By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
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GUESS YOU HAD TO BE THERE
Re: “Pre-empting the Pre-emptors” [City Limits, April 21–27]. Since, by his own admission, Marc Haefele did not attend the neighborhood-council meeting in Echo Park that he covered for the L.A. Weekly, I’d like to help set the re cord for that meeting straight. I live in the area, attended the meeting and know the vast majority of so-called “outsiders” who spoke at the meeting. They too live in the area. They may not be the people one would typically encounter at local association meetings, but they care enough that neighborhood councils represent the interests of renters, working-class families and non-English-speakers (among others) that they turned out for this meeting. Rather than derogatorily noting that these folks were “unfamiliar to the usual workshop crowd” (based, undoubtedly, on the word of people who think that this crowd is the only crowd that matters), Haefele and others should be thrilled that a diversity of residents came to the meeting. That’s rather the point of successful systems of civic engagement, isn’t it?
Had Haefele attended the meeting, he would have understood that the principal source of resident concern was the facilitators’ insistence that everyone break into groups based on language. DONE [Department of Neighborhood Empowerment] representatives wanted all English speakers to meet in small groups in one place and all Spanish speakers to meet in small groups elsewhere (literally, in the back of the room). If DONE representatives had had any working knowledge of this community, they would have known that this would not be a successful model for a meeting here.
DONE representatives should have had the community-organizing and meeting-facilitation skills to adapt to the preferences expressed by residents at these meetings. As it is, there were not enough translators (contrary to Haefele’s report) to allow for small, mixed-language discussion groups at the Echo Park meeting, so residents chose the best of two possibilities, neither of which was ideal. They chose to meet together with one translator for a stilted conversation, rather than in separate English-speaking and Spanish-speaking groups. Everyone was shortchanged in the process.
Finally, Haefele seems miffed that there was a “pre-existing plan” for this meeting that residents wouldn’t follow, but he does not tell readers that this plan was established solely by DONE. Nor does he note that there was no system in place for residents — whose decision-making powers should begin with decisions about the structure and agenda for their own meetings — to modify this plan in advance of the meeting. Residents had little choice but to make their concerns about the meeting’s format known at the meeting.
—Amy Elaine Wakeland
Echo Park/Silver Lake
FROM LAST TUESDAY’S SWEEPINGS
Harold Meyerson’s “Enter the Janitors” [April 14–20] answered the age-old question of why Democrats and assorted pseudo-liberals support hikes in the minimum wage. When wages rise, so do union dues and taxes. Unions have more money to spend. Government has more money to spend. Everyone wins, right?
The fallacy of the janitors’ demand for a wage hike was that it ignored simple economics. Inevitably, the wage hike will drive up the cost of nearly everything. Unskilled jobs are not supposed to be lifelong positions. They prepare an employee for entry into the job market or the next career step. Want a better job? Get the training, degree or credential.
While Joseph Treviño’s story “Scab Patrol” [April 21–27], about janitors on strike, was very moving, I cannot help but be unmoved. Alvaro Reyes is an illegal immigrant and therefore taking employment away from a legal American. Someone once said to me that if you gatecrash a party as an uninvited guest, don’t complain to the host about the food.
—David Stuart Gibbs
Think about this: The strike is on Spanish-language TV. What do you think the effect will be when the other Latinos see how much they can earn in the United States by being a janitor? Who wouldn’t want to come north and earn 10 bucks an hour? But then there are more workers than there are jobs, and those workers are hungry and need to find work, so they work for less, and pretty soon, Mr. Reyes is out of a job. Get the picture? What goes around comes around.
Re: “Janitors Strike Update” [April 14–20]. I volunteer with a charity called Food on Foot. We serve meals and distribute food in Venice and Hollywood every weekend. What I’ve noticed is that most of the people are not homeless, but working poor. When I started helping out, I noticed the same families showing up each week, people who work hard and barely get by.
The ironic thing is that although I supported the janitors’ strike, the strike inadvertently affected Food on Foot. We do fund-raisers downtown, but during the strike we were unable to hold one. So I wanted to request your assistance in getting the word out about what we are doing. We are short on cash, and we still owe money for the hot meals we provide. Any help will be appreciated. For further information, call (310) 442-0088, or e-mail us at www.foodonfoot.com.