This weekend is another that will go by without meaningful action from the city’s elected officials to address the crisis posed by tens of thousands of unhoused people lingering on the streets while COVID-19 continues battering our communities.
It’s also a weekend that will go by with Jose Huizar retaining his seat at L.A. City Council even as the world can see that his commitment to Chinese real estate tycoons disqualifies him from being able to meaningfully serve his constituents in the 14th district.
The weekend is also one in which Jose Huizar’s successor, Kevin de Leon, will once again fail to make a meaningful statement condemning the Huizar case’s embarrassing exposure of the L.A. City Council during this critical moment for Los Angeles. De Leon is seen by many as likely running for mayor when Garcetti is termed out in 2022, and so it’s probable that the future candidate doesn’t want to stir the pot regarding real estate’s endemic connections to decision-making at L.A. City Hall.
Is this the best that Los Angeles can do?
A few years ago, during an LAUSD board race for the 5th district, a panel was held at Los Angeles City College featuring the various candidates vying to represent the area’s constituents on the board. For the panel’s moderator, a high school student who couldn’t have been more than 17 years old was chosen. We can call her Monica.
The candidates seated for the panel were adults of various walks of life and credentials, and thus people with much to say. As a moderator, especially one still in high school, Monica would have been forgiven for being overly polite, or for making a few too many mistakes in her facilitation of the discussion. But that was not the case at all.
Monica read each question for the candidates clearly, and stood at the podium facing the candidates emitting nothing but confidence. Most of all, when it came to the strict time limits for each candidate to make their statement, while even another adult might show some flexibility for the limits out of respect for the candidates, or simply to let them finish what they had to say, Monica, by contrast, was fearless.
At every indication that their time was up, it didn’t matter that most of the candidates making their statements were more than twice her age. And it didn’t matter if they spoke with conviction or if they spoke with experience.
Fair was fair, and Monica stuck to her moderation of each statement so consistently that by the end of the discussion, it was clear she had upstaged the candidates for the evening and left many people wondering when she would run for public office.
That panel was held a little over three years ago, which means that soon, probably as early as next year, Monica should be graduating from college. As I look around at Los Angeles, I know that the city will benefit greatly from leadership like hers and that of her peers, but also that such things are easier said than done.
Even with all her talents, Monica and other young professionals like her cannot reshape the city’s politics alone, and much less so if they only inherit those politics in their current form, which, as so many of our current elected officials make clear: are not only antithetical to fairness, but steeped in loyalty to foreign capital and the interests of the more powerful.
As Monica demonstrated in her moderation, fair is fair no matter whose name it is, but it will take something special before Los Angeles can reach such fairness under the current circumstances. We the people have got to demand it.