In a bold move, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 today to send a November 3rd ballot measure to the voters that could bring transformative change to LA County.
The Re-imagine LA County measure would amend the County’s charter to permanently direct at least 10% of net county costs—or about $1 billion this year—to community investment and alternatives to incarceration. The money would come from existing funds reallocated to services for the most marginalized. Law enforcement (including the Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department and the District Attorney’s Office) would be barred from accessing any Re-imagine funds, aligning the measure with the priorities of the global Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice. Currently, 42% of LA County’s net county costs go directly to law enforcement and the legal system.
In March LA county voters overwhelmingly voted for Measure R, a county measure that focused on accountability of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and mandated the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a feasibility study towards alternatives to incarceration. The Re-imagine LA County measure is “phase 2” of the Yes on R ballot measure, advocates say.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the lone ‘no’ vote, bristled at the process, which she characterized as rushed. However, she maintained that she took no issue with the substance of the proposed measure.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, in a respectful dressing-down, dismissed Barger’s arguments as ridiculous and inflammatory. “This is not a big part of net county costs,” said Kuehl. “We need to calm down.” Supervisor Kuehl and Supervisor Hilda Solis co-authored the initiative. The Board has the power to allocate these funds at will with a simple 3-2 vote, but Supervisor Kuehl had previously noted how quickly progressive change made at the County level can be undone by new, more conservative administrations, signaling the need for the voters to weigh in.
Community members who organize with the JusticeLA coalition applauded the vote:
“Today’s vote is a victory for justice, a victory for our future, and an opportunity for voters in LA county to reaffirm our commitment to care and opportunity,” said Isaac Bryan, Executive Director UCLA Black Policy Project. “For too long we have invested our public resources in systems of harm. This November we will have a historic opportunity to change that. We did not come this far to only come this far.”
“For far too long our locally generated tax dollars have been given to reinforce the legal injustice system that has failed to make our communities safer, torn apart our families, and caused generational trauma,” said Eunisses Hernandez co-executive director of La Defensa. “I applaud the LA County Board of Supervisors for giving their constituents an opportunity to invest their tax dollars into the things that keep our families safe like jobs, housing, and alternatives to incarceration.”
“For generations, youth and communities of color have been crushed by the largest sheriff’s department, court, juvenile hall and jail system on the planet,” said Kim McGill, an organizer with Youth Justice Coalition. “and this has bankrupted our ability to provide housing, jobs, youth centers, access to public transportation, treatment and health care––essential components of public safety. Today’s vote is historic for Los Angeles County marking 2020 as the year we might finally heal from our addiction to incarceration.”
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