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: Happy Year of the Pig! We kicked off this week’s Board meeting with a special celebration of the Lunar New Year. 

LA County to Develop Alternatives to Money Bail

In another step forward in eliminating inequities in the criminal justice system, this week the Board approved a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis that directs County Departments to work with community advocates and stakeholders to implement bail reform efforts and expand pre-plea diversion programs.

Money bail has a serious and disproportionate impact on the poor, who are least likely to be able to pay for their freedom. Men and women who remain in jail only because they don’t have the money for bail stand in danger of losing their job and their home while they spend months in jail awaiting trial. This motion will jumpstart our efforts to create a fairer system while continuing to preserve public safety.

I am very proud that the Board is taking this crucial step in furthering LA County’s mission of promoting equity in the criminal justice system.

Serving Older Adults in LA County

I am very pleased that the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn to initiate exploration and a report back on developing a department geared specifically toward serving LA County’s rapidly growing older adult population.

The number of adults over 60 who call LA home has been steadily increasing and is expected to double between 2010 and 2030, which is why it is so important that we prepare now to address the needs of this diverse and growing population. While the County provides many services to older adults, a full analysis of our ability to serve an aging population in areas ranging from housing and transportation to emergency preparedness and resilience would do much to help improve them. This motion asks the Chief Executive Office to explore the feasibility of a County department dedicated to the senior population and to report back to the Board with recommendations in 9 months.

Diversion for Justice-Involved Adults

In October 2018, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and I co-authored a motion directing the Office of Diversion and Re-entry to apply for a $25 million grant available through the Department of State Hospitals allowing for diversion of felony defendants whose mental illness is intertwined with their justice involvement. This was yet another step in LA County’s broader, long-term goal of transforming the ideology of our justice system from punishment and incarceration to rehabilitation and diversion.

I am delighted to report that this week Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and I co-authored a follow-up motion to accept the funding and begin coordinating various services for this population. The new program will be modeled after existing, successful court-based programs, and clients will be referred by judges, lawyers and jail clinical staff as well as directly through the Office of Diversion and Re-entry, who will provide supportive housing, intensive case management, and appropriate clinical services.

Emergency Proclamation for January Winter Storm

To support and expedite repairs and rebuilding after the January 10-18th Winter Storm, the board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Kathryn Barger to ratify an Emergency Proclamation and seek a Governor’s Proclamation under the California Disaster Assistance Act.

In the Third District, all of our mountain communities faced evacuations, and significant damage occurred in the Woolsey fire burn area. The winter storm generated over 20,000 cubic yards of debris and mud that inundated the roadways and inlets and damaged sections of roadways and roadway shoulders. All in all, the damage is estimated to be over 2.25 million dollars. For the safety of the public and motorists, it is imperative we are able to fix the roadways and infrastructure as soon as possible.

By issuing the Emergency Proclamation, LA County will be able to access critical State and Federal resources, including financial assistance, and engage with FEMA to address the damage caused by the winter storm.

Investigating Pepper Spray use in Juvenile Halls

Acting on a previous motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Chair Janice Hahn, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted its first ever investigation into the actions of Probation Department related to juveniles in our custody and raised an issue over the excessive and improper use of pepper spray at juvenile halls and camps. This Tuesday the Board officially received that report and is considering additional action on February 19th to implement OIG’s recommendations and potentially restrict and phase out the use of pepper spray in juvenile facilities.

The pepper spray used by the Probation Department is considerably more potent than the type of mace available to the general public. The OIG report indicated a number of instances where the use of this powerful chemical was excessive and unjustified, often because it was used as the first – rather than last – tool for gaining control.

The youth in our juvenile facilities are children, and excessive or unnecessary force against them will not be tolerated. I look forward to future actions that will align our policies at juvenile detention centers with our shared values.