Is it still important to vote?
Los Angeles and Skid Row in particular just had an election.
I didn’t vote. I don’t live in DTLA. I do work there (5th & Spring) and I’ve just recently (02.21.2015) created an on-line presence @ www.skidrowstudios.com an online Internet radio & media site.
So Down Town matters to me. Ending homelessness matters. I’m proud of all the cool things, the creative people and trendy events that define DTLA now. It’s just…how do we in fact go about ending the tragedy of homeless people, military veterans, women, families, mentally troubled people who’ve hit rock bottom?
Even before the Iraqi/Afghan war era’s, there were military veterans living w/o shelter all over LA. Now after a dozen years of PTSD-haunted soldiers, men & women, young and younger flocking to the relatively temperate-climated streets of Los Angeles, there doesn’t seem to be a clear victory in sight.
Oh there is a quite-dense Plan.
LA’S PLAN TO END HOMELESS
As far as I can tell, it took at least two years to get the planning team together. It also appears that there were two competing Plans. The conclusions differed in approach. One clearly recommended that The Plan include publicly delegated persons/agencies that should be held responsible for the tasks to be undertaken “to end homelessness”. Another Plan vociferously omitted any such accountability. One Plan included the need for benchmarks—target “due dates” to keep things moving and to gauge progress. The Other Plan, even when confronted with this omission from their Plan, again publically and loudly refused to acknowledge the usefulness of that recommendation.
With a couple of decades as a nonprofit administrator and special events coordinator who has evolved from harnessing good ideas, as all non-profits have, to a more effective leader able to help turn ideas into plans and then into events, I know now that without “buy-in”, assignment of responsibility and due dates, nothing gets done. Beyond the buy-in and public acknowledgment of responsibility, LA’s ending homelessness Plan also lacks consequences for tasks left undone.
Looking at one ten-year plan to end homelessness dated sometime in 2004, I count at least 25 broad goals. Sub-sections or “ideas” under those broad goals total about 250 distinct things that should/could be done to eliminate homeless. Some are logical. Some are lofty goals. The length of the “to do” list however makes the task seem impossible before one step is done to move toward plan implementation. The rather stream-of-consciousness approach also makes the Plan seem more like a break-out session at a conference creating ideas rather than an operational plan designed to solve a real issue.
So where does that leave a man or a woman facing homelessness in LA? On the street. Un-sheltered.
So, would one vote in the recent 14th District City Council race that included Skid Row have made a difference? The winner re-claimed his seat with just a few past 11,000 votes. That’s in a District of some two hundred fifty thousand residents (254,600) last public count. Allowing for @ 25% children or unable to vote, that still leaves adult voters at @ 190,000 (190,950).
The actual Number of voters counted: 11,081. Possible eligible voters 190,950. Percentage who decided the election: 6% (5.803%). So would one vote make a difference. Damn Skippy. We think it’s the money. The most $ controls. Of course. The most $ can control the message. Can put up signs. Can pay precinct workers. It makes a huge difference. But come election day, it’s who goes to the polls that directs the final count. Too idealistic? Maybe. Worth taking a look at next time? You tell me.
I arrived in Atlanta GA to attend Spelman College in fall 1966. Earlier that year, The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), of which Julian Bond was a member and early founding member, issued an anti-war statement which advocated draft-dodging. Bond’s signature appeared on the document as an endorsement of his stand against the Viet Nam War. The Voting Rights Act had just been fought hard for and won passage the year before. The GA legislature was outraged in general. This anti-war statement that Bond refused to distance himself from was fodder for their hatred and animosity. Black votes had put eleven Black leaders into the Legislature. This was an easy way to get rid of at least one of those Black leaders. The vote: 184 to 12. Bond was un-seated.
When I got to Spelman, I was immediately drawn to the SNCC operations. I became part of the Communications Team that Julian headed. My role; simply find/cutout & paste up every newspaper article about The Struggle. There were many newspapers then plus dozens of left-wing magazines. No social media, no Internet. But lots of articles. I was busy and knew everything that was going on in the South. I read, clipped & archived the news stories.
I eventually was recruited to work on voter registration door-to-door efforts. I was young. I started college @ sixteen plus I had been protected from the real wrath of “being Black in the USA”. I’d been born as far north as geographically possible –Minnesota for God’s sake. Then had lived on Air Force bases that banned any overt racial discrimination. I’d travelled and lived abroad as the daughter of a career officer and never knew the vicious personal nature of Southern whites. So the reactions I got going from house to house in Atlanta from older Black people who had lived with that hatred all their lives was something I couldn’t quite get a handle on. It seemed so logical. We can all vote now. Here’s the form to register; sign please and we’ll move forward.
The distance between Atlanta and Selma, Alabama is only two hundred miles—a three hour drive.
Enlightenment did not exist based on state boundary lines. Georgia introduced Lester Maddox to America. Popular amusement park, Six Flags over Georgia sat atop the mountain that had been the primary Klu Klux Klan site for lynchings and cross-burnings since 1915.
Stone Mountain is carved with images of three heroes of the South: Stonewall Jackson; Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. When I lived in Atlanta, I refused to even consider going to Six Flags. I hadn’t lived through those events or lost a family member or friend but the threat of violence was easily felt. My conversations on the front porches and doorway’s of those1960’s Black ATL residents informed me without words of the history. It took time for me to understand the reasons why no one was happy to see me and my voter registration forms.
So today what’s the best excuse for not voting?
- “My one vote is not going to make a ripple of a difference”
- “It’s all rigged anyway”
- “What’s the use? Nothing’s gonna change”
- “I’m too busy. I have to work. I work P/T & don’t get to take the time off w/o loosing pay or worse yet—losing my job”
- “Pick one—they’re all the same”
So for me, knowing all of this …I have to admit…there have been elections when I myself simply did not show up. I do know however that every time I actually go to the polling place and vote and then get that little stick-on decal that says: “I Voted”, I do feel proud. Happy. Hopeful. For many of the last elections, I’ve voted by mail. It’s painless. Any bad weather, unforeseen emergencies don’t interfere. It’s done come Election Day. I’ve stopped voting by mail however. Somewhere I read they only count those if the election is close.
Can we change things by voting. I don’t know. I do know that we get what we deserve and have no grounds to complain when we don’t.
Help end homelessness. Make noise. There were promises made. Promises un-kept. Lots of work still to do.
Skid Row Studios gives each of us a chance to use our voice to make a difference.
JB…Signing off..03/08/2015 11:15 a.m.