Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blame the Victim Mentality Plagues City Officials

When I read Lauren Lloyd's post on LAist describing the safety measures that councilmembers José Huizar and Jan Perry unveiled in the wake of the death of Marcello Vasquez, a combination of anger and confusion welled up inside of me.

Marcello Vasquez, a 2 month old boy, was killed when Cadillac DeVille, a 22-year-old Ladera Heights man, attempted to park his car (barefoot) in downtown L.A. during last month's Downtown Art Walk. DeVille pressed on the gas instead of the brake, jumping the curb and striking Vasquez with deadly force.

Fast forward to today, the Downtown Art Walk is tonight, and any concerned Angeleno would hope that city officials would enact safety measures to ensure the safety of thousands of people out enjoying the cultural resources of the city. To the rescue, councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry have a plan. I'm certain they'll close streets around the artwalk to protect the throngs of people out to see art and enjoy downtown, right? That will certainly protect law abiding pedestrians on sidewalks from being run over by careless drivers, right?

Wrong. Apparently, Huizar and Perry know the true cause of Vasquez' death: Hot Dog Vendors.

Starting this month, the City Fire Department and County Health Department will no longer issue any permits for vending between 3rd and 7th street and Spring and Main.

Street Services inspectors will attend to keep sidewalks clear of unpermitted items such as DJ equipment, craft vendors, carts, etc.

Fire Inspectors and LADBS will be out to monitor permitted food/craft lots and shut down unpermitted lots.
Huizar's approach to improving public safety at the Art Walk is to kick out anyone who is not there to see art?
Art Walk is a fantastic event that draws thousands downtown and we want to ensure that it remains active and viable,” said José Huizar, Councilmember for the 14th District. “We’re hopeful that the safety changes we’re implementing for tomorrow’s Art Walk will allow us to reduce large crowds drawn to non-art related activities.
WTF? I'm beyond confused. Was Cadillac DeVille in downtown to see art, or to buy an irrestible bacon wrapped hot dog?

Does it matter? What do street vendors have to do with a careless driver jumping the curb and killing a 2 month old infant? Where in the autopsy report is there mention of DJ equipment or food and craft vendors?

Huizar and Perry are suffering from a blindness of the sort that all to often afflicts elected officials and policy makers. They are blind to the dangers presented by cars and the amateurs that operate them. Rather than listen to the public's outcry to close the streets during Art Walk, Huizar and Perry chose instead to blame small business operators and pedestrians for the child's death by kicking out hot dog vendors, confiscating DJ equipment and making sure the sidewalks are clear.

Since our elected officials are unable to provide adequate protection to pedestrians, a group of cyclists will be on hand to provide a human force field between cars and pedestrians. If you ride a bike, skateboard or roller blade, join the SWRM - SLO-MOTION PEACE RIDE in bringing "smiles & high-fives to show the city that the people can occupy civic space in a life-affirming manner."

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