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: This week, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we honored The Department of Public Health for their leadership in providing health, mental health, and social services to survivors of domestic. Though we dedicated this month to Domestic Violence Awareness, it’s important to address domestic/intimate partner violence every month, among all demographics, and in every community.
Fiscal Responsibility at the Sheriff’s Department
As the public stewards of taxpayer money, all departments within Los Angeles County must operate within their budget and practice fiscal responsibility. Last year, the Sheriff’s Department ran up a significant budget deficit of $63.4 million. To get things back on track, this week we passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis calling for a hiring freeze and budget mitigation plan to ensure the Sheriff’s Department operates within the Board-adopted budget moving forward.
The motion was carefully constructed to enact fiscal responsibility while preserving the department’s duty to provide public safety, so the hiring freeze does not include sworn deputies, contract cities or critical mental health and public safety positions. The Sheriff’s Department will collaborate with CEO and the Auditor-Controller to repay the deficit, and implement controls to stay within budget and improve cost efficiency in their operations.
This week’s action sends a strong message that the Sheriff’s Department will be expected to adhere to the same budgetary rules that apply to all County Departments, including those headed by independently elected leaders, so that the County can maintain a balanced budget as dictated by State Law.
Joining Litigation to defeat the Final Rule
Continuing their trend of needlessly cruel and anti-immigrant policies, the federal government published its Final Rule on Public Charge Inadmissibility, which expands the definition of a “public charge” to include individuals who receive non-cash assistance like nutrition assistance, housing subsidies or healthcare. This change means that an individual who qualified for and utilized these public benefits could be denied a visa to enter or remain in the United States. Previously, the definition of “public charge” only included cash assistance and long-term institutional care.
A likely intended consequence of the new Final Rule is that immigrant families are deterred from seeking necessary assistance. The UCLA Health Policy Center projects that, in Los Angeles County alone, 283,000 people would disenroll from Cal-Fresh and 708,000 would withdraw from Medi-Cal, and 7 in 10 of the Californians expected to drop out of public assistance programs would be children. This week the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis directing County Counsel to join litigation opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed Final Rule.
LA County is home to 3.5 million immigrants. Discouraging a swath of that population from pursuing good health, proper nutrition, and safe housing is a sure way to exacerbate our challenges. Call me an idealist, but I don’t think taking away basic assistance like food, shelter, and healthcare from our most vulnerable residents, the majority of whom are children, is good policy.
Probation Reform Plan
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 improve all their services. This week, we passed a motion authored by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis that moves forward with that reform plan.
The motion delineated the purpose and powers of a new Probation Oversight Commission (POC.) The commission will have nine members, with at least one commissioner in each of the following categories: formerly justice-system involved individuals, family members of someone who is currently or formerly justice-involved, and members of the California bar with juvenile or criminal justice expertise. In addition to advising the department and the Board, the POC will conduct unannounced inspections of facilities where youth and adults on probation are held or served, conduct community engagement, and design and propose a new grievance process, among other duties.
It will take continuing systemic change to align the Probation Department with the Board’s goals of restorative, rehabilitative justice. This week’s motion is a step in the right direction.
Opposing Changes to the Disparate Impact Standard
In 2015, President Barack Obama established federal guidelines known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Final Rule. These guidelines called upon neighborhoods to overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities, proactively eliminating barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics. Although the current federal government has rescinded these guidelines, Los Angeles County remains committed to these principles and to building integrated communities. Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed additional changes to the Fair Housing Act, this time altering the “Disparate Impact Standard.”
Disparate impact claims enable people to fight discrimination that may not be explicit, but nonetheless has a very real and damaging effect on their, and others’, civil rights. The changes proposed by HUD would drastically heighten the burden plaintiffs must meet to successfully file a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. This week, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas that formalizes our opposition to these changes, which will harm families with children, survivors of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and people of color.
HUD’s action is nothing more than another attempt to weaken the Fair Housing Act, roll back civil rights, and provide lenders, landlords, and insurance companies yet another loophole through which to discriminate.
Affordable Housing Developments Approved
Exciting news! This week the Board approved $126.87 million in No Place Like Home funds for 18 different affordable housing projects across LA County.
On July 1, 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1206, the No Place Like Home (NPLH) Act of 2018, which dedicated up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to invest in the development of permanent supportive housing. The Department of Mental Health will provide supportive services to the tenants in the NPLH-funded units, monitor the provision of services, and approve eligible tenants. The gap between renter households who would qualify for affordable housing and available units numbers in the hundreds of thousands. The 18 projects approved this week will provide 1,541 housing units for low-income families and seniors, homeless veterans, chronically homeless individuals, Transition Age Youth, and other vulnerable populations.
Of the 18 projects, four are in the Third District, in West LA, Reseda, Hollywood, and Venice. Increasing Los Angeles County’s stock of affordable housing is necessary to close the gap between needed and existing housing, so I am thrilled to see these developments moving forward!