Flailing to do damage control after a damning video, Mike Bonin lashes out at his own constituents

His actions this week raise the question: Does he even want this job?

The result of “homeless outreach,” Mike Bonin-style. Photograph by Demetrios Mavromichalis.

On Tuesday evening some 30 people, including the editor of this blog, witnessed Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin approach a homeless man who had started a small fire on the corner of Centinela Avenue and Culver Boulevard. The encounter occurred during the councilman’s walking tour of planned changes to Centinela. He stood a couple of feet away and watched silently as the man poured accelerant onto the fire and even stuck his own hand in the flames. After less than thirty seconds Mr. Bonin turned around and walked away without doing anything. He even yelled at a staffer who’d stayed behind out of concern, telling him to get away.

None of these facts are in dispute. The entire encounter was caught on multiple cameras and scores of people have since told their version of the story, all of which have been consistent down to the details. The videos simply capture the scene, nothing more and nothing less. They justifiably went viral. Local radio stations and media picked up the newsworthy story. As of today the videos have been viewed some 20,000 times.

LOS ANGELES, CA (10/15/19) Councilman Mike Bonin watches a homeless man endanger himself and the community before walking away. Photograph by Christopher LeGras.

Mr. Bonin had several options in response. He could have taken accountability and acknowledged that he made a mistake, an error in judgment. He could have used the encounter as a learning experience and affirmed that situations like the one on Tuesday are unacceptable in any society, much less on the streets of the richest city in the richest state in the richest country in human history. He could have admitted the myriad shortcomings and failings of his and the City of Los Angeles’s homeless policies to date and promised to be open to creative new solutions. In the process, he could have turned the situation into a political advantage and perhaps won over some skeptics by finally taking a degree of accountability.

It comes as a surprise to few in his district that he did none of those things. Instead, after three full days of silence on the situation he went into full spin mode. He dispatched a staffer to give a quote to a friendly local publication in which he attacked the messengers as “right wing trolls” engaged in a “smear attack.” In the process, he smeared his own constituents for the sin of caring about the trajectory of their neighborhood, community, and city. In deflecting responsibility he turned on the very people he – allegedly – represents. It was a truly pathetic display.

Perhaps the worst part is that five days later Mr. Bonin himself hasn’t had the courage said a word. Instead he’s hidden behind friendly publications and staffers.

Dissecting Mr. Bonin’s dissembling

Here is Mr. Bonin’s spokeman’s statement:

“After the Councilmember became aware that a group of people were filming, mocking and making a spectacle of the obviously unwell man as the Councilmember attempted to speak with him, the Councilmember thought it best to de-escalate the situation and ask his staff to reach out to professionals immediately. Councilmember Bonin’s team connected with LAPD and service providers, who responded to the scene immediately and engaged the man shortly after the Councilmember’s first contact, ensuring the fire was extinguished and no threat to neighbors. Outreach professionals were able to connect with the man and he is already in the process of getting off the street.”

Every single sentence, virtually every single word, is a demonstrable lie.

Lie #1. “After the Councilmember became aware that a group of people were filming, mocking and making a spectacle of the obviously unwell man….” Not a single person mocked nor made a spectacle of the homeless man. People most assuredly mocked and made a spectacle of Mr. Bonin and his shameful response, which under the circumstances was completely justified.

Lie #2. “…as the Councilmember attempted to speak with him….” As the videos show, Mr. Bonin made no effort to speak with the homeless man. He stood silently and watched. Moreover, we have since learned that the homeless man speaks little to no English, so it’s difficult to imagine how the councilman could have communicated with him at all.

Lie #3. “…the Councilmember thought it best to de-escalate the situation….” The situation was not “escalating” in any sense of the word. People only started calling out to Mr. Bonin after he walked away, asking him what he was doing and if he thought it was acceptable for a homeless man to be playing with fire. If anything, Mr. Bonin’s failure to act amplified the situation.

Lie #4. “…and ask his staff to reach out to professionals immediately. Councilmember Bonin’s team connected with LAPD and service providers, who responded to the scene immediately and engaged the man shortly after the Councilmember’s first contact, ensuring the fire was extinguished and no threat to neighbors. Outreach professionals were able to connect with the man and he is already in the process of getting off the street.” This entire statement is false. At the scene Mr. Bonin appeared to yell at a staffer to get away from the homeless man, and he and his team walked away. Moreover, numerous residents visited the scene later that evening and the following day, and the man was still there along with his belongings. A full 24 hours later a resident found him and took a picture of him wielding an enormous hunting knife, Rambo-style.

Indeed, as that resident, Demetrios Mavromichalis, reported on news radio, it wasn’t until he himself went to a nearby police station that the man was finally arrested and taken into custody. There was no evidence – zero – of Mr. Bonin’s claimed outreach, much less of the man “in the process of getting off the street.”

If Mr. Bonin had done the right thing he could have scored a PR victory

Mr. Bonin’s constituents are asking many questions this week, one of which is, “Doesn’t the councilman realize that he could have come out of this situation with a moral and political win?” He could have suspended the Centinela “walk tour” and handled the situation at hand. In the process he would have demonstrated empathy both for the homeless man and the countless residents his behavior threatens. He could have shown leadership and reassured people that he really is the man for the task. Even after walking away, he could have highlighted the encounter on his web page and social media and made a priority of getting the man the help he obviously, desperately needs.

Instead, he went silent for three days until the videos, news, comments, and shares finally overwhelmed him. Then, at 6pm on Thursday evening, his Deputy Chief of Staff attempted damage control. On the councilman’s Facebook page he launched a fusillade against the councilman’s own constituents, accusing them of “exploiting” the situation and “mocking” the homeless man. It was as transparent as it was abhorrent, suggesting that people were berating an obviously distressed individual.

Which raises the question: Project much, Mr. Bonin? YOU are the one who showed a callous disregard for one of the most vulnerable members of our community. All the spin and dissembling won’t change that. The failure of your leadership was on full display this week, and you’re not going to lie your way out of it.

You were elected by barely 14% of the voting-age residents in your district (31,865 out of an adult population of 272,000). You have nothing approaching a mandate, yet you have conducted yourself like the West Side’s own carpetbagging tin pot dictator. The people who took the video, the people who have viewed, shared, and commented on it, are part of the 86% who didn’t vote for you. They are the ones you viciously slandered and attacked. It’s enough to make people wonder whether you really even want this job.

Enjoy the rest of your term while it lasts, Mr. Bonin. L.A. cannot get rid of you fast enough. The vast majority of your constituents, upon whom you have declared open war, will see to it.

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L.A. Meltdown: Watch Councilman Mike Bonin turn his back on a mentally disturbed homeless man playing with fire (video below)

Bonin’s shameful lack of leadership was on full display last night on the streets of CD11

What was billed as a walking tour of Councilman Mike Bonin’s latest planned road diet on Centinela Avenue took a bizarre and ultimately tragic turn as the group encountered a homeless man playing with fire. The man sat amidst dead grass and his own (flammable) belongings a few yards from the Culver Boulevard bike path. He started by lighting what appeared to be a ceremonial flame. Yet as the Councilman approached he poured accelerant on the fire, causing it to flare up. Mr. Bonin stood awkwardly at the scene for about 20 seconds before turning his back on the man and walking away without saying a word. He summoned his staffers to the other side of the corner to continue the tour, as the homeless man kept playing with the fire.

Mike Bonin turning his back on a mentally disturbed, inebriated homeless man.

Mr. Bonin could have shown leadership or empathy. He could have attempted to engage the man. For that matter he could have showed basic human decency. Instead, he couldn’t even be bothered to pull out his own phone and call one of the dozen city agencies that could have helped. He didn’t call 911, or walk over to the police station literally across the street. He did nothing.

Click below for a video of the encounter. Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

Mr. Bonin – who once was homeless himself – claims that the issue is paramount to his council tenure. He has boasted, “I made a promise to voters that I would not be a seat warmer or an empty suit — that I would actually tackle the real chronic problems in Los Angeles, and delve into them even if they were going to be tough ones that people generally shy away from because they’re difficult.”

Big words, yet when presented with a chance to help an actual homeless person in obvious distress on the streets of his own district, he was the one who shied away. He literally turned his back on one of the most vulnerable members of society, who was endangering himself and countless others. Then he went on to preen in front of a friendly audience in a safe auditorium a couple blocks away. It’s difficult to imagine an emptier suit.

This is the kind of man Mike Bonin is. It is the kind of person who represents Los Angeles these days. Let that sink in for a long, long minute.

To call Mr. Bonin’s actions disgraceful doesn’t begin to cover it. To call them shameful is an understatement of Titanic proportions.

It’s hard to tell which was more callous: Mr. Bonin’s disregard for a homeless individual in obvious distress, or his disregard for the threat to public safety. Mr. Bonin’s cowardice not only endangered the man himself, it endangered the entire neighborhood. According to a July investigation by KNBC at least 2,300 fires in the City of Los Angeles were attributable to homeless activity in 2018. Of course, those were just the ones that were recorded. As previously reported in these pages, the vast majority of homeless fires are put out by the homeless themselves. If there were 2,300 reported the actual number likely was several times as many.

Homeless fires in L.A. in 2018. Image courtesty of KNBC.

Who is to say the man on the median didn’t start fires elsewhere last night, or any night? Who can say he isn’t a disturbed firebug who does this all the time? Mr. Bonin certainly can’t say as much. Not that he cares: The homeless man, clearly in desperate need of help, submerged his hand in the flames multiple times (watch the video). And Mr. Bonin walked away. He walked away and summoned his staff to follow. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Again, this is an elected official whose own brushes with homelessness he says makes him particularly sensitive to the issue. Who has said that he has “a sense of how easy it is to go from being housed to un-housed, and a sense of how easy it is to go from sort of teetering on the edge to falling into the abyss.”

Yet when confronted with someone who has plummeted into that very abyss, he walked away with his staff. When given a chance to intervene, intercede, do something, he turned his back in less than thirty seconds. He turned his back on the homeless man, and turned his back on us.

This is an elected official who has previously said, “I can’t accept the idea that there is an inextricable link between crime and homelessness. It is wrong, it is not backed up by the data, and it leads to bad policy.” Apparently arson no longer counts as a crime in CD11, even in the height of fire season.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Mr. Bonin’s district at the same time:

All in all it was just another evening in Mike Bonin’s paradise.

(10/17/19 Update: The man was still on the street three days later, this time wielding an enormous hunting knife.)

Photograph by Demetrios Mavromichalis.

PG&E power outages latest example of Californians being punished for officials’ failures

It’s becoming depressingly familiar in California: As the foundations of civil society continue to crack and fragment in the Golden State, average citizens are paying the price for official ineptitude.

Whether it’s the millions of people endangered everyday by the consequences of the state’s homeless crisis, the third of the state’s residents at risk of drinking contaminated tap water, or the more than half buckling under the state’s out-of-control living costs, we are all paying the price for our officials’ catastrophic incompetence. We’ve seen dams collapse, foringe the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. We’re told that some 30,000 bridges and overpasses in the state are not up to seismic regulations. And we’re experiencing outbreaks of infectious diseases that were eradicated more than a century ago.

The most progressive state in the country is regressing rapidly toward nineteenth century living conditions.

Scratch that: On our current trajectory the nineteenth century would be an improvement. We’re going positively medieval.

This week brought news of rolling blackouts that will deprive millions Californians in the northern third of the state of the foundational element of modern civilization, electricity. PG&E is cutting service to as many as 800,000 to a million customers, as high winds and dry conditions raise fire dangers.

In an astonishing display of temerity a company spokesperson said the shutdowns are necessary “to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire.” After a decade of wildfires that burned millions of acres, cost hundreds of lives, and resulted in tens of billions of dollars in damage PG&E is telling the state they’ve found religion when it comes to public safety. And their solution is to shut us down. This is the same PG&E, mind you, that has lobbied relentlessly against any efforts by legislators to force the company to act like a decent corporate citizen.

PG&E is calling the outages “Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” or PSPS’s. Yet here’s a little gem hidden in the PG&E blog: “customers not impacted by the PSPS may experience power outages due to PG&E equipment damaged during this major wind event.”

Translation: “Because our equipment is unreliable, because we’ve neglected essential brush clearance for more than a decade, and because we’ve spent decades ignoring even basic public safety in our relentless greed, we’re going to inconvenience and endanger a million of you. Oh, and there’s still a risk that wind will damage our unreliable equipment and start fires anyway. Good luck everyone!”

Adding insult to injury, the company’s website temporarily crashed yesterday, leaving people with no way to access outage information to plan in case their community was on the hit list.

PG&E to Californians: Drop dead.

Adding even more insult, the company’s website and social media are full of advice for those who will be affected. The company is urging people to stock up on ice, food, water, and other supplies. No word how low income people or those on fixed incomes are supposed to pay for these sudden and unexpected necessities. No word how thousands of businesses will be expected to absorb the financial fallout of shutting their doors for days. No advice for elderly people who depend on electric medical equipment. Maybe they expect Gramps to dash over to Home Depot and purchase a generator.

Recall that this is the the same company that bilked ratepayers out of millions during the Enron scandal. The company whose senior executives received gold parachutes worth millions. The company whose senior management enjoyed a revolving door with the administration of former Governor Jerry Brown.

It’s all part of the slow decline and fall of a once great state. Unless and until citizens make their voices heard, we can expect more of the same.

Videos and pictures show how dangerous and deadly many “road diets” are

The “road diet” on Foothill Boulevard in Sunland-Tujunga, CA severely exacerbated gridlock as people fled the 2017 La Tuna fire.

One of the central arguments officials and advocates proffer in favor of “road diets” and other traffic calming measures is that they improve safety. Unfortunately, in too many places nationwide the reality is the opposite of the rhetoric. Over the past several months people around the country have documented the impacts of these projects in their communities, particularly when it comes to emergency response times. Moreover, traffic calming measures often increase rather than decrease accidents, injuries, and fatalities. For example, after three years of road diets and other projects under Vision Zero in Los Angeles, pedestrian fatalities have almost doubled.

The trend in L.A. isn’t good.

As we’ve noted previously, in November 2018 “road diets” in Paradise, CA contributed to gridlock during evacuations from the Camp Fire, the largest in California history. Demonstrating just how far the anti-car ideology has gone in the Golden State, the Butte County Association of Governments (BCAG) brazenly ignored a 2008 Butte County Grand Jury report recommending that roads in Paradise be widened and otherwise improved for evacuations during wildfires. The pictures speak for themselves (notations ours):


Tragically, the steps BCAG took to reduce road capacity contributed to mass gridlock as people fled the Camp Fire in November, 2018. That conflagration was the biggest in California history, destroying some 15,000 structures and leaving at least 88 people dead. Numerous interviews with survivors in the immediate aftermath (we joined the first evacuees to be allowed back into the fire zone on November 22) confirm that the narrowed roads made it harder for people to flee. As one resident put it, “Even before the fire we wondered what the hell they were thinking.”

The main picture above was taken during the fire, and it shows cars struggling to pull right as fire engines race toward the flames. There can be no more definitive evidence that traffic calming, when done without due regard for public safety, not only impedes evacuations but also the ability of first responders to reach the scene. It’s a lose-lose.

Frighteningly, counties throughout California are reducing lane capacity by installing traffic calming devices and “road diets” in fire evacuation zones. For example, the Shasta Living Streets initiative calls for lane reductions on roads that served as major evacuation routes during the 2017 Carr Fire. Sonoma County is narrowing roads used during the 2018 Tubbs Fire. Oakland has installed numerous road diets on streets that are actually officially designated emergency routes, many of which served as critical lifelines during the deadly 1991 firestorms. Captain Henry Holt of the Oakland Fire Department says, “I found out about a road diet in front of my station when I arrived for a shift one morning.”

On a more quotidian but no less distressing note, residents in Mar Vista, CA and Queens, NY have captured dozens of pictures and images of fire engines, ambulances, and police cars slowed by road diets on Venice Boulevard and Skillman Avenue, respectively. Both projects have been the focus of intense community opposition. Again, the videos speak for themselves.

Off the record we have spoken to dozens of first responders nationwide. Almost without exception they express frustration and disgust with these politically motivated projects. Example after example, study after study after study confirms that traffic calming devices increase emergency response times with deadly results.

When will officials and advocates wake up and realize they’re threatening lives every day?

A fire engine and ambulance stuck on the Venice Boulevard road diet in Mar Vista, CA
A police car slowed by the Venice Boulevard road diet in Mar Vista, CA (note the bicyclist on the sidewalk)
A fire engine stuck on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens, NY
A fire engine crashes into parked cars on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens, NY
A fire engine stuck on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens, NY
A fire engine stuck on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens, NY
A police car slowed by the Venice Boulevard road diet in Mar Vista, CA
An ambulance stuck on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens, NY
A fire engine slowed by the Venice Boulevard road diet in Mar Vista, CA
A fire truck and ambulance slowed by the Venice Boulevard road diet in Mar Vista, CA
An ambulance stuck on the Skillman Avenue road diet in Queens, NY
A fire engine and ladder stuck on the Venice Boulevard road diet in Mar Vista, CA

Green is the new Red

Relics of the past?

There’s a remarkable essay in a recent issue of the Socialist Forum, a publication of the Democratic Socialists of America. “Socialism Against Sprawl” is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the new crop of radicals and the ideas they have for the country. Considering that Bernie Sanders a top Democrat presidential hopeful, and given that the Democratic Socialists elected some 40 national, state, and local candidates in 2018, including overnight political celebrities like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Talib, for better or worse they’re a political force. Their ideas warrant critical evaluation, and the Socialist Forum is a small but growing outlet that offers a window into their ideological agenda. It is a largely fact free environment.

A defining aspect of the Democratic Socialists’ message is their claim that, to paraphrase the late George H.W. Bush, they’re a kinder, gentler breed of socialists. The realities of proposals like the “Green New Deal” are shaded, cloaked in anodyne euphemisms and linked to climate change as if they are the only possible means of arresting a coming global cataclysm. They assure Americans that they envision a benevolent, Scandinavian style communitarianism (an audacious assertion considering that actual Scandinavians are all over the record disavowing socialism, including former Danish and Swedish Prime Ministers).

Never mind that one of the Democratic Socialists’ most influential outlets is Jacobin Magazine, approvingly named for the 19th century French political party that guillotined as many as 40,000 ideological opponents during the Reign of Terror. But not to worry: Bernie Sanders has said, “To me, when I talk about democratic socialism, what I talk about are human rights and economic rights.” In the New York Times Jamelle Bouie recently assured us that “there’s not much fear to monger.” Some, apparently, but not much. Over at Vox, Dylan Matthews intones that what we’re talking about is “social democracy” that will achieve its ends through small-d democratic processes as opposed to revolutionary means. And here’s a piece from jalopnik.com entitled “No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t Coming to Take Your Cars Away,” in which the writer eloquently concludes, “All the hysterics are, in case it’s not obvious, bulls***” (That last headline at least is accurate insofar as the Congresswoman isn’t going to show up personally in your driveway with a tow truck. She’s too busy zipping around in labor exploiting Ubers, ozone depleting airplanes, and gas guzzling SUVs).

On the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) website, the party states that “At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end,” and that “we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.” Yet on the very same website “Socialism Against Sprawl” speaks approvingly of government seizure of private property: “The expropriation of all land in the suburbs…will facilitate a shift in population distribution from suburban and rural areas into urbanized places.”

It would be interesting to hear Bernie Sanders or AOC explain how forced expropriation of tens of millions of homes in suburbs across America is a democratic means of letting people make their own economic decisions.

It gets worse:

  • “If many more people are to fit into an urban environment, the city must densify–that is, reduce the acreage allocated to each person who lives there.”
  • “Urbanization will also force residents to transition away from the private lawns of suburbia and toward shared public green spaces.”
  • “Urban communities can encourage widespread use of mass transit while practically eliminating use of the private automobile.”

“Seizure.” “Expropriation.” “Force.” “Elimination.” None of it sounds very democratic, but it is awfully socialistic. Green New Deal pogroms – excuse us, programs – will “remind all residents of a city at every turn that they are part of a society, and that their individual lives cannot be divorced from those of their neighbors.” Big Brother will be watching and reminding us of our proper places and roles. Only instead of Little Red Books the vanguard will be brandishing copies of the Green New Deal. Green is the new Red.

The Little Green Book

Finally the essay reaches the endgame: ““[C]ities can develop an urban environment where residents of a neighborhood are able to live a full and enriching life without ever traveling more than a few blocks from home” (emphasis ours).

Re-read that sentence, then re-read it again. Burn it into your memory, because the truth is that “democratic socialism,” like every other manifestation of history’s most destructive and murderous ideology, ultimately is about control. Period. End of discussion. Even the Bolsheviks started life as superficially benign democratic socialists promising to free the benighted urban industrial proletariat (a tiny proportion of Russian workers at the time) from the shackles of capitalism. The only fluidity in socialism is the nomenclature; its goals have never changed

The essay quotes a 1973 missive in which New Left theorist Andre Gorz asserted that “an ideological (‘cultural’) revolution would be needed to break this circle [of dependence on automobiles].” Chillingly, he wrote those words as the actual Great Cultural Revolution was claiming lives, careers, and families by the million

But what about cars? “Socialism Against Sprawl” spells it out in black and white (or rather, bright red): “Reducing or totally eliminating private car ownership is a critical step towards combating climate change. If private cars stick around at all, they’ll only work as a mode of transportation if their use is strictly limited.” (emphasis ours)

So, yes, the socialists are coming for your car. And your house. And your front lawn. And your barbecue. “Socialism Against Sprawl” is one of the few honest missives outlining where the brave new Left wants to take this country. The problem is, besides mega developers and the activists and politicians who serve as their useful idiots few Americans want to swap their Subarus for Schwinns or their front lawns for communal green spaces maintained by corrupt local governments. Home ownership remains the heart of the American Dream. And a car is one of the first major purchases most people make when they have a few dollars. It’s human nature: The urge to wander and the desire to have a place of one’s own are elemental.

And of course, as with virtually every Leftist ideology the hardest hit will be the lower classes, working poor, and immigrants. Consider that for millions of immigrants a secondhand car or truck, while expensive, is their central economic lifeline. That’s true of lower income people generally. According to a 2010 paper in the journal Urban Geography, “studies of mostly welfare populations have suggested that while public transportation is not unimportant, the automobile is a critical factor in moving from welfare to work.” (emphasis ours).

As we have previously written in these pages, a 2018 UCLA study commissioned by the Southern California Association of Governments – one of the leading governmental boosters of density, transit, bike lanes, and the rest – notes that over the last 15 years in Southern California “vehicle ownership has grown particularly sharply among subgroups most likely to use transit, such as the low-income and the foreign born from Latin America.” Moreover, “With very few exceptions, acquiring an automobile in Southern California makes life easier along multiple dimensions, dramatically increasing access to jobs, educational institutions and other opportunities” (emphasis ours).

To you and me, an old Chevy. To a recent immigrant from Mexico, opportunity.

Indeed, even the Utopians tacitly acknowledge these realities, which is why states like California issue driver licenses to illegal immigrants and soften requirements such as registration fees for low income people. When it comes to economic mobility and opportunity the individual automobile remains unsurpassed.

“Socialism Against Sprawl” isn’t idle theorizing. Policymakers in cities and states around the country already are doing everything they can to force people out of their cars and ratchet up the burden of private property ownership. California is proposing a 70% tax on estates worth more than $3.5 million ($7 million for couples). Anyone who lives in L.A. or the Bay Area can attest that a $3.5 million estate, including the value of a home, hardly establishes you as rich. The real goal is to make inheritance of real property as burdensome and expensive as possible for the middle class. New York’s 2019-20 annual budget includes “congestion pricing” in Manhattan, tolls charged to drivers to enter certain parts of the borough. Progressives hail the idea as a mechanism for reducing driving and hastening the arrival their car-free Utopia. Again, it’s middle class commuters who’ll be hardest hit. These are just two of hundreds of examples.

The question, then, is what happens if policies like estate taxes, congestion pricing, Vision Zero, and all the rest fail to convince Americans to radically change their way of life? What if people just really, really like their cars, to the point that no amount of gridlock is going to pry them out? What if millions of Americans continue to dream of owning their own home one day, with a front lawn, a backyard, and a barbecue? What if we’re willing to shoulder all the cost, inconvenience, and uncertainty that government can throw at us just for the chance to enjoy a glass of wine on the back porch after work?

History does not suggest pretty answers. The fatal flaw in socialism is that it requires everyone to agree. Which is why Bernie is nothing but a Bolshevik reboot and Occasio-Cortez is just a wannabe Castro with better fashion sense. Like every other attempt in history, “democratic socialism” is just another way of saying social engineering.

L.A.’s political class isn’t serious about solving the homeless crisis. Cost of “bridge housing” proves it.

The official rendering of the planned bridge housing site in Venice Beach.

How much does a bed cost? In Los Angeles, it’s more than $50,000. despite a a lawsuit brought by residents of Venice Beach, the city intends to start construction of a so-called “bridge housing” facility located at a former Metro bus yard at 100 Sunset Avenue. The facility, which when finished will provide beds and some services to 100 adults and 54 children, costs $8,000,000, which works out to $51,948 per person. That’s in addition to the annual cost of maintaining and operating the facility.

The per bed cost is consistent in bridge facilities citywide. The Schraeder shelter in Hollywood cost $3.3 million to construct and has 72 beds, or $45,833 per bed. The first bridge housing facility to open, in downtown L.A.’s historic El Pueblo district, contains 45 beds and cost $2.4 million, which works out to $53,333 per bed. And a recently-opened bridge housing facility for 100 homeless veterans on the West Side cost $5 million, or $50,000 per bed. What’s more, that facility is temporary and consists of two “tension membrane structures” as well as modular trailers. Translation: Los Angeles spent $5 million on two tents and some campers.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) recently released the results of the 2019 homeless count. To the surprise of no one besides Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council (who were shocked, shocked!) the number of homeless people in the city increased over last year, by 16%. Officially that means there are nearly 36,300 homeless in the city, though the actual number is much higher. If studies from organizations like the Economic Roundtable are accurate, the number of people experiencing homelessness – and therefore needing a bed – over the course of a year in Los Angeles is closer to 100,000 (even that number may be low; according to a 2014 report from the American Institutes for Research, that year as many as 130,000 children may have experienced homelessness in L.A.).

Even accepting the official number, existing bridge housing projects reveal how utterly unserious L.A.’s political class is about solving the homeless crisis. Assume the average cost per bed is $50,000. To provide $50,000 beds for 36,300 people would cost more than $1.8 billion. And if the Economic Roundtable is correct it would cost $5 billion to provide beds to everyone who will experience homelessness for any amount of time in L.A.

This is what $100,000 buys in Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles.

Bridge housing by definition provides temporary shelter for people awaiting permanent supportive housing, meaning that $1.8 (or $5) billion would fund only an interim solution. Which is bad enough. But where you really see the rub is in the city’s approach to permanent housing for the homeless. Contrary to politicians’ promises during the campaigns for Measure H and HHH, the city is spending between $400,000 and $500,000 per unit of permanent supportive housing. To provide housing to 36,300 people at an average of $450,000 per unit would cost $16.5 billion.

Construction costs are only the beginning of the tally. While annual operating costs are difficult to come by – perhaps by design – the L.A. Daily News reported in 2016 that permanent supportive housing costs $22,000 per resident annually, meaning that annual costs to support 36,300 people would be $800 million. Once again that number may be on the low side: Last month L.A. Downtown News reported that the cost of LAPD patrols at the El Pueblo facility run to $96,171 per month, or more than $1.15 million annually, in addition to annual operating costs of $1.3 million. And that’s just one, small facility with 43 temporary beds. That works out to $56,976 per bed per year. Annual operating costs at the Schraeder shelter are $4.7 million, or $65,277 per bed. For perspective, that’s nearly two and a half times the average annual rent in the City of Los Angeles. It works out to $5,440 per month. That’s how much it costs to rent a 1,500 square foot, two bedroom new construction apartment four blocks from the beach in Venice.

In L.A., $5,400 a month gets you either this….
…or this.

These aren’t real numbers. Only in the bureaucracy-addled imaginations of politicians do they even begin to make sense. To be sure, bridge facilities offer general services for the homeless, not just to the people staying there. Nevertheless, the construction and operating costs are eye-watering. Yet no one seems to be asking where the money is going to come from.

Not every one of the city’s homeless people will need permanent supportive housing. But given that the city’s official count is a massive underestimate it’s reasonable to use 36,300 as a working number. If the real number is closer to 100,000 it’s fair to assume that a third will need some form of permanent support in perpetuity. Indeed, according to the Economic Roundtable’s report, of the 100,000 people estimated to experience homelessness in L.A. in a given year, a third will remain homeless for a year or more, meaning they likely will need a permanent solution.

Like so much of life in Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles, the more the city spends on homelessness the worse the problem gets. Two and a half years after voters did their part by overwhelmingly approving Measure HHH, not a single unit of supportive housing has opened. The first are expected in December, which will be more than three years since the vote.

Then again, perhaps we should have read Measure HHH more carefully: It promises to deliver 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing over the next ten years, for $1.8 billion. A thousand units a year won’t even staunch the bleeding. 10,000 units is enough housing for less than a third of the city’s current chronic and hardcore homeless population (the real number, not the city’s fanciful official one) over a decade. Apparently we’ll get to the other two thirds at some later date.

The numbers aren’t real. The money isn’t real. The time frame is utterly unrealistic. And all the while tens of thousands of people languish in post-apocalyptic conditions, with more joining them every single day. Thanks to Eric Garcetti and the feckless, corrupt city council this is life in the wealthiest city in wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation in human history.

What kind of a sanctuary is this?

By organizing a homeless camp clean-up, a Virginia activist accomplished for free in one day what L.A. hasn’t been able to do with billions and years

(VAN NUYS, CA) – September 21, 2019. Dozens of volunteers spent Saturday cleaning trash from a homeless camp. Photograph by Christopher LeGras.

The stench of the homeless camp hits you from blocks away. It’s an indescribable combination of decay, decomposition, detritus, and death, the kind of odor you would associate with a third world slum or a World War I battlefield. It invades your nostrils even through a protective mask. After a few minutes you’re wearing it on your clothes, your shoes, your skin. It stays with you long after you leave.

Yet as suffocating as it is the stench doesn’t prepare you for what you see inside the camp itself. Even for Angelenos, who have become tragically accustomed to such scenes, the encampment on Oxford Street in Van Nuys shocks the conscious. For a hundred feet the garbage is piled shoulder high. Every step is hazardous: Rats and mice scurry in all directions, shards of glass litter the ground, and broken meth pipes are common. There are decomposing rodent carcasses amid piles of dog, rat, and human excrement. Walking through the camp one tries not to consider how many infectious diseases may be present. This is the place some 50 people call home.

Despite the hazards, dozens of volunteers from all over Los Angeles converged on the camp on Saturday to clear away thousands of pounds of garbage. Starting at 7a.m. they put themselves in harm’s way to accomplish a task the City and County of Los Angeles seem incapable of doing: They cleaned up a homeless camp. In the process they helped the neighborhood, local businesses, and the camp’s inhabitants themselves, some of whom joined the effort. By early afternoon the place was unrecognizable. The clean-up’s organizer, Scott Presler, said they had hauled away 50 tons of garbage.

(VAN NUYS, CA) September 21, 2019. By the end of the day the camp was unrecognizable. Photograph by Christopher LeGras.

Walking through the thrum of activity, one cannot help but ask why the Garcetti administration and City Council cannot accomplish the same feat, given the billions of dollars they’ve spent over the last five years. How is it that untrained citizens, armed with nothing but shovels and moxy, can do more to help our city than the people supposedly in charge of it? Why hasn’t anyone in city or county government hit upon the idea of organizing mass volunteer clean-ups like the one a private citizen put together from three thousand miles away?

The volunteers came from all over the southland and reflected the region’s diverse character. There seemed to be a little bit of everyone. One man said he’d taken the bus to the camp, while a woman rolled up in brand-new Mercedes. Teenagers worked alongside members of a church group in their 70s. One woman said that she and her boyfriend had left their Orange County home at 5a.m. so they could arrive in time to join the first wave. One camp resident walked back and forth between the far end of the camp and the dumpster, hauling two shopping carts’ worth of refuse at a time with dogged determination.

(VAN NUYS, CA) September 21, 2019. Residents of the homeless encampment joined in the clean-up. This man spent hours hauling shopping carts full of refuse to the dumpster. Photograph by Christopher LeGras.

In the face of the overwhelming human misery confronting them the volunteers displayed a hearty esprit de corps as they donned hazmat suits and masks and waded into the mire. At one point a woman screamed and jumped as a rat tried to run up the leg of her suit. Her scream turned to laughter as her fellow volunteers good-naturedly mimicked her motions. They briefly seemed to be dancing.

The generosity on display was overwhelming. People brought pizzas and donuts, boxes of bottled water and juices. The hazmat suits, masks, and shoe covers were donated. Javier Perez, owner of Perez Disposal in Granada Hills, provided a large roll-off container along with a hauling truck and a Bobcat mini tractor. By noon he said that his crew already had hauled the container to a nearby landfill twice, both times filled to the top with 30 cubic yards of trash. When asked how much the day was costing his business Mr. Perez shrugged and replied, “About $3,000. But who cares? It’s the right thing to do.”

A camp resident named Robert, who described himself as the camp’s “sentry, city councilman, and mediator,” said the day was the happiest since he arrived five months ago. “Living like this,” he says, pointing to his tent where his girlfriend was cleaning up, “I get so tired. So tired. But today gives me hope. I mean, look at these folks. They don’t have to be here. They don’t have to spend a Saturday away from their families to help us out. But here they are. God bless them.” As he talked a spider crawled across his face and around his right ear. He didn’t even notice.

Clean-up organizer is a controversial figure

It may surprise Angelenos to learn that the clean-up’s organizer isn’t from L.A. He isn’t even from California. Mr. Presler is a Washington D.C. native who lives in northern Virginia. Even more surprising (to Angelenos) is that Mr. Presler, who is gay, is an avid Trump supporter and conservative activist. When he’s not organizing homeless cleanups he’s sponsoring and leading voter registration drives around the country. Yet using only with Twitter and Facebook he was able to accomplish more in a few hours than the Garcetti administration accomplishes in a year. He says that over the last few months he’s organized two clean-ups in Baltimore, as well as in Virginia Beach and Newark. He has one planned in Philadelphia in two weeks. He said that he was drawn to the Van Nuys camp in particular after hearing that there are a number of veterans among the inhabitants. Both his father and grandfather are retired Navy officers.

(VAN NUYS, CA) September 21, 2019. Conservative activist and clean-up organizer Scott Presler. Photograph by Christopher LeGras.

Mr. Presler has received negative coverage because of his politics. After his first Baltimore clean-up in early August, the Baltimore Sun ran an op-ed suggesting the event was a political publicity stunt designed to embarrass U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. The paper dismissed the clean-up as, “not really that remarkable of a concept,” and huffed that, “Mr. Presler’s presence in Baltimore reinforces the tired image of our failing urban cores.” Angelenos (and probably more than a few Baltimoreans) might respond that, well, yes, it does. Because that image is accurate.

Mr. Presler previously worked with a group called ACT for America, which the Anti-Defamation League has called the largest anti-Muslim group in the country. In past interviews Mr. Presler said that as a gay man he was motivated to address Islamic extremism after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida (the killer had sworn allegiance to ISIS and targeted the gay venue). In 2017 NPR reported that Mr. Presler cancelled a planned event in Arkansas when he learned that the organizer was a white nationalist. He has since distanced himself from the group.

To be sure, if Mr. Presler knowingly associated with a hate group he should be accountable. The mere fact that he helped organize events like the “March Against Sharia” will churn some stomachs.

Yet considering what he has accomplished in L.A., Baltimore, and elsewhere on behalf of homeless people of all races and creeds it would seem forgiveness is in order as well. In speaking with Mr. Presler, you don’t get the impression of a man who’s out to marginalize, malign, or divide. He speaks passionately and sincerely about his desire to help people. “This isn’t about politics,” he says. “I consider the clean-ups to be apolitical.” Moreover, it’s hard to square claims of bigotry with the diversity that was on display at Saturday’s clean-up, and the diversity of the camp residents his efforts helped in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the country. If Mr. Presler is a bigot, he’s not very good at it.

It’s tempting to search for a broader significance to the fact that a full-throated Trump supporter and conservative activist did more in a day to help the homeless in Los Angeles than the city’s progressive elected officials manage in a year. And perhaps there is. But that’s a conversation for another time.

For now, the story is the dozens of Angelenos who spent a Saturday in withering heat quite literally shoveling excrement to help their fellow human beings. They weren’t serving meals at a soup kitchen; they were risking their health, even their lives, in one of the worst places in Los Angeles. All to help people who’s names they will never know. That’s worth dwelling upon in these hyper-divided times.

Thanks to Mr. Presler, for a few hours the best of Los Angeles, the best of California, and the best of the United States were on display. If it took a few MAGA hats to accomplish that task, then so be it. Los Angeles is a little bit better off today thanks to Mr. Presler’s efforts. Hopefully he will be back soon.