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.
Photo: We kicked off this week’s Board meeting with a presentation of scrolls to Ben Guillory, Wren Brown, Debbie Allen, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Lula Washington, in recognition of their contribution to the arts and entertainment industries, as arranged by Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas.
Eliminating Administrative Fees
Tuesday, the Board adopted a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis to end the imposition of “pile/on” administrative fees in LA County’s justice system.
Currently, California law allows counties to charge administrative fees to people in the criminal justice system, on top of the fines they may owe for the action that led to their prosecution. Although these levies are allowed solely to help counties recoup actual costs, they more often act as punishments, because administrative fees are added on to base fines, making our criminal fees some of the highest in the country, sometimes adding up to thousands of dollars for a single conviction. These hefty fines must be paid on the spot upon release, meaning that many justice-involved individuals must exhaust their resources to pay these fines at a critical time when they must be looking to secure housing, education, transportation, employment, and support their families. These significant barriers to re-entry deeply and negatively impact public safety and community stability.
In addition to unfairly burdening people at a vulnerable time, these administration fees don’t actually help LA County. The County spends significant resources and funding to collect these fees, but they are an ineffective source of public revenue. Since 2014, County assessments averaged $121 million each year. However, the County collected an average of just $4.5 million per year. Worse still, this limited revenue goes to collection and enforcement costs rather than efforts to improve public safety.
By ending onerous administrative fees, LA County will allow struggling individuals to get back on their feet and readjust to society while better spending taxpayer money.
Probation Oversight Commission
For more than two years, Los Angeles County has been on a pathway to creating an effective, forward-thinking, and less punitive Probation Department. The department has grappled with toxic culture and bureaucratic difficulties, but we hope that with a new oversight body, as well as a comprehensive reform plan, we can right the ship. This week, we passed a motion authored by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis that moves forward with that reform plan.
By adopting this measure, the Board will direct relevant agencies to recruit and hire a new Executive Director and other program managers for a new Probation Oversight Commission which, as the Civilian Oversight Commission does with the Sheriff, will oversee the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs and use of budget, conduct community outreach and take stakeholder input and take feedback. To ensure positive change, the Board will evaluate the progress made in the first three months and six months of work.
I’m hopeful that this increased oversight will lead to a more progressive, rehabilitation-focused Probation Department.
Implementing the LA County Alliance for Health Integration
Over the past several years, this Board has consistently asked our health departments to do a better job of providing integrated services to our County residents. To effectively deliver services in a new and more integrated manner, we sometimes have to change how the basic organization of our bureaucracy. This week, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn, which establishes the Alliance for Health Integration, a new organizational unit that will help us coordinate services across the Department of Public Health, Department of Mental Health, and Department of Health Services.
The County’s three health departments represent 1/3 of the County’s workforce and over one-third of the County’s total budget. Between the three departments, they run several hospitals, dozens of clinics, manage health plans for specialty mental health and substance use services, contract with hundreds of local CBOs and community clinics, and administer hundreds of millions of grant dollars. Their size, scope, and complexity make each of the three departments capable of creating truly positive health outcomes for our residents. The new Alliance for Health Integration will bring the work of the three departments closer together, hire a Chief Operating Officer for the triad, leverage the strengths of each of the three health departments by preventing the formation of silos, and ensure that our most vulnerable residents do not fall through the cracks.
I am certain that by creating the Alliance for Health Integration, and resourcing it properly, we can expect greater outcomes for our County residents’ health and wellbeing.
Civic Artist Development Initiative
In a win for public art, the Board authorized the Department of Arts and Culture to accept a $1.75 million grant that will fund the Civic Artist Development Initiative.
Civic Art, including architecture, monuments, urban design, and murals, has the power to elevate public space and transform cultural landscapes. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a three year, $1.75 million grant to the Department of Arts and Culture for the Civic Artist Development Initiative, which will increase diversity, equity, and inclusion of the artists selected for civic art projects across the County. The initiative will address barriers to entry in the civic art field for underrepresented artists, including artists of color, artists with disabilities, indigenous artists, LGBTQ+ artists, self-taught artists, artists of nontraditional mediums, and emerging artists.
The motion also adjusts the process under which grants are accepted so that the Department of Arts and Culture can directly accept low-dollar future grant awards.
Affordable Housing In the Works!
LA County is always looking for opportunities to support the construction of affordable housing, and this week the Board approved over $23 million in tax-exempt Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds to finance two developments. The first development, known as Whittier II and located in unincorporated East LA, will add 34 units for veterans experiencing homelessness and homeless individuals with a mental illness. The second development is El Monte Metro Apartments, with 28-units of affordable rental housing for households that do not exceed 30% of Area Median Income.
These are just some of the more than 8,000 homes for people experiencing homelessness that are coming to LA County. Everyone In has a new tool where you can see all the housing being created for our neighbors experiencing homelessness, you can check out the map here, and visit www.everyoneinla.org to join the coalition of neighbors speaking out to end homelessness.
The Board meeting also featured a presentation on LAHSA’s Permanent Supportive Housing Central Command, which is working to significantly reduce the time it takes to move people into supportive housing units. Often, a lack of access to necessary documentation like birth certificates prevents people experiencing homelessness from moving into existing units so LAHSA is working to remove those barriers and ensure that every unit is filled as quickly as possible.