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The Politics of Exploding Rat Populations in Downtown L.A


No, there has not been a general alarm put out yet about the dangers of catching Typhus fever—a disease from our midieval past—from walking around downtown Los Angeles. However, that very well could be in the offing in the next few weeks as the usual hot, dry heat of summer settles in.

Yes, there has been a major increase in pesky rodents downtown, have made their home in city council members’ offices (City Council President Herb Wesson recently had to have his office fumigated and de-carpeted to deal with the rodent problem). Various city officials have been vigorously complaining of late, and the mayor’s office has been inundated during the last few weeks with complaints about trash pile-ups, and big rats running amuck in some city streets. That’s a major hit on his drive to re-make downtown L.A. into this beautiful Gotham-of-the-West in time for the coming Olympic Games.

There should not be a public panic yet, but it is a fact that rodents and their typhus-causing fleas must be dealt with soon and very soon.

Typhus cases in the city and county have increased slightly this year, but there is no epidemic on the horizon. And, yes, many people are blaming the homeless population camped out in the “Homeless Zone” downtown for the problem, citing their generally unsanitary situations. They quite often live with the rats and the fleas, the feces, and other issues that contribute to the problem.

What do to? Clearly, there are parts of Los Angeles to avoid when venturing downtown—between the Fashion and produce districts—especially anywhere one sees large piles of uncollected trash, and certainly one has to be very cautious rambling around at night. Otherwise, complain, complain, complain. Make city government work. We may deserve a little more frigid temperatures in our everyday lives, but typhus fleas and rats—no way.

And the other thing, we can always blame the Trump administration. After all, the city’s finances did take a bit of a hit from the feds because of our Sanctuary City status, and we just don’t have as much to spend as we should on public safety and sanitation.

But I opt to Raise a little Hell over the issue. Inundate the city phone lines. Get some clear action on cleaning up the trash from the downtown streets right now. Do not pass Go—make the elected officials earn their paychecks !! No rats in our city streets !!! No typhus fleas in our air !!! City officials, Mr. Mayor, etc., do your jobs!! Do not let the L.A. summer of 2019 be known for a new typhus epidemic in California !!!

We might never recover from the shame!!

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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