GELFAND’S WORLD - The City of Los Angeles has reinstated the draft. Or at least it's the new-fangled, 2023 equivalent of what we had in 1967. Admittedly there is a difference, because there is less chance of getting shot, but the affront to one's sense of personal freedom is there once again. In the past, the Army selective service board would have sent you orders to give up your freedom and come running. Now it's the city's Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) which claims fewer hours of our time, but will be sending us the call for our hours nevertheless.
With the City Council's passage of the ordinance known as Council File CF20-0990, the city claims authority to put you and me and my neighborhood council colleagues to work without pay, and without any say in the ideology they have chosen to train us in. They will claim the best of intentions, because the brainwashing they choose to enforce (at least now) is against bad things like racism. But that is only for now. At some point, DONE will create a training program to teach us how to be the kind of neighborhood council members that they would like to see -- docile, accepting of their guidance, and mainly people who don't find fault with city government.
The fact that this will inevitably happen, and that it is exactly opposite to what neighborhood councils were created to do, will fly right past the bureaucratic mindset we have come to expect from DONE and its handlers.
But at least the Army and the selective service had some smart people. Imagine being told by Tom Soong and Octaviano Rios what you are supposed to do under their command. And who knows what the Interim General Manager or the next permanent General Manager of DONE will choose to do with their new-found power.
No. I won't be taking that training, whatever new version of Raquel Beltran happens to be the General Manager at the time.
I could be snide and point out that the people who are most in need of ethics training are the current and former members of the City Council. They voted for zoning changes in full knowledge that the process was corrupt, and they never stood up in the City Council chambers to protest.
I could point out that the people most in need of training against racism and bias are Kevin Deleon and, by extension, every other member of the City Council. After all, how are we to know that the other 13 are different from Deleon or Nury Martinez? If we were to adopt their approach to enforcing anti-bias, which is to sweep in everyone using the big net, then it should also be applied to them. And adopting their own policy, let's have the neighborhood councils decide what training they have to take.
It's suddenly a new era in the neighborhood council system.
As of today, that CF20-0990 ordinance I was writing about previously -- the one that confers authority within DONE to create training programs for neighborhood council participants -- and this, I am reminded, includes the volunteers who serve on our committees of public safety and emergency preparedness -- that ordinance was passed by a nearly unanimous vote in the City Council.
Here is the result, reported according to the Council District number and the vote. Notice that there is not even one No vote, in spite of the protests around the city by numerous neighborhood council participants
(VACANT) 6 ABSENT
BOB BLUMENFIELD 3 YES
KEVIN DELEON 14 ABSENT
MARQUEECE HARRIS-DAWSON 8 YES
EUNISSES HERNANDEZ 1 YES
HEATHER HUTT 10 YES
PAUL KREKORIAN 2 YES
JOHN LEE 12 YES
TIM MCOSKER 15 YES
TRACI PARK 11 YES
CURREN D. PRICE 9 YES
NITHYA RAMAN 4 ABSENT
MONICA RODRIGUEZ 7 YES
HUGO SOTO-MARTINEZ 13 ABSENT
KATY YAROSLAVSKY 5 YES
The official count is 11 votes in favor, 0 votes against, and 4 voters absent. One of those absent votes is Council District (CD) 6, which does not currently have a member due to the Nury Martinez scandal. Other than that, Nithya Raman (CD 4), Hugo Soto-Martinez (CD 13) and Kevin DeLeon ((CD 14) managed to make themselves scarce. I guess it's one step better than voting overtly for forced labor and left wing fascism, but it's not as good as showing up to cast a No vote.
So this is Raquel Beltran's revenge on the system that rejected her. The City of Los Angeles, should the mayor sign this ordinance, will officially have an ideology and a program for forced indoctrination of that ideology. The proponents will argue that it isn't an ideology at all, just the need to teach people in the ways of righteousness and truth. But that's what every ideologue claims. This goes contrary to the founding principles of this country, where it was recognized that there will be differences of opinion, and those who differ can speak to each other or publish their opinions, but do not have the right to enforce their doctrines through forced labor.
I find it interesting that the current City Council failed to notice that this ordinance was originally proposed under the previous City Council -- that is to say, by half a dozen or more representatives who are no longer there due to being defeated, or forced to resign, or just plain retired. As I pointed out in the previous column, the three members of the Martinez Trio all voted for it the first time it came around. And the consideration of the bill occurred right after Raquel Beltran was forced to quit.
Offhand, there are two kinds of people I can think of who ought to be offended by the passage:
1) Any conservative or Republican and most independent voters, since this ordinance has established what now appears to be a Democratic Party policy. It is now illegal to be anything different than an evangelical, where right now the evangelism is for an anti-racist viewpoint. City employees and neighborhood council participants are not allowed to have their own thoughts, or to mentally test their own beliefs, or to decide what the remedies might be for social ills.
2) Any person who believes in political liberty and freedom of thought as a matter of principle ought to be dead set against this.
To repeat what I've said before, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow liberals to defend the rights of racial and religious minorities, and those with non-majority gender identifications, and those who are discriminated against for other reasons. But I won't stand shoulder to shoulder with government agencies who are holding a gun to my head.
Go Koretz yourselves.
And just in case people in city government missed it, there is an element of this ordinance which is at its core profoundly opposed to freedom of religion. That's because it imposes an ideology on a particular subset of people in a larger community which includes a lot of people who wish to be free in their own heads. At this level, the ordinance is anti-Semitic because it intends to force a particular philosophy on everyone, without regard to background. For the same reason, it is also profoundly anti-agnostic and anti-atheist. I can think of at least one other religion that objects to forced psychiatric treatment, and at a certain level, the new ordinance (through its mandate for forced training in unconscious bias) would violate the tenets of that religion.
Perhaps the city leaders can accept conscientious objector status in their newfound attempt to make us all think alike.
And at another but similar level, it should be received policy that no person should have to take orders from Done.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])