Dear President Obama,
OK, I get it. I do. John Wells’ job was to put on a fabulous spread for 200 wealthy donors at his Hancock Park home. Your job was to put in some quality face time to fill up the DCCC coffers to the tune of One Million big ones. And it was the Secret Service’s job to whisk you to and fro quickly, safely and most importantly – secretly.
It’s just that, as one of the many thousand Angelenos caught in your gridlocked traffic from hell, I’m left wondering at the decision process. Secret Service has to get you from Point A (Beverly Hilton) to Point B (Hancock Park). A quick look at the map shows you will be traveling several miles East, then North a couple. If standard Secret Service protocol is indeed to keep the route you will be traveling shut down for the entire evening until you’re back at your hotel, then whichever East/West street you close down would be cutting off one of the busiest transportation corridors in Los Angeles – at rush hour – leaving cars nowhere to go, literally, with the resultant gridlock spreading out for miles.
This the plan OK’d by the DCCC and the White House.
The Secret Service, taking the "secret" part of their job title dead serious, prohibited the police or media from giving out any information as to what streets were shut down or the anticipated length of the shut-down. A total information black-out.
I had a ticket to see Rosanne Cash at a theatre on Wilshire. Once I heard you were in town I searched for information, but details were scarce (see: Service, Secret). I left extra early, traveling West on Sunset as far as I could, then turned South. And there I sat. For hours. Olympic Blvd. closed, the City bisected, there was nowhere for the traffic ahead to go. But we couldn’t know that as we weren’t allowed to know (Ssh! It’s a secret!). The only thing we knew was there was no way out. Every street clogged. Stopped cars and buses and bikes and pedestrians as far as the eye could see (nobody got across Olympic, no matter the mode of transportation). To quote a resident quoted in the L.A. Times: "Young, old, black, white – everyone was pissed off." The areas affected stretched from "Hollywood to the Miracle Mile and from Beverly Hills down to Culver City and west into Venice, Santa Monica and the Palisades." Get out your map again, draw a circle. A fuckin’ big circle, no?
The comment sections have featured a refrain that the thousands held hostage in service to a cocktail party need to get over it, that this happens in every City a President descends upon. Yet in the examples cited, none have detailed a road closure of four hours straight of a major artery at rush hour. And definitely not a lock-down of this size to ensure the President made a "zippy" "brisk" "ten minute" trip to and from DCCC party central.
My question is one of proportion. Los Angeles, like the rest of the Country, is in the midst of an epic economic downturn with no signs of abatement. Your private party caused public tax payers to miss work, miss doctor appointments, and strained an already strained civic infrastructure. Me, I missed the book signing and am out $35 bucks. To the people inside the ambulances stuck in the gridlock with sirens blaring, well, we don’t know what price they paid.
All in service of raising funds for the DCCC so they can continue to meddle in primaries and support Blue Dog curs who’ll vote against you with glee and race each other to the Sunday shows to take their bow.