August 19, 2002

Letter to L.A. Council Member Eric Garcetti <[email protected]>

Dear Mr. Garcetti:

I read in the paper that the kidnapping and rescue of Jessica Cortez, the 4-year-old daughter of two Mexican taco sellers, has triggered you to consider a program to help illegal street vendors adhere to county health codes while gaining access to job training and child care.

Firstly, there is no excuse for any parent to allow their kids to roam a park in a high crime area without supervision. Rather than shamefully ingratiating with the parents, you should have asked the County's Children's Services to take the children into protective custody and charge the parents with child endangerment.

Secondly, it is strictly against the law in all of Los Angeles to street or sidewalk vend anything -- not only food -- albeit, the law is not enforced, thanks to the L.A. city council. It is not even legal in Los Angeles to vend from your front yard in an area not zoned for it. The only way to street vend legally, is at specially designated areas such as at Venice beach, or at events such as parades or art festivals, and then only by permit from L.A. city. And if food is to be sold, a county health permit is required.

But please be clear on this: A county health permit is not a license to vend in Los Angeles -- check it out.

In the early 90s, then L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon proposed giving $5,000 unsecured loans at tax payers' expense to illegal vendors so that they (mostly illegal aliens) could run their businesses "legitimately" in predesignated areas, one of which might have been the Van Nuys Blvd corridor. There was an outcry opposing such a move by local residents (I was one of them) and business owners, and the idea was dropped. I now urge you to fall back on history and drop your idea.

When I was going through college learning to be an electrical engineer, I was taught that to solve a problem, you must first recognize what the problem is. Those parents left their kids roaming in the park daily, not because they couldn't find a day care facility to care for their children, but because it is culturally acceptable to do so for many uneducated and unsophisticated immigrants from third world countries.

As an example of knee-jerk solutions to imagined problems, take the city's "final" solution to rid our streets of illegal day laborers. Over ten years ago, the council voted to fund day labor centers believing that the day laborers were cluttering our streets because they did not have any other place to solicit their business. The council set up six day labor centers throughout the city to accommodate illegal day laborers at a cost to tax payers of nearly $1,000,000 / year, with the promise that it would get the workers off the street. Look around. Do you see an absence of day laborers. No! In fact, the centers simply sent the message legitimizing illegal day laboring, and encouraged contractors to use illigal cheap labor and cheat on their taxes for personal profit. Like illegal vending, illegal day laborers get the message from city leaders like yourself, that if they break the law long enough, the law will be changed to accommodate their personal needs.

If you want to help third world immigrants with tax payer money, set up cultural training centers to teach them that they are welcome in Los Angeles (if they immigrated legally) as long as they play by the rules like the rest of us do.

But if you are going to insist on going through with your plan, please designate your own neighborhood for the pilot program. In fact, try the street on which you live and see how you feel when illegal vendors walk your street daily as they do mine, tooting their bicycle horns selling everything from food to live turtles

I am sending a copy of this email to the rest of the council members, especially my new Van Nuys council representative, Miss Gruel [Now, 9/26/02, Ruth Galanther], as I wouldn't want you all to get any ideas about legalizing street vending in my neighborhood.

Hal Netkin
Tel 818-989-2201, Fax 818-989-1905