Thursday, January 13, 2011

Public spaces in America

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey has been writing about the shameful way in which we handle the problem of untreated schizophrenics for many years. Here he is again in light of the Tucson shootings.
A 2008 study out of the University of Pennsylvania that examined murders committed in Indiana between 1990 and 2002 found that approximately 10% of the murders were committed by individuals with serious mental illnesses. There are about 16,000 homicides a year in this country. Using the Indiana study as a guide, roughly 1,600 of them are likely committed by people with serious mental illnesses.
I am fortunate to live in one of LA's nice areas. And I walk every day. And I encounter at least one of the pathetic figures that Torrey cites, each and every day.

I cannot count how many pieces I have seen about plans for better downtowns and better public spaces. But all of this well-meaning talk manages to dodge the most important aspect. Many of the public spaces that we do have are blighted by people who we (our strange mix of policies and attitudes) have dumped onto the streets.

Here is the latest on Eli Broad's generous gift to LA, for a new downtown contemporary arts museum (H/T Ross Selvidge). This is cheered all around as people see it as another big step in downtown revitalization. But downtown is still not a place where you want to go for long walks at night. All of the folks who will show up for major openings via chauffeured limos will not notice.

The idea of public spaces is appealing, but putting up new and glamorous structures while looking right past the obvious tragedies is pointless.