THINGS GETTING BETTER IN SANTA MONICA?
By some measures, yes, and let’s celebrate that.
Reed Park was for years a danger zone of drug dealers, stolen property, open drug use, needles in the grass, defecation and fornication, and too many threatening, addicted or mentally ill transients, in tents and spread about the grass, for families to even consider going there. Now we are back to our monthly family movie nights at Reed. We are still shy of the number of police officers we need but have been adding them in short order. Which allows a much more effective deployment throughout the city. City Council recently authorized funding another “street team,” to patrol parts of Santa Monica as yet unserved, sending trained mental health professionals to deal with reported crises on the street, rather than police officers armed with guns and tasers and the possibility of a deadly outcome.
And Third Street Promenade is looking better, a local couple, lifelong residents, reported last weekend. As they strolled down the Promenade Sunday afternoon and remarked to each other how much better it looked – cleaner, packed with people, and no evidence of threatening mentally ill/addict types.
But that observation was premature. They said they encountered a large young man tearing the paper advertisements from the windows of a business and throwing them on the ground. Our resident couple were not willing to see their beloved city vandalized and littered like that.
They told me that the male resident approached the man and politely asked him to put the litter in a trash can instead of on the ground, and that can be heard on the video the female resident shot. He was met with curses from the alleged vandal, and as he bent down to scoop up some of the litter and take it to a trash can, the young man can be seen following him, still cursing, and taking a few swipes at his head, apparently trying to knock his hat off.
STEALING EVEN A HAT CAN BE A FELONY
And that’s another thing our resident was not willing to put up with, he told me. After the alleged lawbreaker succeeded in grabbing the hat and walking away with it, the couple trailed him, and the female interrupted her phone video to call 911. The next video shows the resident on the ground, pinning the alleged vandal-hat stealer to the pavement. He told me he asked a city janitor who was on the scene to go get a nearby PSO (Public Safety Officer), who quickly arrived and helped keep the suspect pinned down. The resident told me the police arrived about 20 seconds later, five of them, and handcuffed the suspect and took him away.
The man is heard on the video screaming for his “disability! You think I’m crazy? I want crazy disability! $1,000 a month!” He also yelled, “That’s MY hat! ….I stole it!” The resident told me an SMPD officer informed him that stealing anything like that is considered robbery, and a felony charge could be filed. The resident opted for that.
It doesn’t matter that the local couple was City Council member Phil Brock and his longtime partner Kathryn Boole. This shouldn’t happen to anyone. The difference here may have been that most people would have witnessed the destruction and littering and kept walking. Nothing changes, if people don’t get involved.
Boole told me, “I was watching about 10 feet away the whole time to make sure Phil was going to be OK. Phil was trying to end it and walk away and the guy decided to come after him so I figured I’d better record as much as I could, as proof that Phil did not initiate the altercation.
“I had to stop the video to call 911 when the guy started pushing him.
Once the guy was on the ground I started video again while he was being held down and arrested, to prove that no one mishandled the perp in any way.”
LET’S DRAW SOME STRAIGHT LINES
There are many facets to pervasive social ills. There is no panacea. I was so bold in my last column to call putting troubled street people into “affordable housing” without providing needed programs, a cruel hoax. The Salvation Army and Midnight Mission seem to know what they’re doing in these areas, and are effective, one person at a time. Solutions, not slogans.
The disingenuous propaganda of those with a self-serving agenda, are the hidden problem. We have three City Council members – Davis, Zwick and Torosis – who continue to beat that drum for yet more market rate housing projects, with just a handful of “affordable” units thrown in. In fact, there has been discussion of reducing that number from 30% to 10%. Admittedly, many of the rules are now dictated by pro-overdevelopment forces in Sacramento, but we need Council members who will fight back, not be cheerleaders.
Here in Santa Monica we have spent millions to supposedly fight homelessness, yet have had to form a commission just to find out where that money went. That’s absurd, and insulting to local taxpayers who are afraid to walk our streets, and to those suffering on the streets. Meanwhile, through many past Councils, the operative, “obvious” fix has been, more housing! Even Gov. Newsom echoes and mandates this false narrative. Every time that notion comes up from the mouth of a City Council member, we need to jump all over them, demand real proof and hold them accountable. Propaganda works, if we allow it. Both Hitler and Trump ascribed to the notion that if you tell a big lie often enough, people will believe it.
We have wasted so much time and money, leaving us with a city of residents made to pay the price for national crises of drug addiction and dangerous mental illness. Enough. We’ve been taken for a ride, a very dangerous ride, for too long. We need some truth, some common sense, and real solutions. We can’t let one small fix distract us from attention to the systemic problems.
SANTA MONICA CIVIC
One last, very important thing. Writing this on Tuesday afternoon, I don’t know what the City Council took up last night. But any talk of selling or relinquishing control of our Civic Auditorium should be met with a citywide howl of indignation. There is so much history there, the building is iconic, and it is truly the heart and soul of Santa Monica.
And don’t let the school district get their hands on it. If you do, it’s history. We know too well how they treat our history.
By CHARLES ANDREWS
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 37 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org