Last night’s debate was held at Loyola Marymount University, located in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, down near the beach. Venice is famous for a number of things, including their boardwalk, outdoor “Muscle Beach” gym and several performing arts centers. But Venice has also become famous for something else. Large encampments of homeless people pitch their tents, cardboard boxes and other makeshift shelters on the sidewalks. Residents frequently complain about the rising crime rates, trash and human waste in the streets.

But that changed yesterday, at least for a little while. With the debate train rolling into town along with hordes of mainstream media cameras, the city apparently didn’t want visitors greeted by such an unsightly mess. So dump trucks and city workers were dispatched to load everything up and move the homeless and their belongings away from the prying eyes of the national press. (KFI Radio, Los Angeles)

Residents in Venice say they’re seeing lots of cleanups at homeless camps near Loyola Marymount University ahead of Thursday’s Democratic debate.

Seven Democrats are scheduled to take the stage tonight for the last Democratic debate of 2019, less than a month ahead of the crucial Iowa caucuses.

Dump trucks, homeless service workers and police have been cleaning up encampments

“They usually have, along Grandview, all kinds of homeless people in tents and everything,” one resident told KFI’s Andrew Mollenbeck.

When reached for comment, one member of the Venice City Council said that he “wasn’t aware” of any additional cleanups and this was just business as usual. Some of the local residents clearly disagreed, however.

Another resident was quoted as saying that the city generally “does little to nothing to combat” homeless encampments and the mess they generate unless “there’s a media spotlight on Santa Monica, and/or Venice.”

The entire City of Los Angeles is a tale of contradictions when it comes to this issue. It’s the home of countless homeless advocates who fight to do away with “quality of life crimes” such as prohibitions against sidewalk camping and public defecation. But at the same time, the municipal government has quietly fought to keep those laws on the books and reserve the right to roust out the homeless when it’s convenient to do so.

Just this week the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal to a Ninth Circuit decision saying that cities can’t make it illegal to lie or sleep on sidewalks or in public parks when no other public shelter is available. Los Angeles had joined with Boise, Idaho in asking the court to overturn the ruling, arguing that it undercut their ability to regulate such encampments and keep order in the city.

But at least in the case of Venice, they appear to only grow interested in such regulation when the media train rolls into town. Given the court’s decision, Venice couldn’t arrest any of the homeless for camping out on the streets near the university. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t plow all of their stuff off the sidewalks and hustle them away to a neighborhood without so many reporters hanging around. Well played, Venice. You really pulled the wool over our eyes there.