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.

Care First, Jails Last, the next chapter

After decades of punishment-based community safety strategies that incarcerated people struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse, LA County is on the road to creating a ‘care first, jails last’ system.

The Board unanimously voted for my motion, co-authored by Sup. Mark Ridley-Thomas, to establish an ongoing funding reserve dedicated to the new Office of Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI).

In March, we voted to develop a new and extensive community health and safety effort by building on proven treatment and diversion programs that have already helped thousands of men and women access mental health and social services instead of going to jail.

This motion ensures that we can build on that impressive track record, and progress toward a vision of transformational change.

Sup. Ridley-Thomas and I also teamed up on a motion to also identify a dedicated and secure funding stream for our Office of

Diversion and Reentry — an entity that will play a critical role, along with the ATI Initiative, in helping us realize our care first, jails last vision.

Closing MJC

For years, our Board has struggled to find an alternative to the crumbling and dangerous Men’s Central Jail. In its current state, MCJ cannot secure the safety, security, or health of anyone who works there, much less those incarcerated.

This week, the Board gave a definitive answer by asking for a plan to do away with MCJ entirely, and not replace it. It no longer makes any sense to maintain the largest jail in the country (by far) while at the same time engaging in unprecedented efforts to divert people away from jail and towards much more effective, and much less expensive, alternatives?

In a motion by Sup. Hilda Solis, that I co-authored, the Board is asking a diverse team of justice experts to develop a plan that would see MCJ closed in the next year.

This motion acknowledges the truth of the saying, “If we build it, they will come,” by answering, “Then we will not keep the cells open, and will not, then, inevitably, fill them.”

The naysayers and advocates of the increasingly inhuman status quo try to paint a “sky is falling” picture of an LA turning into Thunderdome — but motion makes certain that this commonsense closure will not happen in a vacuum.

The closure of MCJ will be timed and connected to the scaling up of our already increasing diversion and reentry services, as well as the implementation of the Alternatives to Incarceration initiative mentioned above. As we ramp up these efforts, we’ll reduce our reliance on incarceration, and the closing of this one jail will no longer be as revolutionary as it seems today.

This decision sets LA County on a logical, humane, and fiscally prudent course, centered on real rehabilitation and community healing.

Business owners: take COVID-19 seriously.

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is severe and greatly jeopardizes our ability to care for all the people who are getting sick.

During the last weekend in June, inspectors from our Department of Public Health found that 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants were not adhering to physical distancing protocols indoors; and workers were not wearing face masks and face shields at 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants.

In response to these alarming findings, the Board unanimously passed my motion with Sup. Janice Hahn to fine businesses who are not complying with directives and guidelines issued by the County Department of Public Health.

The first time businesses are found to be non-compliant, a fine will be assessed. In the case of repeated offenses, the County will revoke business permits. The motion will cover tens of thousands of restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, and all other businesses across LA County.

In two weeks, the Board will receive recommendations on the exact fine structure. Business owners: please take this seriously. You are part of our community and an essential partner in slowing the spread of COVID 19.

Price Gouging

Since the emergence of COVID-19, our Department of Consumer and Business Affairs has received over 1,100 price gouging complaints.

While the County has worked to crack down on those trying to profit from tragedy, the Board adopted an emergency ordinance to expand the scope and increase penalties for price-gouging.

This new ordinance will:

  • Expand prohibited price gouging to situations where the seller was not selling those goods or services before COVID
  • Prohibit price gouging in the rental of short-term and vacation rentals, home and apartment rentals, care facilities, and mobile homes
  • Authorize subpoenas to investigate price gouging complaints during declared disasters and emergencies
  • Require businesses who sell vital and necessary goods to retain business records regarding the price of those goods
  • Allow for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation

These protocols come on the heels of a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis last month to ease the price-gouging burden placed on these small businesses by third party delivery services like Postmates and GrubHub.

We also need your help in this fight. If you see possible price gouging, please immediately file a complaint here or by calling (800) 593-8222.

The future of the Women and Girls Initiative

In 2016, the Board created a five-year Women & Girls Initiative (WGI) to better address the disproportionate disadvantages and burdens faced by LA County women and girls.

Since its inception, by bringing more equity to job descriptions, recruitment and selection, we’ve seen record numbers of women promoted in senior management and department head roles — and better results across the board for women who want to dedicate their careers to public service. WGI has also provided critical research and recommendations to address the longstanding blind spot in policies and to better address the real-life needs and barriers faced by women and girls all across LA.

While these positive results are encouraging, we must continue to work towards true gender equity for the entire five-year mission of WGI.

That’s why I’m grateful that the Board passed my motion to develop a funding and staffing plan to continue the work of the Initiative for its full five years.

You can learn more about the Women and Girls Initiative and all of their exciting work here!