the weather. Council Member Dan O’Brien made clear to several of the sources above, including LAist and the LA Times, that the purpose of the ordinance is to deter unhoused people from coming here. It does this by making sleeping on the streets as uncomfortable and unsafe as legally allowed. If the Council majority thought the 9th Circuit would have allowed them to ban sleeping bags and blankets they would have done that too.

     When he became Mayor last December 12, Albert Vera Jr. described the love and pride he felt for Culver City as his qualifications and agenda. However, these feelings do not encompass Culver City’s healthcare workers, since he immediately presided over the repeal of an increase in their wages, or those who live in the city but cannot afford to buy or rent housing. The Culver City he loves consists only of the city’s business owners and traditional property-based ruling class. Two and a half months into his term, Culver City has become internationally known as a villain. The first act of his administration was to take back a raise for healthcare workers two weeks before Christmas. The next week, on Homeless Memorial Day, he presided over a special meeting to expedite the process of making life on the street as harsh as possible. He has brought shame on Culver City.

     In contrast, this Club makes me proud. As individuals and as a group, we have done our best to oppose these policies and to make clear that they do not represent the Culver City we love. The blame rests on Council Members Vera, O’Brien, and Eriksson and their supporters. 

     This Club did not endorse any of those three men. We voted to endorse current Council Member Freddy Puza and Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin, who have been unstinting in their opposition to this barbarity, and endorsed Alex Fisch along with Freddy Puza in last year’s election. These endorsement votes were not close. They needed 60% of the votes, not simply a majority, and Puza, Fisch, and McMorrin all exceeded that on the first ballot, no runoffs were required.

     These policies would not have been agendized, much less passed, had Fisch won. Electing O’Brien in Fisch’s place required over $600,000 in PAC money from landlord/developer Michael Hackman alone, plus unprecedented sums from other sources, which was spent on the most expensive and dishonest campaign in our city’s history.

     As soon as the text of the so-called “anti-camping” ordinance was announced, this Club joined Council Member Puza and Vice Mayor McMorrin in opposition, voting unanimously at our January meeting to stand with them. You have shown the world that Vera, O’Brien, and Eriksson do not speak for us.

     Continuing this resistance requires ongoing support. If you haven’t renewed your membership, it’s never too late, and there’s still time to get tickets for our Brave New Films screening on the 4th. You can also get a t-shirt, or simply donate cash.

     Thank you for your dedication to this Club, and to a better Culver City.