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The politics of bringing city love to L.A.


Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the sooth-sayers and  tarot card readers among us on February 4, 2016, as Mayor Garcetti, backed up by the Theodore Wilson High School Band, gave a curious but pleasant beat-poet presentation announcing the closure of a section of highway 101 so that the old Sixth Street Bridge could be rebuilt and rededicated for the 21st century.

Talk about the reversed hanged man curse. (The Man hanged by his foot in Tarot, can signify wisdom, circumspection, or sacrifice, etc. The Reversed Hanged man, however, signifies selfishness among the crowd or the body politic, particularly when there is no halo burning brightly around the Hanged Man’s head, which would indicate some sort of higher learning or a public enlightenment phase).

On July 10, the new version of the Sixth Street Bridge connecting the Latino-tinged culture of Boyle Heights to the cultural arts district of downtown L.A. was opened with great fanfare, hosannas and praise.

The new bridge was (is) beautiful to look at: it is at once an art piece in itself, a place of public pride, and a magnificent showcase of how modern municipal government can actually get a public project done right and well. Everyone seemed happy! And that should have been the first major sign of trouble. Too much happiness. Someone should have been at least a bit circumspect and contemplating a “What If” alternative plan.

In an obvious ode to the ‘I’m going to do what I want, when I want” theme of this almost post-COVID-19 world (very akin to “You can’t make me wear a mask for my own protection!”), the adoring public got pushed aside by the hell-bent on “doing my own thing” bunch.

Starting almost immediately, things on the beautiful bridge have now gotten so bad so very, very quickly, that L.A.’s civic leaders are now contemplating putting  in big speed bumps, a new, bulky concrete median for the auto scofflaws, and concrete and metal attachments to prevent people from climbing onto the new bridge abutments that look so good in the millions of pictures that have lately been taken of the bridge.

The Los Angeles police, in whose jurisdiction the bridge falls, already had to shut the new bridge down, blocking all traffic, pedestrian and auto, for three nights in a row last week and for last weekend. They started this week off by closing the bridge again.

Angelenos have tried various ways to connect with the new bridge, to, as one writer puts it, both use the bridge and own the bridge all at once. The graffiti artists quickly put their marks on it, then the skateboarders and rock climbers scaled and occupied the bridge’s swirling arches. Within the first week, the exhibitionist drivers, hot and heavy with the burn rubber bravado of this new generation, were burning rubber on the bridge virtually every night, skidding black doughnuts all over the new asphalt, and instigating illegal street takeovers in the middle of the bridge and crashing into each other. Less than 10 days after its grand opening, the bridge’s bright new lanes were covered with black skid marks. Hopefully, they won’t be permanent.

Sometime in 2022, the new Crenshaw Rail line is supposed to be inaugurated. We can reasonably predict now that there will be similar public shenanigans attempted up and down Crenshaw, showing all of our bad manners to a viewing public. It will be a pretty safe bet that some people are going to act “the plumb fool” as soon as the train starts rolling down the boulevard and Beyonce’s new Renaissance album is on full blast in celebration.

Hmmm. I can hardly wait. I wonder if the Hanged Man can dance.

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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