President Donald J. Trump Visits California
Pedestrians walking along Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica, Calif. cheered on protester Therese Sweeney on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 17. Therese, a 68 year old retiree, wooed honks from cars stuck in rush hour traffic, as a group of LAPD officers monitoring President Trump’s arrival huddled up for a coffee break nearby. Therese was one of the peaceful demonstrators who turned out to protest the President’s arrival at Santa Monica Airport on one of his infrequent visits to California.
Protests were expected at the President’s stops throughout the state of California on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Earlier on Tuesday morning, an organization of demonstrators in San Francisco, Calif., named Vigil for Democracy, inflated the now infamous “baby Trump” balloon along the Embarcadero while dozens of protesters marched.
In his fourth visit to California since taking office, Trump came to attend a fundraiser with donors in Silicon Valley, Beverly Hills, and San Diego, using the opportunity to make noise about California’s homelessness crisis. Previous comments from the president throughout the summer have been focused mainly on the appearance and sanitation implications for those who work, live, and commute around homeless encampments.
According to the Washington Post, departments within the administration that are involved in planning for the homelessness crisis include the White House, the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Health and Human Services. Though the administration and the president have made various remarks with regard to California’s homelessness crisis, official proposals have been vague.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an August 2019 interview that federal aid could come in the form of money or property, but beyond that, it is unclear what other avenues would be used to fulfill the administration’s goals. Though administration officials have met with both LA City and County officials to discuss the crisis last week, the president's California visit serves mainly to increase the funds of the Republican National Committee and the Trump 2020 campaign, which - according to reports by the Federal Elections Commission - has already allocated $210 million.
Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also made an appearance in Los Angeles Tuesday, taking questions at the Downtown Women’s Center and touring Skid Row Encampments.
“I think it makes a lot of sense to have someone like Suzette Shaw helping to make housing policy in this country,” said O’Rourke, in a broadcast from K-Fox 14 on Facebook Live. Responding to a question about the homelessness advocate, O’Rourke continued, “Imagine a Suzette Shaw or someone who has a lived experience of being homeless...having an empathy and a compassion that is borne of an experience of living on the street.”
In a White House report published Monday, the Council of Economic advisers concluded that their strategy to address the state of homelessness was one of de-regulatory policies in the housing industry, with the intention of increasing supply of available housing.
Brookings Institute writer Jenny Schulz wrote on the subject of housing deregulation on Brookings' blog “The Avenue." Giving credence to the idea of deregulation boosting supply, Schulz writes that “state, regional, and national policymakers should reduce barriers to housing supply erected by local governments.” Flipping that coin, the Brookings' post goes on to say that, “the most direct solution is to supplement the income of poor families,” whose rent cost burdens are often high enough to deprive them of other basic necessities.
Getting a local opinion on Trump’s plan from a Santa Monica resident, Therese Sweeney said, “...deregulation is not the answer.” She instead suggested “lower rents and stronger rent control laws.”
Beyond the homelessness crisis, Therese highlighted issues informing her bad feelings towards the administration and her motivations behind protesting. She mentioned the climate crisis and job creation as being specifically important to her, as well as wanting to see the United States back off from their support of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
These political visits to California are particularly significant in framing national and local conversations about the housing and homelessness crises facing American and Californian families. Protesters are highlighting problems in our neighborhoods that need to be addressed.
“We have the right and responsibility to confront and monitor what our government is doing and saying.” Therese said, waving her sign.