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.
Opposing Trump’s Gender Policy
Last week we learned that the Trump administration is using the Department of Health and Human Services to lead an effort to change the definition of gender under Title IX to limit it to a person’s biological sex as assigned at birth.
This week, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn that formalizes Los Angeles County’s opposition to this discriminatory policy change, in the form of a 5-signature letter to be sent to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex M. Azar II.
Gender is personal, expressive, and more than just biology. Each one of us is the sole gatekeeper to our distinctive definition of self and certainly do not need Donald Trump’s approval as to what is an acceptable form of gender identity.
Growing the Creative Economy
I was very pleased this week that the Board passed my motion aimed at supporting the growth of the Los Angeles County Film and Digital Media Industry, and the jobs that can be generated. The motion addressed the economic benefits, how to create the necessary training and access to jobs for our clients and residents amidst the need for greater diversity in the creative economy.
The creative economy, including entertainment, digital media, visual and performing arts, and more, has been a continuous and vital pillar of the Los Angeles region. These industries are responsible for a total economic output of $198 billion and $9 billion in tax revenues. One of the strongest and fastest-growing sectors within the creative economy is the Film and Digital Media Industry. However, historically these fields have had limited diversity that may have unfairly excluded talented people of color and women.
The motion put forth this week supports the growth of the Film and Digital Media Industry and a plan that includes a Film and Digital Media career pathway program to serve targeted populations, which in addition to providing opportunities for our residents will help the industry meet increased demand for diverse voices and perspectives.
Shelter Crisis Declaration
On Tuesday, the Board passed a motion I authored that declares a shelter crisis in unincorporated Los Angeles County, allowing the County to draw down state funding from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) so we may better serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
A lack of shelter can exacerbate existing physical and mental health problems and cause new ones. The 2017 LAHSA Homeless Count found that there were 55,048 people experiencing homelessness in LA County and 52,442 experiencing homelessness in the LA Continuum of Care and that 73% of these persons were unsheltered. In response to these staggering statistics, the State of California has recognized that there is an urgent and immediate need for funding at the local level to help combat the homelessness crisis.
Mental Health Diversion
This week the Board also passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas that focuses on diversion for justice-involved individuals whose criminal charges are strongly tied to their serious and persistent mental health and/or substance use disorders.
This motion comes on the heels of last week’s action to expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program. Both proposals share the goal of halting the revolving door of criminal justice involvement for individuals with mental health issues in favor of the more effective path of diversion and services. This week’s motion directs the Office of Diversion and Reentry and other relevant departments to develop a plan for a robust system of care for individuals with clinical and social services needs in the criminal justice system, and to identify and seek funding sources, including available state funding, to support such a program.
By prioritizing diversion, the County demonstrates its commitment to reducing recidivism and increasing public safety, goals that serve to enhance the lives of all residents.
Minimum Age for Juvenile Justice
This week the Board passed an important and impactful motion authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas that sets a minimum age of 12 for juvenile court prosecution, except in the most serious of circumstances.
Studies have repeatedly shown that there are significant concerns about young children’s capacity to understand and exercise their legal rights in any meaningful way and that their immaturity may impact their culpability. The trauma inflicted on a child through unnecessary involvement in the justice system can be detrimental to their development and can even lead to an increased likelihood of future incarceration. By inflicting punishment rather than promoting positive change, we may be doing more harm than good for these children and the communities they inhabit.
For these reasons and more, it is imperative that the County follow newly adopted state law and establish a minimum age of 12 for juvenile court prosecution and focus, instead, on determining diversion pathways for these youth, and granting them access to the services and attention they need to set them on the right path.