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‘A World Gone Mad’: Upscale LA Neighborhood Wrestles With Worsening Homeless Crisis

‘A World Gone Mad’: Upscale LA Neighborhood Wrestles With Worsening Homeless Crisis

Authored by Jamie Joseph via The Epoch Times,

Abbott Kinney Boulevard is a picture-perfect hidden gem in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, known for…

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'A World Gone Mad': Upscale LA Neighborhood Wrestles With Worsening Homeless Crisis

Authored by Jamie Joseph via The Epoch Times,

Abbott Kinney Boulevard is a picture-perfect hidden gem in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, known for its boutique shops and locally-owned dining joints. The mile-long strip sings to the tune of upper-middle-class patrons who come to Venice Beach to soak in its peculiar rhythm. The neighborhood’s tight-knit community of homeowners who have lived in the area for decades are proud to reside in this unique nook of town.

A woman walks down a sidewalk passing a homeless encampment in Venice, Calif., on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

But over the last year, the community within this stretch of Venice grew even closer over a common frustration: the growing homeless encampments.

The issue is not new to Los Angeles as a whole, which has more than 41,000 people living on its streets, according to the latest homeless count, with more than 66,000 homeless people countywide. A forecast by the Economic Roundtable estimates that number could reach nearly 90,000 by the year 2023.

Venice has approximately 2,000 people living unhoused, making it the second largest congregant of homeless people in the city after Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.

Drugs, needles, trash, violence, fires, and encampments have become all too common to the Venice community. They say their pleas for help often fall on deaf ears when it comes to their city leaders, while tourists, homeowners, workers, and other homeless people have become victims to random assaults by a more violent crowd of transients.

“It’s a world gone mad,” Venice resident Deborah Keaton told The Epoch Times. “It’s our own making too. I’m a liberal, a Democrat, and we voted for these measures that decriminalize a lot of this behavior, and so there’s no repercussions for these guys.”

A man smokes a cigarette in a homeless RV encampment in Venice, Calif., on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

When Keaton steps outside her home on North Venice Blvd. between Abbott Kinney and Electric Ave., her reality is not the white-picket fence experience she bought into 30 years ago when she purchased her home. An encampment, including a handful of parked RVs, has popped up adjacent to her house, making hers the closest house to the neighborhood’s new hot spot for crime and drug dealing.

The transients living inside the RVs play loud music all day and night, she said. She filed a police report against the apparent ringleader of the RV encampment, Brandon Washington, because she says he approached her gate and allegedly made threats against her family.

“He rang the bell, and he was wasted, and he said to me: ‘I just need to know all the evil people, is your husband evil? Because I need to kill your husband,’” Keaton said. “It was scary.”

She captured the entire interaction on her Ring doorbell camera.

“There’s no repercussions for these guys, and they can’t be held and they know it. A lot of these guys have been arrested 400 times,” she said.

Neighbors allege Washington—who often appears to be on drugs—has prostituted women in the RVs, in addition to dealing methamphetamine to other homeless people. Keaton said in the summer a woman was hiding in her backyard, because she said Washington was “pimping her out.”

These stories have become all too common in Venice.

Ansar El Muhammad, who goes by “Brother Stan” in Venice, knows the plight of Washington all too well. About 20 years ago, Washington was in Muhammad’s niece’s wedding. Both were born and raised in Venice and ran in the same circles.

“Even though everybody is up in arms about this, these are human beings,” Muhammad told The Epoch Times. “Brandon’s a good guy, it’s the drugs that are doing that to him. So, I understand the neighbors’ perspective.”

Muhammad has become somewhat of a neighborhood protector, taking matters into his own hands. He runs H.E.L.P.E.R Foundation, a gang intervention coalition serving the Venice and Mar Vista neighborhoods.

Venice neighbors say they trust him so much they call him first when there’s a safety or noise issue. The homeless trust him, too, so he is able to keep the peace.

Most of the vagrants in Venice are involved in some element of gang activity, even if they are not officially part of a set, he said. Drug addiction is also rampant among the homeless, making it more difficult for them to accept resources.

“So, for my friend over here, what do I do? I build rapport, I have to wait for him to say ‘Stan, I’m ready,’” he said.

Other outreach workers across the county have told The Epoch Times the same thing—contact must be repeatedly made before some people accept help.

Pat, an unsheltered resident in Venice Beach, told The Epoch Times earlier this year there should be more solutions by city leaders to encourage special rehab programs that would “give people a sense of accountability.”

“There’s got to be a way, a path forward from sleeping on the pavement to eventually having a place. But I think all of the energy to give that path forward should come from the person in that situation,” he said.

Neighbors Criticize Local Policies

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Homeless Outreach and Services Team (LASD HOST) conducted a cleanup of the sidewalk surrounding the RVs on Sept. 8 and 9, but Keaton said they won’t enforce any measures that would force the RVs to move. She fears the trash will pile up again and attract additional criminal activity.

“The LAPD says they can’t enforce it because it comes down from the mayor’s office, but according to the Sheriff’s Department, the LAPD are not supposed to take orders from the mayor’s office—but that’s the deal,” Keaton said.

Venice Neighborhood Council Board member Soledad Ursua told The Epoch Times the RVs receive citations, but a homeless service provider in the area allegedly pays for the tickets.

Ursua said the pandemic also changed the homeless situation by encouraging transients to move to new residential areas in the city near commercial areas.

“This is different because there’s people who are totally selling drugs, they’re doing drugs, and it’s outside a residence,” Ursua said.

“I’ve had to clean up human feces in my carport three times,” she added.

During the summer, HOST conducted a massive cleanup and outreach effort on the Venice boardwalk. Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva deployed deputies to the area while media reports slammed city leaders for not addressing the issue. Encampment fires were at an all time high: more than 54 percent of all fires in Los Angeles were caused by encampments this year, the Los Angeles Fire Department reported.

The neighborhood experienced a sharp uptick in crime during the summer, too, according to statistics provided to the Venice Neighborhood Council by LAPD Capt. Steve Embrich.

Year-to-date numbers showed that robberies nearly tripled since the same period last year. Homeless-related robberies were up 260 percent, homeless-related assaults with a deadly weapon were up 118 percent, property crimes and area burglaries were up 85 percent, and grand theft auto was up 74 percent.

“We’ve been inundated with calls, with concerns, with images from the news, from people picking up the phone, emailing, sending us letters, about what’s going on in Venice,” Villanueva told reporters during a press conference inside the Hall of Justice on June 23. “And that is a microcosm of what’s going on throughout the entire county of Los Angeles.”

Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin—who was also a local advocate for defunding the LAPD—countered Villanueva’s efforts and asked the Los Angeles Homeless and Poverty Committee to shift $5 million in budgeted aid to fund housing programs in his district. Those funds were sent to the St. Joseph Center to conduct outreach on the boardwalk.

However, some tents have started popping back up on the boardwalk, with residents saying many homeless individuals have just been moved around.

An unhoused member of the Venice community, Butch Say, believes most homeless people in Venice don’t want the help. Say, who described himself as a traveling nomad, told The Epoch Times during the boardwalk cleanup that most of them prefer to live on the street.

“They go, ‘No, I love it out here. Nobody tells me what to do, and I run around in my underwear,” he said. “You know, whatever. They’re crazy. What can I say? It’s Venice.”

Not a ‘Housing’ Problem

While Los Angeles dealt with a homeless crisis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, city restrictions may have exacerbated the problem. Curfew on tents in public were rolled back and sanitation crews were cut to mitigate the spread of the virus. Other city codes were suspended, too. As a result, many homeless people—mostly addicts—flocked to the beach.

In a previous interview with The Epoch Times, local bar owner Luis Perez said Venice always had a quirky community of homeless individuals, but they were largely artists and entertainers. They weren’t addicts. He said he saw homeless individuals being bussed in and dropped off on the boardwalk.

As state and city leaders peddle the state-sanctioned “housing first” model, which suggests the solution to homelessness lies within building more affordable housing units, Venice Beach natives have a different perspective.

“A lot of them don’t want housing. See, this is the issue—they put all this money in here for housing, but there’s less than 5 percent of this population across the city that want it. They say ‘to hell with housing,’” Muhammad said. “You know why? Because they’re addicts.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks with reporters at a VA facility in Brentwood, Calif., on Nov, 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

On Nov. 10, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. During the press conference, Newsom told reporters that $22 billion in funds is being invested to address “the issue of affordability, housing, and homelessness, to support these efforts all across the state of California.”

“Yes, I see what you see, yes I’m mindful of what is happening, but I’m also more optimistic than I’ve ever been. We are seeing progress,” he said.

But residents say they look around, and the problem seems to be getting worse.

“I voted for Proposition HHH. I [would] be the first one to say I want a solution. And honestly, I would probably vote for another one if I thought the money was going to be correctly spent,” said Venice Neighborhood Council Board member Robert Thibodeau.

“But the thing is, where’s the light on the ground solutions? Where’s the FEMA style response, the striking sort of immediate solutions that you would have with [Hurricane] Katrina, because to me, this is Katrina.”

Local business owners—the heartbeat of Venice—have been speaking out, too. Klaus Moeller, co-owner of Ben & Jerry’s on the boardwalk, told The Epoch Times in an email during the summer that “this is not a local homeless problem.”

“This is a problem about out-of-state transients and drug dealers/users moving in because they can act without repercussions,” he said.

Moeller added his employees have been attacked by transients on the boardwalk.

Neighbors also criticized Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond passed in 2016 by Angelenos to build 10,000 supportive housing units. As of February, the city controller discovered only 489 of the bond-funded units were ready for occupancy.

Because of the lack of supportive housing, a number of tiny home villages have popped up across the county as lower-cost alternative for interim housing. However, some residents say they won’t make much of a difference.

“They wouldn’t move indoors. It’s not a housing crisis—it’s an addiction crisis,” Los Angeles native and new Venice resident, Kate Linden, told The Epoch Times.

Linden said she emails Lt. Geff Deedrick—who leads the HOST efforts—weekly letting him know what’s going on. But the HOST team can only come in when they are given orders.

Previously, Lt. Deedrick told The Epoch Times: “The HOST team provides that guardian mentality, so you can have a safe space for those discussions, but that’s where the policy makers and executives and those things, we leave that to them; we deploy at the direction of the sheriff.”

A deputy from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department speaks to a homeless man sitting in front of his encampment in Venice, Calif., on June 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Residents Launch Recall Campaign

Many Venice neighbors who originally voted in Councilmember Bonin to represent them in the 11th district, like Keaton, are pulling back their support. Earlier this year, a recall campaign was launched, and on Nov. 10, petitioners collected enough signatures to move forward in the recall election process.

They blame Bonin for the increased homelessness and lack of enforcement on street camping that they say brings gang activity into the neighborhood. On Oct. 22, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban encampments in 54 specified areas, with Bonin and Councilmember Nithya Raman the only two dissenting votes.

Thibodeau said Bonin’s views are on the “radical fringe,” that aligns with special interest groups and far-left activists. Thibodeau, who identifies as a centrist, said he’s sent dozens of emails to Bonin’s office with no response.

“The sad thing is lot of this has happened because of a higher level of tolerance in the community and a compassion in the community—we’ve been abused, because we’re compassionate people,” Thibodeau told The Epoch Times.

“He will not enforce [camping restrictions] in his district. So, now what, he’s in charge of policing too?”

During a city council meeting last month, Bonin voted not to enforce a ban on camping due to a lack of prior street engagement to notify the homeless. But according to city documents (pdf), the cost of signage and outreach would cost as much as $2 million.

“There was an agreement about street engagements, and I think we need to live by that part as well,” Bonin said. “I am certain that a lot of work has been done, but it still isn’t to the level of what we committed to as a body. And I’m concerned about us losing the commitment to the street engagement strategy and not making sure that it is adequately resourced.”

Adding to the residents’ frustrations, the LAPD has their hands tied due to the city’s catch-and-release policies. Homeless people who commit crimes are often back on the streets within hours if they refuse services.

Thibodeau said he believes Bonin is transforming Venice into a “containment zone” by not enforcing any anti-camping ordinances. Meanwhile, Bonin is planning several large supportive housing developments in Venice Beach and Mar Vista.

Bonin and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also championed A Bridge Housing supportive units in Venice for $8 million that came out of Prop. HHH funds. Residents say most of the homeless who reside in the shelter are “dual residents,” meaning they have a bed in the shelter as well as a tent on the street.

“There are no new planned facilities in Pacific Palisades. Brentwood happens to have the VA but nowhere else in Brentwood … so we’re making a Containment Zone here like Skid Row,” he said.

As far as the sidewalk on N. Venice Boulevard taken over by RVs and tents, Thibodeau said, “Living next to this stuff is very draining.” He said he’s thinking about organizing street protests to address the issue.

Councilmember Bonin’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.

Tyler Durden Sun, 11/14/2021 - 22:00

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Report: Pfizer, NIH Discussing Study of Longer Paxlovid Dosing Regimen

With increasing concerns about COVID-19 reinfection, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are discussing potential studies regarding a longer treatment…

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Report: Pfizer, NIH Discussing Study of Longer Paxlovid Dosing Regimen

With increasing concerns about COVID-19 reinfection, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are discussing potential studies regarding a longer treatment period with the antiviral medication, Paxlovid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and scientific adviser to the White House, said the plan for the new studies could come over the next few days, Reuters reported this afternoon. During a White House briefing on COVID-19, Fauci pointed out that the rising cases of COVID-19 driven by an Omicron sub-variant are increasing the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid. So far, more than 660,000 courses of Paxlovid have been administered across the U.S., Reuters said.

However, there is a growing concern that some patients are not shaking the virus as quickly as expected following a treatment regimen of the antiviral. Some continue to experience symptoms, or see a recurrence of their COVID-19 symptoms, following treatment with Paxlovid, Reuters said. Currently, there is no clear indication on the number of patients who are experiencing such a recurrence, or whether or not it is due to the variant type of COVID-19. But, the numbers appear to be enough to warrant such a conversation between America’s top infectious disease expert and Pfizer.

Paxlovid was granted Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December. It was granted EUA for the treatment of high-risk adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are at serious risk of hospitalization. A combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets, during clinical trials, Paxlovid significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized, high-risk adults with COVID-19 within three days of symptom-onset. However, even then, there were cases of a recurrence of symptoms in some clinical trial patients.

Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla has suggested that those patients who experience a recurrence of symptoms should undergo a second round of treatment with Paxlovid. As BioSpace previously reported, Bourla said if symptoms reoccur, “then you give a second course, like you do with antibiotics, and that’s it.”

However, the FDA has balked at that suggestion. Dr. John Farley, director of the FDA’s Office of Infectious Diseases, argued that there is no evidence of benefit for a longer course of treatment, such as 10 days instead of the current five days of administration, or a second five-day round of treatment.

Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

While Pfizer may undertake these additional studies, as BioSpace reported earlier Wednesday, the pharma giant has so far reportedly resisted requests to use Paxlovid in combination studies. The nonprofit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative said that Pfizer rejected a January request to offer doses of Paxlovid to be used in a study alongside an inhaled steroid in Africa.

Also Wednesday, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly said studies have confirmed that bebtelovimab, the company’s monoclonal antibody against COVID-19, is effective against all variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including BA.2, which is currently the dominant strain in the U.S., Seeking Alpha reported.

 

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/pfizer-nih-in-talks-to-begin-study-of-longer-paxlovid-dosing-regimen

 

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Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The…

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Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Missouri lawmakers passed legislation that prevents state licensing boards from disciplining doctors who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs a bill in Jefferson City, Mo., on May 24, 2019. (Summer Balentine/AP Photo)

Sponsored by Rep. Brenda Kay Shields (R-Mo.), HB 2149 also bars pharmacists from questioning doctors or disputing patients regarding the usage of such drugs and their efficacy.

With a convincing 130–4 vote in the House, HB 2149 passed both chambers on May 12 and currently heads to the office of Gov. Mike Parson to be potentially signed into law.

The board shall not deny, revoke, or suspend, or otherwise take any disciplinary action against, a certificate of registration or authority, permit, or license required by this chapter for any person due to the lawful dispensing, distributing, or selling of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use in accordance with prescriber directions,” reads the draft of the bill (pdf).

It adds, “A pharmacist shall not contact the prescribing physician or the patient to dispute the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use unless the physician or patient inquires of the pharmacist about the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets.”

Critics of the bill have noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given approval for usage of the drugs. Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine have been divisive drugs and politically polarized throughout the pandemic.

“But, nevertheless, the Missouri legislature has chosen to ‘own the libs’ by issuing a gag order against every pharmacist in this state from offering their medical opinion on taking either one of those medications—even if it could kill their patient,” wrote former Democratic nominee Lindsey Simmons in a May 12 Twitter post.

Although 22 countries across the world have approved the use of ivermectin in treating COVID-19, the FDA maintains that the current data show the drug to be ineffective. Large doses can be dangerous, it says.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases analyzed a national federated database of adults that compared ivermectin with the FDA-approved COVID-19 medication, remdesivir.

After using propensity score matching and adjusting for potential confounders, ivermectin was associated with reduced mortality vs remdesivir,” researchers wrote. “To our knowledge, this is the largest association study of patients with COVID-19, mortality, and ivermectin.”

According to The Associated Press, Missouri state Rep. Patty Lewis, a Democrat, agreed to the bill to satisfy a group of conservatives in the Senate. She added that the bill will not change anything significantly as medical boards do not engage in punishing doctors who prescribe drugs legally.

Tyler Durden Wed, 05/18/2022 - 23:25

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“They Shut Us Down”: Michigan Businesses Sue Whitmer For Losses Due To COVID Lockdowns

"They Shut Us Down": Michigan Businesses Sue Whitmer For Losses Due To COVID Lockdowns

Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis…

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"They Shut Us Down": Michigan Businesses Sue Whitmer For Losses Due To COVID Lockdowns

Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A coalition of five bowling alleys and family entertainment centers is suing Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, for losses incurred due to her mandatory COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer listens to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in Clawson, Mich., on March 18, 2019. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon is also a defendant in the case.

The plaintiffs allege that the shutdowns imposed by Whitmer and Gordon were a “taking” of their businesses without just compensation in violation of both the state and the U.S. Constitution.

The case has been winding its way through the federal courts since January 2021.

Fred Kautz runs the lane oiler at Kautz Shore Lanes in Lexington, Mich., on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times)

The coalition lost the first round of the legal battle when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled against it.

Oral arguments were recently held before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit.

Plaintiff’s chief counsel David Kallman told The Epoch Times after the appeals court hearing, “The oral arguments from both sides were vigorous. The judges asked a lot of questions. It was the kind of proceeding that makes you proud to be a lawyer.

“Even the defense acknowledges that we are presenting ‘novel’ arguments.

“Michigan is the only state in the nation where a governor’s public health emergency powers were overturned as unconstitutional.

“If we lose in the court of appeals, we will take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Scott Bennett, executive director of the Independent Bowling and Entertainment Centers Association, told The Epoch Times,

“The governor’s actions were devastating to our industry.

“Things went from ‘two weeks to slow the spread’ to indefinite shutdowns.”

Bennett said that the forced closures were not based on solid scientific proof that bowling alleys and family entertainment centers would spread the virus any more than the Walmart stores or the GM plants that were allowed to remain open.

“They were allowed to operate with hundreds and even thousands of people in them but we had to shut down. We feel our industry was unfairly singled-out.

“We cannot stand for a repeat of such arbitrary treatment and don’t want the people of Michigan to forget what was done to them.”

With the recent uptick in COVID cases and the approaching mid-term elections, Bennett said his members that survived the 2020 shutdowns feel like it can happen all over again.

“It’s like operating day-to-day with a hammer held over your head. The uncertainty is altering business plans. The value of our businesses is dropping through the floor,” Bennett said.

Brian and Mindy Hill work the counter at their bowling alley in Imlay City, Mich. on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)

Fred Kautz, the proprietor of Kautz’s Shore Lanes in Lexington, Michigan, started working in the family business when he was 13.

The business has 12 bowling lanes, a bar, an arcade, a restaurant, and living quarters upstairs.

“We’ve owned this place for 42 years. For me and my family, it’s more than a place to work. It’s a way of life. And it has become an institution in our community—a real gathering place,” said Kautz.

He said he is still smarting from what happened after Whitmer’s executive actions were ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in the fall of 2020.

“We got a little reprieve. We thought we were in the clear until she came back with another round of forced closures, this time under the authority of the Michigan Department of Public Health.

The first 30 days knocked us right on our butts. But we were willing to cooperate, to do our part. We were all scared and we did not want to see harm come to anybody.

We lost a lot of money at the time. We are coming back slowly, but our overall revenue is still down 20 percent from pre-pandemic days. That’s hard to make up.

“In the spring of 2020, I tried to do what was recommended and go along. Never again!

“If my Dad was still alive, he’d have never closed at all,” said Kautz.

Brian and Mindy Hill, owners of I.C. Strikes, a 16-lane bowling alley, bar, and snack bar in Imlay City said their business was hit hard by the shutdowns.

Brian was the town barber for 25 years, before purchasing the bowling alley where he learned to bowl as a child.

“We took over in December 2018. We’d saved up money to buy this place and make some upgrades. When COVID hit, we were forced to close down. It took all the money we saved for improvements just to survive,” said Brian.

The Hills said they never thought they’d see the day when their own government could do something like that to them.

Mary Bacon, assistant manager of Jump City, a family recreation center, cleans an arcade machine in Imlay City, Mich., on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times)

They shut us down. They took away our livelihood with no end date in sight. Then they wanted to loan us money. Think about that. They first put us in a situation where we had zero income to pay our previous debt. And then they wanted to loan us more money.

“Lots of small business people lost their businesses but kept their debt. It ruined them,” said Brian.

The Hills did apply for and receive a Small Business Administration loan at 3.25 percent interest for 30 years, and they participated in the Paycheck Protection Program which helped their business survive.

Up the road from the Hill’s bowling alley is Jump City, a large indoor recreation center offering an array of bouncy houses and arcade games for children.

Assistant manager Mary Bacon told The Epoch Times, “We lost a lot of business. We were forced to close for 15 months and had to make our payments with no income.”

Bacon remembers the morning of March 16, 2020, when many area businesses were gearing up for big St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“By afternoon everybody had to close. All that food went to waste.

“The shutdown was supposed to be for a couple of weeks. Nobody foresaw it would drag on for a year and three months.

“Oh, they said we could open again, but they so severely restricted the number of customers that we lost all of our big birthday parties. With so few kids allowed in, we couldn’t operate. We were losing too much money.”

Bacon said people are coming back to the center but are still scared, even though the games and bouncy houses are continuously cleaned and sanitized.

Navaeh Smalstig, 8, climbs out of a bouncy house at Jump City in Imlay City, Mich., on May 13, 2022. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times)

Before the pandemic, Danny Brown owned a roller rink in Grand Blanc and Owasso, two south-central Michigan towns.

“The lockdowns forced us to sell the Owasso rink for less than half of what we paid for it. We will be trying to make up our loss for years to come.”

Brown, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told The Epoch Times, “To keep going I had to decide to triple our debt. Since the shutdown, I am three-quarters of a million dollars deeper in debt.

“Small businesses put everything on the line. All of our personal and family money. I am personally responsible for our debt. If I die my children will have to pay it.”

Brown said Michigan’s government acted without a real understanding and regarded the state’s small businesses as “nonessential throwaways.”

“One of the reasons we filed suit is to push the government to think differently,” he said.

According to Brown, family entertainment centers like skating rinks, bowling alleys, arcades, pool halls, miniature golf, and go-cart tracks have been nearly wiped out.

“A few years ago, there were 3,500 roller skating rinks in the United States. Now there are 700. There were five rinks in Genesee County, now there are two.” he said.

Brown attributes the decrease to years of ongoing government mandates and interference that led up to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“They took, they stole our businesses!” he said.

Donn Slimmen, another plaintiff in the case, owns Spartan West Bowling in the west Michigan resort town of Ludington.

“The lockdown just about killed us. It was 14 to 15 months of agony. Our bank payments and utility bills didn’t stop. We went from being two to three months behind to more months behind.

“We entered into survival mode. We ate a lot of pork and beans and hotdogs. We’re still trying to work ourselves out of the hole. By the end of this summer, we might be solvent again.

“We were lucky to survive. We are still hanging on by threads,” said Slimmen.

Along with 16 bowling lanes, Slimmen operates a full-service restaurant.

It’s never come back. Pre-pandemic, we’d serve 200 customers at an ordinary Friday fish fry. Now our best night is 100.

“Our restaurant went from a thriving seated-guest business to a take-out operation grossing only two to three percent of the seated sales.

“We were spending $400 to take in proceeds of $100.

“The politicians and bureaucrats don’t understand. They never cleaned a toilet seat or climbed into a bowling machine to fix it,” said Slimmen.

Slimmen blames Gov.Gretchen Whitmer for the plight of his community and the state.

“You didn’t see Republican governors closing businesses. Their states did so much better.

“Drive through downtown Ludington or Muskegon and look at all the boarded-up storefronts. So many places are out of business. Michigan is in terrible shape,” Slimmen said.

The Tomassoni family has been in the bowling business for 84 years in the western Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain, Michigan.

We had to close bowling and our banquet facility a total of 161 days in two different periods of time in 2020. After the second shutdown, we could operate at 25 percent occupancy and only during restricted hours. No wedding receptions, no special events. It was a disaster.

“It ripped my heart out. I am so bitter towards my government,” said owner Pete Tomassoni.

Tomassoni’s business suffered further because of its proximity to Wisconsin which is only minutes away.

“Wisconsin closed for just 30 days. For the most part, they were wide open. That really hurt us.

“Our governor was picking and choosing which of our state’s businesses could operate. To force a business to close with no notice and without proven science is straight out wrong.

“I think that she came down so hard on small business because we, by and large, lean to the right.

“The state dangled the threat of yanking business licenses to keep people in line.

“Some of our businesses tried to defy the state and stayed open

Tyler Durden Wed, 05/18/2022 - 21:25

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