Finding the Right Path for Righteous Anger

GUEST COMMENTARY - Many Angelenos are missing the key solutions to homelessness, housing and crime. 

Each week, I listen to working class residents demand that their city do more. I work for the city and do my best to point people to the department that can offer a semblance of help.   

I call the Sanitation Department, LAPD, Street Services and Parking Enforcement. I help identify locations for CARE Plus teams to go and help the unhoused in encampments. 

The city should indeed do its part to keep our neighborhoods clean, safe and accessible. But much of what I am asked to do are not long-term solutions. Clean ups and police calls on petty theft or trespassing help on a very small timescale. 

Instead, this is what I wish the callers would demand from the City of Los Angeles: 

  1. Offer grants, loans and tax breaks for community members to start worker cooperatives.
  2. Accelerate upgrading our crumbling infrastructure like water pipes.
  3. Raise taxes on the 0.1 percent of individuals who have more than $32 million in wealth.
  4. Raise taxes and close tax loopholes for big corporations. 

These actions would actually allow the city to offer its inhabitants long term solutions to homelessness and crime. 

Stimulating the creation of cooperatives, where workers own and operate their businesses, would allow people to earn much better pay and benefits. Workers would be able to afford to live in this beautiful city without needing rental assistance; they wouldn't be one paycheck away from sleeping in tents or vehicles.   

Angelenos with democratic control of their workplaces will take more pride in their neighborhoods. Well paid workers won’t need to tap into streetlights for power, nor tap into city pipes for water. They won’t need to abuse substances to numb their pain. People who work at worker cooperatives won't need to dump illegally because they will be able to afford to properly dispose of trash. 

At the same time, the City of Los Angeles desperately needs to upgrade our aging infrastructure. Businesses and homes have been flooded this year and the previous one from old pipes bursting. Winter storms have downed power lines and led to black outs. Improving our infrastructure will put people to work, prevent the loss of productivity and minimize claims against the city. 

To create worker cooperatives and fix our infrastructure, we need to tax the 0.1 percent and big corporations. 

Today the 10 richest individuals in the U.S. own more wealth than 165 million of their fellow Americans. Twenty six big corporations paid no federal taxes while making huge profits from 2017 to 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty increased by 28 percent, meanwhile capitalist CEO pay increased on average 19 percent. 

The rich can still be incredibly comfortable while stimulating jobs and funding better city services. Businesses can still be incredibly successful when they are run by workers. There are tax proposals the city and other governments can follow from the Institute for Policy Studies or Senator Bernie Sanders.   

Homelessness, illegal dumping, theft and trespassing do need to be addressed and minimized. But at the same time we need to deal with the crimes of inequity and exploitation. 

Many of the callers I listen to are angry. I urge callers to not just ask for short term solutions. Use your righteous anger and demand that your city government put serious dollars into worker cooperatives and infrastructure improvements. If we don't listen, elect a majority of officials who will. Or get a job at a city department to help drive change from within. Those policies will offer long term prosperity for all residents of Los Angeles. 

I look forward to your next call. Make it righteous.


(Eramis was born in 1985 and attended LAUSD schools as a minor; he graduated from the University of California system. He writes anonymously to not jeopardize his employment with the City of Los Angeles.) 

Across CityWatch