Newsletter: Nextdoor, where every neighborhood is under siege

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 5, 2018. If you were up early enough in Los Angeles this morning, you might have caught one of the most spectacular shows put on by NASA in recent memory; if you weren’t awake, congratulations on a good night of sleep. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Crime is at historical lows in Los Angeles, only the most well-off can afford a house anywhere in this city right now, and we exist at the center of the enlightened universe known as the Trump resistance — but if you’re on, your street is overrun by suspicious-looking pedestrians and black Audis casing the neighborhood to … well, do not much of anything, really.

To Joel Stein, his Nextdoor neighborhood page resembles a “local news show anchored by George Zimmerman.” Awkward run-ins with unfamiliar people get written up as harrowing encounters with dangerous vagrants. Everyone’s package deliveries are stolen, in broad daylight, every time. Stein shares one of his experiences that could have easily been widely shared among Nextdoor’s neighborhood watchers:

Last week, I went for a walk at 8 p.m. to try to impress my Fitbit. I blasted an audiobook biography of Theodore Roosevelt on my headphones to try to impress my father. A guy lying in Griffith Park looked at me as I walked by and said something like, “Want to party?” that I couldn’t hear over the tales of Western cattle ranching. I shook my head to let him know I was not interested in whatever rough riding he was suggesting.

Two blocks later, I walked up my driveway, opened the door to my unattached home office and turned around to see the guy next to me.

I directed him back outside, wielding a broom that I grabbed. He backed up, possibly asking, “You don’t like to party?” though it got mixed up in my ears with “and spurred his horse Lightfoot to prodigious feats of endurance, including one 20-mile gallop.” So it sounded like the guy was asking me to do something even worse than he’d intended.

I locked the door behind me — but then opened it again to make sure he didn’t head into my house to see if Cassandra or our son were in a partying mood. Then I spent an hour agonizing over whether to tell Cassandra. And — if I did — if the news would be better delivered in person or by posting it on Nextdoor where she would see it more quickly?

I decided to be honest. I started my story with, “Believe it or not, this thing just happened, but it actually wasn’t scary.” Which is exactly how I wish all Nextdoor entries started. Nevertheless, there was more talk of moving. But thanks to Nextdoor, I know it won't help. All L.A. streets, I fear, are terrorized by gangs of roving black Audis.

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And what’s so wrong with neighbors connecting on Nextdoor? Nothing, say a few Los Angeles Times letter writers: “I too find my Nextdoor group focuses excessively on crime sometimes. It's definitely a place unconscious racism has to be called out on occasion. But it's also a place where two neighbors responded to my request to borrow a Pack 'n Play collapsible crib when my great-grandson visits and one that helps neighbors reunite with lost pets, join forces to combat blighted nuisance properties and remind each other to lock the doors of their cars and homes.” L.A. Times

The LAUSD has a new superintendent — and (surprise!) not everyone’s happy about it. It turns out that Austin Beutner, the former investment banker and deputy mayor of Los Angeles, also happens to be our former boss at the L.A. Times, so the editorial board has seen how the new superintendent works. This gives the board reason to be hopeful: “He has an ability to focus on the big picture, which differentiates him from his L.A. Unified predecessor, Michelle King, a well-liked and very capable manager with a talent for calling all hands on deck. But clear and bold vision wasn't her strong suit.” L.A. Times

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from Burbank, doesn’t want to talk about impeaching President Trump. The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee believes there may be enough evidence to show that Trump has indeed committed impeachable offenses, but he warns that talking about removing the president from office will be seen by too many people as an attempt by Democrats to nullify the 2016 election — and Trump doesn’t need help arousing his voters. New York Times

It’s an outrage that migrant kids are being separated from their parents at the border. Since October, more than 700 children have been taken from their parents as they entered the United States, a cruel and unnecessary act by our government that goes against everything we know about child welfare. Appallingly, the practice continues even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has written to the secretary of Homeland Security on at least five occasions opposing it. L.A. Times

We’ve rejected “undesirable” refugees before — and it ended catastrophically for them. Prior to World War II, millions of Americans knew of the grave mistreatment of Jews by Nazi Germany and were opposed to it, according to polls. And yet, few at the time wanted to do anything about it, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew Americans would accept neither an influx of European Jews nor sending U.S. troops to war to save them. “The ring of familiarity impels us to ask chilling questions about our current moment,” writes historian James Grossman. L.A. Times