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Tuesday, November 27, 2012 / 9:07 AM

Rev. Larry Rice Would Love Los Angeles

Rev. Larry Rice Would Love Los Angeles

If Larry Rice could move all of St. Louis’ homeless to Los Angeles, his life might be a bit easier.

Much like Don Quixote, the Rev. Rice is now attacking street barriers like so many windmills. The city of St. Louis says it put up the barriers, which block off several downtown sidewalks, to battle nuisances such as unsanitary conditions, drinking, drug use, and people sleeping on the sidewalk and street.

It’s part of the continuing effort to persecute Rev. Rice and his New Life Evangelistic Center in an effort to drive it out of downtown St. Louis. I’m sure it is just a matter of time before the place fails a surprise fire-code or health inspection and is ordered closed. I’m shocked it wasn’t shut down when a 46-year-old man died after falling over a fourth-floor railing in late September. If anything had been peculiar about the accident, I doubt the center would be open.

Meanwhile, in L.A., one of the final hurdles to AEG’s proposed downtown football stadium, Farmers Field, was eliminated with the creation of a $15-million trust fund for low-income housing in the area. Several homeless-advocate groups had joined with the Los Angeles Community Action Network in a lawsuit that challenged the $300-million bond deal passed in September by the L.A. city council. The Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition sought to protect the homeless, along with other residents, from the impact of a new downtown stadium.

While the St. Louis Rams remain silent and most local sports pundits, including the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz, scoff at the notion, the reality is that the Rams could someday call this stadium home. If arbitrators rule in the Rams’ favor on the issue of Edward Jones Dome improvements and the landlord, the CVC, says “no,” the franchise can begin taking steps to move. L.A. wants a team—that’s why it is building a stadium. It certainly would take its old team back.

The concessions won by the coalition in L.A. also include a multilingual complaint hotline that will operate during stadium construction and on event days. Disadvantaged workers are promised a percentage of construction work. In addition, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California recently upheld a lower court’s ruling that prohibits L.A. sanitation officials from seizing or destroying the unattended property of homeless people who live in downtown’s skid row, which is not far from the proposed stadium site.

I'd bet Rev. Rice wishes he were dealing with those folks, and not Mayor Slay and company. In May, the tent areas called Hopesville and Sparta near the Arch were demolished by the city. He tried to re-establish one called Integrity City a few days later, but it didn’t last two hours before it was dismantled, and he was taken away in handcuffs.

Rice filed a federal lawsuit following that incident, and he told KMOX and other news outlets, “What we try to do is to continue to help the homeless in every way that we can. If that involves bringing to light some of these very basic issues that [city leaders] would like to shove under the carpet after they’ve destroyed the camps…we believe the public has the right to know the truth.” North St. Louis County also said "no thanks" to an attempted tent city.

His battle on behalf of the homeless marches on. This time, it is with Christmas decorations on road barriers. For Rev. Rice, there will always be another windmill—and there will always be homeless to protect.

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