In early March, Los Angeles County recorded its first COVID-19 death. In late April, with patients dying and staff becoming infected, employees at the South Pasadena Care Center were posting on Nextdoor that they were using rain ponchos as protective equipment:
Hello all I work at this facility and what we need the most is proper PPE , n95 and head covers. We’ve been provided rain ponchos as ppe but those get hot and sweaty 🥵 fast. Thank you for the person that donated cold press juice Monday !! That s what a community is about , to come together and fight this virus . Thank you all. And like they said If you wanna drop any supplies you can go to front door and ring the bell . Someone will receive them. Thank you 🙏🏽 again
While infectious disease tore through our one local board and care facility like a chainsaw, most city officials did nothing and said nothing. Fire Chief Paul Riddle stepped into the city’s long leadership vacuum, working through multiple channels to get face masks and other protective equipment into a facility where the danger was real, severe, and ongoing. In the interim, local residents did as nursing home employees asked: They stopped by to drop off PPE at the front door of a medical facility where people were dying from a preventable disease. Individual citizens filled a gap left by a questionably managed facility and a do-nothing city government.
While people died in a facility where medical workers were trying to protect themselves from disease with rain ponchos, the City of South Pasadena performed a series of theatrical gestures: closing tennis courts, tying swings together in public parks, blocking paths into the arroyo. I have asked city officials several times if they can show evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infections have been traced to outdoor tennis, or to a child playing on swings. None have ever responded. I conclude that they have no answer to offer. They are, in general, people who have no answers to offer.
But this is par for the local course. On April 27, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe furloughed 52 city employees — an extraordinary number of lost incomes for a small city government. She made no public announcement. As I write this on May 8, no member of the South Pasadena City Council has made any public statement on city furloughs that happened almost two weeks ago. The only city official to acknowledge that 52 city employees have lost their livelihoods is the executive assistant to the city manager, who confirmed the furloughs on May 7 only when she was asked about them by a reporter. The city council met on May 6, but the furloughs were never mentioned during their meeting. If no one had ever asked, would the city have ever announced that dozens of city employees had lost their income?
Outside of our public safety departments, we have no leaders and no leadership.
In the face of this persistent and increasingly bizarre moral absence, we have a shutdown that isn’t a shutdown. In a pattern now showing up all over the country, families and businesses are returning to a version of normal life while government performs shutdown cosplay. In Arroyo Park earlier this week, I watched a group of people having a picnic on park benches, with music playing, precisely as if the benches weren’t surrounded by orange plastic fencing and yellow police tape. Meanwhile, the arroyo is closed — as is the Rose Bowl loop in our neighboring city — so Arroyo Drive has turned into a crowded weekend bike and walking path.
Government is pretending, our city leaders are mostly hiding, and the breakdown between the performance of a shutdown and the reality of the “shutdown” is becoming increasingly bizarre. We should fix that.
Or let us now begin the ever-popular local ritual of attacking the messenger.
– Chris Bray,
South Pasadena Resident
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