Nothing and Everything – The Case of the Absolute

The problem is absolutism. The answer is perspective.

With Mayor Albert Vera, Jr. posting a narrative on social media claiming that the pervious council “did nothing” to solve the homeless issue, he’s incorrect. Considering how much time the council has spent on the homeless issue in the last four years, it’s a weird and wild claim to make.

With our cultural style of communication drowning in hyperbole, conservative politicians keep pushing that there are no grey areas – everything is black and white. Always this and never that.

To say the the Culver City Council has – up until just this moment – done nothing to solve the homeless problem is like saying that water agencies have done nothing to solve the drought. Millions for infrastructure and education, billions of gallons saved and recycled – and yes, there is still drought.

It seems Vera’s ghostwriter is trying to follow the ‘Steve Bannon’ playbook, and just see how far a big lie can be pushed. (Considering the Bannon has been convicted of contempt of Congress and is currently under indictment for money laundering, conspiracy and fraud, he’s an odd choice of role model.)

I don’t fault the mayor for having someone else write his social media posts; it’s a very common practice. A good ghostwriter can make a voice stronger, as anyone who has read The Duke of Sussex’s memoir “Spare” can see. But when someone else has the use of your name, it’s pretty important that they not trash your reputation, or create a narrative that shows you to be out of touch with reality.

Of course, the fan base is picking up the talking points. Several people used that exact phrase in their comments from the podium at the the last meeting, “The previous council did nothing about the homeless issue.” That these people were each directly connected to the far-right propaganda factory during the last election – one was a failed candidate for office – leaves an obvious trail of breadcrumbs.

It’s a statement of disinformation that’s kind of astonishing, considering how much time and effort the council has already put in to address housing issues, and specifically to support the unhoused. It’s also truly insulting to City Manager John Nachbar, retired Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld and Housing Director Tevis Barnes. I’m betting they could each give a rough idea of how many hundreds of hours they spent “doing nothing” on the issue in the last five years.

It’s one thing to burn staff time on solutions that don’t meet a deadline. It’s another to just burn staff.

The city’s press release on Feb. 6, 2023 on the Virginia Avenue safe camping site is putting back into play one of the options that was discussed by the city council in September of 2021. The sitting mayor was a member of that council. If he has no recollection of the hours spent discussing the feasibility of safe camping sites, then his challenges fall into a different category.

The reality is that there is a difference in the perspective of the council majority. The previous majority of Lee/Fisch/McMorrin was oriented towards long term solutions, working on zoning and housing. The current council majority of Eriksson/O’Brien/Vera Jr. are focused on short term solutions like the anti-camping ordinance and beginning work on a safe camping site.

Metaphorically speaking, if someone has been in accident – bones broken, bleeding out – you do need to get the bleeding under control. But that’s not all that’s needed. However safe it may be, camping isn’t housing. That still leaves the city with an unsolved problem.

The city – both council and staff – has been putting effort into the issue for the better part of a decade. This isn’t a matter of right or wrong. These are different approaches. But just about everyone involved would be better served by dropping the absolutism; except maybe that ghostwriter who is bent on selling it as a brand.

‘Nothing’ and ‘Everything’ are not politically workable concepts. Perspective is what frames reasonable discourse, and leads to actual progress.

Judith Martin-Straw




The Actors' Gang