Potholes and big brown elephants in Los Angeles

There is a big brown elephant raging in the desperate streets of Holmby Hills. It is brutalizing the standard of living, stomping brutally all over common expectations and properties and destroying street surfaces. The damage is very obvious but no one talks about the brown elephant, not directly. Why not? Los Angeles’ wealthy tend to favor the civil, extreme end of PC self-expression. They will not dare speak of that which people in “civilized” circles refuse to acknowledge.

For Los Angeles’ wealthy, it’s easier to complain about “potholes” which is really just unconscious code that ambiguously describes the brown elephant that simmers in the soul of Los Angeles and those who live here.

Potholes. This is all about potholes, of course. A pothole symbolizes so much in modern urban living. Potholes are the reason why Holmby Hills wants to leave Los Angeles and team up with the far more organized and streamlined Beverly Hills.

Who wouldn’t want this?

Read the opening paragraph from the LA Times story that details Holmby Hills’ battles with street surface mayhem and the city of Los Angeles.

When he drives his 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser to work, William Fleischman can tell if the streets he’s navigating are in Los Angeles (bumpety-bumpety) or Beverly Hills (smooth). Among the worst, he says, are the roads just beyond his gated driveway in Holmby Hills, a posh L.A. enclave north of Sunset Boulevard.

Holmby Hills is one of the more exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles you haven’t heard of. It truly is an enclave of gated homes strewn over a hilly area in the western section of the city. It is just 2 or 3 miles from Beverly Hills, a name much more commonly associated with wealth. That is what Holmby Hills is. This is Holmby Hills, courtesy of a random Google Earth snapshot I took.

Residents of Holmby Hills, represented by Holmby Hills Homeowners Association, are tired of waiting for the street damage lurking outside their expensive homes to be repaired after repeated requests to the city. Four-inch potholes and buckled streets have reportedly caused various car damage, which in this neighborhood insinuates pricey car damage. During the HHHA’s May meeting, a new option was discussed in response to the chronic pothole situation: request that the city of Beverly Hills annex the neighborhood, just north of Sunset Boulevard and east of Beverly Glen. They appointed William Fleischman to be their spokesman in the campaign to merge with Beverly Hills.

“Holmby Hills pays millions of dollars to Los Angeles in property taxes, and we’re getting back thousands of dollars in services,” said Fleischman, 66, a lawyer who owns a Century City investment firm.

Many of the streets in question are constructed of concrete which is more costly and troublesome to repair than asphalt, no surprise given that the streets are about 85-years-old. The city of Los Angeles counters that street repairs are planned years in advance, and according to Richard Lee, a spokesman for the LA Department of Public Works, ” …the city wants to make sure it is spending taxpayer money wisely.”

The people who can afford to live in such luxury are used to getting their way. It’s a little amusing to think that such regal citizens, who are wealthy enough to pay millions for a home, must battle the grimy civic bureaucracy of the big city just like the rest of us. No one is above this, I’m glad to note. Welcome to my world of powerlessness!

Although I guess it is a big boy dream to actually think you can be swallowed up by a city like Beverly Hills. I suspect the the Holmby Hills Homeowners Association realizes that being annexed by the the esteemed 90210 is mainly a pipe dream. In fact, Beverly Hills is not biting. A city official there retorted, “Extending the [Holmby Hills] borders is not the solution.” This was a measured PR move on their part to get the attention of LA officials and also to vent about the invisible brown elephant in their own limousine liberal manner, which essentially is to talk in circles about the ugly truth everyone sees.

The big brown elephant that I speak of is the other “half” of Los Angeles’s demographic, the brown and black people, the ones who, unlike Fleischman and his neighbors, receive a greater share of city services in proportion to what they pay back. By virtue of this simple accounting math, they are a drain on the city coffers and the large city attempts to keep afloat by offsetting those who underpay with those who overpay. You can’t have a such a large, polarized, multiracial city without egregious economic injustice. If I was a Holmby Hills resident, I would be mad as hell that the city can’t take care of the pothole problem that is wrecking my tires and suspension simply because its balance sheet is unfairly tilted in favor of those who are unproductive leeches. I’d want to leave the city also. Fleischman’s delicately worded observation about “millions in, thousands out” was as close as he got to stating the obvious. This unequal dynamic will continue to cast its pall over the future of Los Angeles’ population and economic evolution, and California’s to a certain degree as well. How much longer can we expect the wealthy to happily take care of the brown elephant?

Sikh shootings in Wisconsin

I’m sure we’ll hear more, but there are reports of a shooting involving multiple victims at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with a possible hostage situation involving children. Interestingly, more than one shooter is allegedly involved. This makes me think it’s not a personal or family situation. (Edit: CNN interviewed a witness who was in contact with police and he says there were 2 shooters). This has not appeared in other news accounts.

Edit: A witness and member of the congregation says the gunman appeared to be targeting “turbaned males.”

EDIT: Police are calling it “domestic terrorism.” This is another clarification I’m not too fond off. All crime is terrorism.

EDIT: Not to stir up conspiracy theories, but the official police story is that there was one shooter. Yet, listen to the witness’s statement that there were 2 and that they were dropped off by a car that “sped away.” Huh?

CNN screen grab. “Suspects”

screen grab from TMJ4 video

I found interesting the following passage from the story:

One of the temple’s committee members, Ven Boba Ri, said that based on communication with people inside the temple, the shooter was a white male in his 30s.

“We have no idea,” he said of the motive. “It’s pretty much a hate crime. It’s not an insider.”

According to Ri, the man started shooting after he walked up to a priest who was standing outside, and shot him.

Then he went inside and started shooting.

Already the “hate crime” angle?

At least four people were shot just after 10 a.m. Sunday at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, and a police SWAT team entered the building before noon and brought uninjured people out of the building at 7512 S. Howell Ave.

Victims were being taken out of the temple.

Among those who were shot was the president of the temple.

People were in the temple as early as 6:30 a.m. Sunday and many more were arriving for a service that was to begin about 11:30 a.m.

There were reports that children were taken to the building’s basement after shots were fired.

Someone who sent a text message to a Journal Sentinel reporter shortly before noon said that there were two shooters with children possibly as hostages.

And the head priest was locked inside a restroom with a cell phone and that there were as many as 20 to 30 victims.

One of the temple’s committee members, Ven Boba Ri, said that based on communication with people inside the temple, the shooter was a white male in his 30s.

“We have no idea,” he said of the motive. “It’s pretty much a hate crime. It’s not an insider.”

According to Ri, the man started shooting after he walked up to a priest who was standing outside, and shot him.

Then he went inside and started shooting.

People inside the temple were using cell phones to call people outside, saying please send help, Ri said.

“It’s sad, I don’t know how to describe it,” said Ri, who has been fielding calls all morning from around the world, including India.