Aric James returned home to California during summer vacation this past June, thinking he would take his family to visit his grandfather in Los Angeles. He was unaware that the old friend he was visiting had changed his address to Manhattan Beach, about a mile and a half away.
Kanawha County, where Kanawha County has a population of about 500,000, has long been seen as a bad performer in the Centennial State. The county’s unemployment rate is nearly twice the state average; it is third to last in median household income, and third to last in number of K-12 education graduates. It also has one of the highest number of people in poverty (14.4 percent).
But you wouldn’t know that from how well county officials are running around town trumpeting the arrival of the newest expansion of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMA). They haven’t just put new tracks through the county, though. They’ve wrapped the county in a blanket of spin. The county commission is presenting a rose-and-watercolor-style landscape to gleeful news crews.
James hoped to catch the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWRS) Broad To The River Invitational Soccer Tournament at Lobos Park on August 11, a 40-year-old local event, but he couldn’t make it. It turned out the kid at the back of the 100-person field came from Los Angeles County’s Education, Parks, Recreation, and Human Services (EPRS) department, part of the LACMA Authority, which has managed the new streetcar project for Metro.
“We’re proud to make this a LACMA-hosted event. We have pre-security with bulletproof glass and a security detail to ensure that we’re going to keep everybody safe,” says Steve Bishop, a Metropolitan Water District spokesperson.
But not all are convinced.
Jason Wren, who drove to Los Angeles from North Carolina to visit his father in Indiana, attended the soccer tournament and was “just very disappointed” with the lack of transparency, he says.
“If I’m trying to visit a city, and I’m thinking I’m going to visit a family member, and I can’t get in because they’ve put curbside storage, well, there has to be a better way to handle it,” Wren says. “It’s something you have to see up close for it to actually hit home, or to be truly disappointed.”
During the visit, a GoFundMe page set up by Wren was set up to raise $25,000 to fund a movie about his trip.
Tim Slekar, LACMA’s chairman, says he visited the scene with Bishop in June after the EPRS department was recently moved into LACMA. He says the county was “extremely excited” to host the community sports event, and that it “was a wonderful collaboration with Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation.”