Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 32

On this day, in a quiet, barren room at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, mayor Garcetti gave a publicly televised address regarding the status of the city’s outlook going forward. Although these addresses are generally summaries of one fiscal year heading into the next, the mayor’s address this time was nearly all centered on the extraordinary last five weeks spent in suspension, without work and city services.

The speech was an eloquent and dignified address to the people of Los Angeles, but was also light on details except for a few; there will be less money for services such as graffiti removal, as well as less maintenance for parks and recreation. There will be 26 furloughed days for city employees, as well as a one year hiring-freeze for city jobs due to the crisis. Finally, the mayor’s speech calls on the federal government to step up its support for local government in L.A. and across the country.

On Facebook, where the broadcast can be seen in full, as of the time of this writing the video has garnered less than 2,000 “likes.” For a city of 10 million people, it sure makes you wonder: where is everyone?

It’s also clear that the public address is supposed to be a reflection of the president’s more popular state of the union. But as with that other highly anticipated elocution, I wish there was an alternative reading of the times given the same platform. I wish there was a true rebuttal, or at least a response from the other side, so as to create room for a divergence of viewpoints rather than centering just one.

How else is L.A. to become more civic-minded, if it’s given just one demonstration of civics from just one voice? Putting aside for a moment the chaos wrought by “alternative facts,” there are in fact still different ways to read the data, assess the pros and cons of our response, and visualize how to keep on truckin’.

The closest diverging opinion that I could find was actually published well before the mayor’s address, on the Los Angeles Daily News, by a group of medical and clinical professionals:

Now is the time Los Angeles County and city officials should consider allowing nonessential businesses to reopen if they voluntarily employ high “hygiene IQ” and social distancing with their customers (and require cloth face masks if people are less than six feet from each other), which are keys to prevent transmission.

This writer concurs. It also surprises me that while the mayor has visited cities all across the world, and spoken to many different mayors in these cities, he’s yet to apply some of the different strategies deployed across the globe that respect both the threat of COVID-19 as well as the people whose lives depend on conducting their business.

One could see the reasoning if certain mass gatherings like sports games and concerts have to remain on the shelf, but is it really the case that the city can’t open the public library, to name one example? And yes, I would think of the library. But in all seriousness, is it conceivable that people could, in an organized fashion, visit the library while maintaining social distance? I believe so.

I think if the mayor truly believes in Los Angeles, he’s got to say more than that it will be tough, but that we will persevere. He needs to show confidence in L.A.’s newly acquired cautiousness as the first step in the city picking itself back up by its own volition to the extent it’s reasonable.

At one point, the mayor quoted FDR, highlighting the 26th president’s ability to see beyond the crisis of the moment that was the Great Depression:

Roosevelt didn’t try to get America back to normal. He painted a picture of new and better days, calling upon us to imagine not only what we could have. But what we could and must stand for.

While the mayor’s address was certainly thoughtful, it did not quite register as a stand for the way forward that so many people are desperately in need of right now.

But of course we will continue forward, Los Angeles.


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