LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that his forthcoming budget proposal will be the “biggest” and “most progressive” of any budget he’s ever presented.
That “justice budget,” as he called it, will invest in resident services, infrastructure, culture, economic recovery and safe neighborhoods.
His speech, delivered Monday night from Griffith Observatory, reflected on the way Angelenos weathered the COVID pandemic, on the demands made by community stakeholders to the city to correct systemic social problems, and on the city’s climate worries.
It was a hopeful speech — as “state of” speeches tend to be — promising significant change to the city’s programs going forward. His continual name-dropping of city council members throughout the speech indicates that much of the budget already has buy-in from the city’s decision-makers.
“We are the generation of Angelenos who will leave behind a stronger, fairer city for us all,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti’s budget promises a reimagining of policing, admitting that police have been “burdened…with responsibilities that they never asked for because of our society’s collective failure to address poverty, health and racial justice.”
However, he swatted away camps that have called for abolishing the police, as well as the “failed us-and-them strategy” that made police adversarial toward their communities.
Los Angeles, he said, will fund a Therapeutic Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods, or TURN, program, which will send mental health clinicians to non-violent mental health emergencies, rather than police. The city will also fund a pilot project to provide “round-the-clock, community-based response” to non-violent crises for people experiencing homelessness.
Together with @CountyofLA, TURN –– Therapeutic Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods –– will become a new official approach, deploying clinicians instead of cops in response to non-violent mental health emergencies. #SOTC2021— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) April 20, 2021
The city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, or GRYD, will also receive a 33% boost to its budget, intended to further a mission of mentoring young people to stay away from gang life and prevent violence.
As part of a Spectrum News 1 panel analyzing Garcetti’s speech, former city council member and retired LAPD officer Dennis Zine said that he understands the frustration felt by activists, but that he believes the city’s police staffing puts the city at risk.
“I’ve got concerns for the storekeepers, I’ve got concern for the residents…Melrose was a classic example, when it got out of control,” Zine said, calling back to last summer’s racial uprisings that rocked the Melrose shopping district. “So don’t blame the police for enforcing the law.”
Garcetti promised that the city will face the challenge of homelessness with a nearly $1 billion investment in this year’s proposed budget. It promises 1,200 new housing vouchers, as well as additional building purchases for conversion into long-term permanent housing.
To help prevent Angelenos from falling into homelessness to begin with, Garcetti’s budget proposes both a $300 million funding injection to the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, as well as a $24 million Guaranteed Basic Income program.
The proposed GBI program will provide $1,000 each month to 2,000 Angeleno households for 12 months. The plan, Garcetti claimed, is the largest pilot program of its kind in the country.
But political commentator Jasmyne Cannick challenged the city to ensure that its budget truly addresses systemic cost issues to protect all residents — including Black residents and other people of color who have been priced out of housing.
“We have to curb the high cost of rent. Until our city is ready to have a conversation about curbing the high cost of rent, we’re going to continue to have an increase in homelessness,” Cannick told Spectrum 1 News. “But our city council and our mayor, for some reason, are unwilling to get in there and really address that issue.”
In keeping with a plan to reduce inequality, Garcetti announced a proposed program to install Wi-Fi access points in 300 underserved neighborhoods to act as giant hotspots. “Consider that a down payment on true municipal broadband in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said.
One of the main things we learned from this pandemic was how vital the internet is, and how unequal our access to it is. WiFi access points will be available in 300 underserved neighborhoods that will act as giant hotspots ––bringing dependable fast internet connections #SOTC2021— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) April 20, 2021
To help counter climate change, Garcetti promised that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will provide an energy mix that’s 80% renewable and 97% carbon-free, and will be fully carbon-free by 2035. He also called for his city to declare a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling, as well as a ban on single-use plastic foodware.
Garcetti’s budget also promises a potpourri of significant programs to benefit business owners, young people, and low-income Angelenos.
For businesses, Garcetti’s budget will include permit streamlining and fee cuts for business owners, and permanent “alfresco” outdoor dining, as well as a $25 million “Comeback Check” program for business recovery. A permanent “Angeleno Corps” program would help young people to serve their city through working on community programs.
He’s also promised that LA Metro’s bus service would return to full service by September, and that both students and low-income Angelenos will be able to ride Metro for free.
“I think we do need to ensure greater focus on the kinds of community services and the kinds of responses to issues facing our community, especially facing the most vulnerable, where we don’t need to send the police in for every situation,” said panelist Michele Siqueiros. “We do need to provide the kind of support that every one of us wants.”