The Board of Supervisors voted to direct County Counsel to draft an ordinance that would guarantee a baseline minimum threshold of 10% of locally generated (“general fund”) revenue to better address the needs of low-income residents in under-resourced communities. The ordinance is not a tax, and if approved by the Supervisors at forthcoming meetings, would appear on the November 3, 2020 ballot.

Recent protests, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, have focused a sharp light on longstanding and systemic inequity and vulnerability that negatively impacts Black, Indigenous and other communities of color by limiting access to housing, employment, health care and law enforcement diversion.

The proposed ordinance would begin a graduated process over three years of adjusting the allocation of the general fund portion of LA County’s budget to reflect the Board’s determination to reduce, and ultimately, end such disparities and improve the health and safety of every community and resident in LA County.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion, said, “For the last several years, this Board has been ‘reimagining Los Angeles’ and has taken significant actions to expand access to housing, mental health treatment and law enforcement diversion programs, but there is only so far we can go without budget adjustments that are consistent with this Board’s values and priorities. This represents a policy that will outlast any one Board member’s tenure, so we want to be sure voters agree that this is the direction we want to go.”

LA County’s $34.9 billion budget comes from a combination of local, state and federal sources. The general fund revenue amounts to $8.8b. Currently, County law enforcement and the legal system receive 42% of the County’s general fund. The ordinance to be drafted explicitly forbids use of the 10% baseline budget allocation to be directed to the LA Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the Superior Courts, or the Probation Department.

“This pandemic has exposed the racial and ethnic disparities that have existed for far too long. Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable. Institutional racism permeates every level of our society, and this plays out every day in our Black and brown communities, where inadequate investments have limited their ability to access the essential services and programs they need to survive. Decades of underinvestment are also partly responsible for the high COVID-19 case rates in our communities of color,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis.

“I understand that belt-tightening must be done, but now is the time to be bold and invest in projects that will directly benefit our most vulnerable communities. This proposed amendment to the County Charter puts that power in the hands of the voters so that we may never go back to the ways things were. We cannot put this off: Now is the time to courageously step up to end systemic inequities head-on, and LA County will rise to this challenge,” added Supervisor Solis.

This proposed investment in community health and safety builds on actions the Board has taken since 2015 with the establishment of the Office of Diversion and Reentry, followed by the establishment of an affordable housing trust and the Homeless Initiative, and most recently, the Office of Alternatives to Incarceration.

Submitted by Barbara Osborn