Re-Imagine L.A. County Coalition Forms to Push for Amendment that Would Shift County Budgets forever

Supes Have Critical Votes Tomorrow That Will Either Push or Derail Ballot Initiative

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Tomorrow morning, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will vote on a handful of motions that take the first steps in placing a measure on the fall ballot that would permanently change the way Los Angeles County creates its budget (agenda). A measure put forward by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis would dedicate 10% of the unrestricted funds (ie, ballot measures such as Measure H and Measure R would not be impacted, nor would state and federal grants) in the county budget towards “community investment and alternatives to incarceration.”

Graph-1-Copy-5According to the Re-Imagine L.A. County Coalition, the exact amount spent on community investment and alternatives to incarceration is currently closer to 1% than 10%. Re-Imagine L.A. states that passing this motion would be a “generational” victory, changing county budgets indefinitely – only undone if some further future amendment would be passed by voters.

“It’s time to invest in community counseling, mental health services, youth development programs, small businesses, jobs-creation, and affordable housing,” declares Re-Imagine L.A. in a statement. “Individual elected leaders come and go. But we have a chance to structurally change the budget and permanently enshrine our values in the county charter.”

The Re-Imagine L.A. Coalition has been forming over the last week, building on the work of the Justice L.A. Coalition (who led the fight to de-fund L.A. County jails last year), Californians United for a Responsible Budget, the United Way and others who have been fighting for massive changes to the County’s budget on an annual basis.  The coalition already has over 50 member groups including the above mentioned groups, Abundant Housing, ACT-LA, La Defensa and the UCLA School of Law. For a full list of sponsoring groups, click here.

However, the coalition warned partners in a conference call earlier today to expect a heated debate tomorrow. The first time these motions were discussed at the Supervisors, public comment was dominated by employees and supporters of the sheriff’s department, the county District Attorney’s office, and the prison guard’s union. To bolster the supporting supervisors, the coalition prepared both a set of talking points and a guide to submitting public comment at a board meeting.

If the motion, and a supporting motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, are passed, city staff will prepare the text of an amendment to the county charter that would change the budgeting process as described. The Supervisors would need a majority vote to place this language on the fall ballot where it would need a majority of county voters to pass. The Board of Supervisors’ vote (to put the measure on the ballot) would happen in two weeks at the August 4th meeting.

If the amendments fail, or the Supervisors don’t vote to place the measure on the fall ballot, then the coalition will continue the ongoing annual campaign to reform the budget on a year-by-year basis. The Supervisors will need to approve an update to the current fiscal year’s budget in September.

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