Change Happens - Adapt or Drown
Over the past decade or more a group of long time residents of this city, the self -anointed "improvers", have preened, pontificated, postured and protested before council and commission meetings about how the city was declining - and clearly blaming that decline on what they perceived to be the reason - the Latinos among us. In recent years that description has morphed into "illegal aliens", because it struck a chord with the broader community. Yes sir, brown and illegal - how much worse could it get, right?
When I first began writing about issues in our city a half-decade ago the hot button subject was the decline of the Westside. I've recently gone back and re-read some of my earliest contributions to the Daily Pilot, composed and published several years before I began my blog. I've also kept some of the responses to those essays, most of them written by members of that "improver" group.
AND, SOMETIMES, THEY'RE RIGHT
I re-read their complaints from a few years ago and hear them speak and read their words published more recently and must, at least in part, agree with some of what they say. They complain about the crime in their Westside neighborhoods - rightfully so. They complain about the shoddy condition of some of the dwellings in their neighborhoods - I would, too. They complain about overcrowding of homes and apartments, which tax our social and physical infrastructure - valid observations.
Each of those things are certainly reason for concern. And each of them have solutions under our current laws and code enforcement regulations. And, each of this issues are not exclusive to the Latino community. If you read the Costa Mesa crime logs you will see Latino names, but you'll also see names that are not Latino. When you drive the neighborhoods of the Westside you'll certainly see some shoddy homes occupied by Latinos, but you'll also see many run down dwellings that are occupied by mostly older anglos - some of those very folks who complain about the condition of their neighborhoods.
Many, if not most, of the folks who have become activists in the "improver" movement are people my age or older - much older. They've listened to the strident voices of the radical right, who promised quick solutions. These folks - part of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" and their children - are among those who founded this city and shepherded it's amazing growth over the past half century. But we, myself and those folks, don't represent the future of this city - we represent the past. I can tell you from personal experience, when you reach a certain age you're not particularly enthusiastic about change. You're happy to find some fog on the mirror when you breathe on it! The only change you want to see is a new date on the calendar each day. At my age and beyond you like to find your newspaper exactly where it should be, your slippers beside the bed and your robe within easy reach. You like to find the same products with which you've become comfortable for most of your life still available in the markets and drug stores. However, that's not the real world... life is change.
TREADING WATER BEFORE THE WAVE
The folks of the "improver" group don't like the change they are seeing in their part of town. They don't like the fact that they cannot communicate with some of their neighbors, nor share the same cultural values. I don't blame them for being uneasy. However, as I've said many times in the past, the Latino immigrants are the wave of the future for, at least, this part of our country. If we don't find a way to manage that wave we are destined to be overcome and drowned by it.
NO MASS ROUND-UP
I don't think anyone honestly believes that it is possible to round up and deport all 12 million (or more) illegal immigrants in this country. Even if it was possible, it certainly isn't practical from an economic standpoint. Instead of trying to find ways to expunge them from our city - and our country - lets find a way to make their presence work better for all of us.
Many people in this country react in horror when the word "amnesty" is mentioned. They are offended that those "criminals" who crept across the border will actually be allowed to stay in this country - perhaps with a path to citizenship - while others wait patiently in line to become legal residents. They scream at the top of their lungs that amnesty should not happen - that it will only encourage more illegal immigration. Well, with the open borders that we have now, that's probably true. In my view, once our borders are secured, a form of earned amnesty should be adopted. Back taxes and other fees should be imposed to those eligible and crime-free.
CONTRIBUTORS TO SOCIETY
I have gotten to know many people who took advantage of amnesty the last time it was offered. Without exception, they are honest, hard-working, cheerful, family-oriented people, grateful for the opportunities available to them. They jump in their cars and head to distant places - Portland, Chicago, etc. - to visit family members, just as my family used to do in the middle of the last century. They are proud of their heritage, just as my parents and grandparents were. They encourage their children to achieve good grades and attain higher education so they can make a better life for themselves and their families - just as my parents and grandparents did. These folks have become valuable members of our society - just as my parents and grandparents were.
TEST SCORES BETTER
Many so-called "improvers" have used low test scores in schools which educate the children of Latino immigrants - most of those kids are American citizens like you and me, by the way - as an example of the financial drain of the immigrants on our society. Well, recent upticks in some of those schools have demonstrated that those children, who may be brown, are certainly not dumb. They may not speak English in the home, but they certainly do speak it in school, and their test scores demonstrate their comprehension. These are, for the most part, cheerful, bright children who are thriving in circumstances most of us cannot imagine.
The so-called "improvers" better wake up. These children - the ones whose parents they are so eager to castigate, incarcerate and deport - are going to be registered voters in the very near future. If they think Benito Acosta gave them nightmares with his activism, they had better renew their valium prescription, because during the next decade these kids are going to begin voting in large numbers. They and their anglo peers, not you and me, are the future of this city, so we'd be much better off trying to find ways to integrate them into the mainstream of our society than to waste precious energy and resources trying to alienate and anger them.
INTERVENTION AND ENFORCEMENT
Our present leadership seems to advocate an "enforcement only" policy toward our gang problem. That's a huge mistake, in my estimation. Any program that has no element of intervention included is doomed - recent history in Los Angeles has demonstrated that for us. You'd think our young jailer/mayor - a law man - would know that, wouldn't you?
EDUCATE, MOTIVATE AND INTEGRATE
In my view, it's critical that we work harder to educate, motivate and integrate the children of the immigrants among us. If we don't do a better job of providing alternatives to gangs, that insidious sub-culture will take over large numbers of our youth, just as they have in other parts of Southern California.
LET'S MAKE IT WORK!
Things change - got it? Those geriatric activists my age will not be around to harvest the bitter crop they are planting, but your children will. It's time to get our collective heads out of the sand and find solutions that will work instead of trying to turn the clock back a half century, because that's not going to happen.