Protecting Venice Beach From Boardwalk Commerce, Protecting Free Speech by Banning T-Shirts


Here is how debased the political culture of Los Angeles has become. In a city with persistent 12 percent unemployment, where the most popular storefront brand name is "For Lease," the City Council is cracking down–again!–on people who make a living by selling stuff to people who want to buy stuff. And it's actually much dumber than that:

Illegal vendors, the authorities say, bring with them threats of crime and an influx of people eager to sleep on city streets. Storekeepers who rent space on the other side of the Venice boardwalk complain that they are losing customers to the sidewalk sellers, or losing foot traffic altogether.

"This is a real go-to place and people come here from all over the planet, and they were just taking over with junk and cheap trinkets," said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice. "The history here is of free speech, not selling all kinds of nonsense. You'd have people fighting for spots and undercutting the people who play by the rules and pay taxes in their space." […]

[L]ast year, after a federal court dismissed a city ordinance as unconstitutional, the number of vendors hawking mass-produced items like T-shirts and costume jewelry grew rapidly. Soon, local people said, it was impossible to see the ocean from what is officially called Ocean Front Walk.

A new ordinance that goes into effect on Jan. 20 is intended to forbid only those who are selling items that could be considered to have utilitarian value — that means art is allowed but T-shirts are not. Mr. Rosendahl said that several city and First Amendment lawyers have assured him that the law will stand up in court.

There is almost nothing in that passage above that isn't worthy of 100-proof contempt, from "the authorities say" to "local people said," to the notion that Bill freaking Rosendahl (who was a local cable-access interviewer before ascending to this throne) is a person who should ever be in a position to define where free speech ends and utilitarianism begins.

Whole New York Times story here.

Previously, in debased Los Angeles politics:

* "Los Angeles Destroys Functioning Businesses in a Recession"

* "The Democratic Way of Prohibition"

* "How the Community Redevelopment Agency Is Turning the City of the Angels Back into a Desert"

* "In Soviet Los Angeles, Housing Affordables You"

* "America Pays for Villaraigosa's Transit Legacy"

* "Success: Empty City, No Business, Carpool Lane, Unfinished Job"

* "L.A. Getting Ready for More Big Sports Welfare"

* "Occupy L.A.–The Pro-Government Protesters?"

* "Official L.A.'s Double Standard: One for Occupy Protesters, Another for Those Who Don't Damage Public Property"

* "Taco Truck Takedown: Why Is the LAPD Harassing Food Carts?"

* And who could ever forget "Food Fight: Battle of the Bacon Dogs"?