News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
A new path to justice system reform
While there is no doubt that Men’s Central Jail must be torn down, I had deep concerns about the proposed replacement — a behemoth “treatment facility” that would still be jail-like and house almost 4,000 people. When we costed out the kind of facilities we really needed for proper mental health and substance use treatment and diversion, with less pure custody space, we found that it would not fit within the current contract.
I co-authored a motion with Supervisor Solis that terminated the building contract with McCarthy Building, Inc. and canceled the construction of the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility. This action allows us to reassess and appropriately pivot to effective community-based programs and diversion efforts.
Six months ago, we developed and embraced a vision of ‘treatment first, jail last’ for LA County’s justice system. Advocates had been asking us to consider this and I agreed.
To achieve that goal, we have to re-consider the proposed balance of custody, treatment, and community-based beds for both men and women thoughtfully and holistically.
Restructuring the Juvenile Justice System: Building a Health-focused Model
Supervisor Ridley Thomas and I joined together on a motion to explore moving the juvenile justice system out of the Probation Department and into an existing or new County department.
All the recent research on juvenile justice points to the need for a care-first approach. Punitive approaches have not been shown to make things any better, but rather to worsen them over time.
Under the motion, a Youth Justice Work Group will be assembled to develop guidance and, along with a consultant with appropriate expertise, to think through whether this work might be moved out of the Probation Department, and, where it might better be housed.
The Youth Justice Work Group will report back to the Board of Supervisors in 120 days with their thoughts on a possible action plan.
I want to see Los Angeles County move away from a punitive and ineffectual youth justice system to one that is therapeutic, rehabilitative and centered on well-being.
The care-first approach, if done right, can be transformational in the lives of some of our most vulnerable kids, and this motion will provide us with the thoughtful advice we need to consider our options and achieve our goal.
Reducing Dependency on Natural Gas Through De-Carbonization
Supervisor Barger and I brought a motion to direct the Chief Sustainability Officer to analyze and compare carbon-neutral (decarbonization) plans for government buildings. Investigating these plans will allow us to choose the best path forward when it comes to decarbonization by learning from other jurisdictions’ successes. The report will focus on the economic impacts of decarbonization, new construction and building renovation as well as other steps taken in decarbonization.
This motion also reinforces the goal outlined in LA County’s Sustainability Plan. Our goal is to move LA County towards carbon-neutral buildings (decarbonization). As pointed out in the County’s Sustainability Plan, 44% of Los Angeles’ climate pollution comes from buildings.
Diversity in Finance
This Board has consistently made diversity a priority, and we continued to stay true to those values by passing a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis to make diversity and inclusion important parts of Los Angeles County’s financial services.
The Treasurer and Tax Collector of Los Angeles County runs one of the largest Public finance units in the Nation, signing contracts with a collection of 30+ private-sector legal and financial advisory firms. Often, people exclusively consider these contracts in terms of “dollars and cents,” believing that by focusing on diversity and inclusion, we are settling for a lesser product. This motion is a repudiation and rejection of those ideas. We believe that diversity, broad participation and inclusion are assets, especially in public finance.
The motion instructs County Counsel, the Acting Treasurer, Internal Services and other relevant County Departments to conduct an analysis and evaluation of our current practices, and report back to the Board on how to create a Public Finance Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. This initiative will give a valuable opportunity to firms owned by or with a history of hiring women, LGBTQ+ folks, disabled vets, and ethnic minorities. It is also the first-ever action taken by Los Angeles County to formally include LGBTQ individuals into our contracting outreach and inclusion programs.
When diversity increases in any industry, creativity and innovation inevitably follow. I am proud to be a part of this step towards a more equitable future.
A multi-pronged approach to homelessness
A pair of motions I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas allocated much-needed funding to a variety of affordable housing programs, both within County Departments and via partnerships with nonprofits. One of the motions provides an investment in the Backyard Homes Project by LA-Más, which supports homeowners in building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in exchange for renting their unit to a homeless tenant for a number of years.
The Board also permitted the LA County Development Authority to execute contracts with winners of the Housing Innovation Challenge, who presented new, scalable housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness.
Finally, a motion authored by Supervisors Solis and Barger will help housing authorities in the County take advantage of a Housing and Urban Development program aimed at preventing homelessness. Under the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative, foster youth aging out of the system can qualify for housing assistance by applying for vouchers provided by HUD.
Our approach to addressing the homelessness crisis must be multi-pronged. The County is utilizing all tools at our disposal, from private-public partnerships to federal funding, to increase our stock of affordable housing and prevent homelessness in vulnerable populations.