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We’re generally a no-more-taxes institution, and with Measure H on the March ballot we see yet another tax – yet another way to take money away from people who have worked hard for their success and pass it to a government agency to squander on bureaucracy and perhaps do some good for people who have been less successful in life.

But there’s something compelling about Measure H, the proposed quarter-cent sales tax hike that would cost us little as individuals but generate enormous amounts of money to tackle the daunting problem of homelessness in Los Angeles County.

It is a problem that didn’t exist in the early to mid-20th century, when the state funded mental hospitals and took in the mentally ill whether they wanted to be cared for or not; when the county funded a “poor farm” where Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center now stands, housing the indigent of that period; when anti-loitering laws were enforced and communities didn’t tolerate people living on their streets.

County statistics show homelessness has skyrocketed over the last few years. And Measure H is a remarkable joint effort between Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles, whose voters have already approved Measure HHH to build housing for the homeless.

The county’s Measure H would fund services needed to get those temporarily housed by the city trained out of their destructive ways so they can avoid landing on the streets again in a self-destructive cycle.

The county’s role is a social program on steroids; Measure H would generate an estimated $355 million a year for 10 years to extend homeless services throughout the county. There’s no doubt it would increase county social services staff.

And yes, it would also add a new bureaucracy – has already done so, to be precise, on some $100 million seed money previously allocated by county supervisors. The vote March 7 would extend the start-up program 10 years. For Santa Clarita Valley voters, the Homeless Initiative is the only item on the ballot.

Measure H would also build bridges across many county social service gaps that have existed, shamefully, for years.

If you doubt the need, take a drive through downtown Los Angeles and you’ll agree the situation is an emergency. And more people are becoming homeless every day.

Even in the Santa Clarita Valley, take a walk through a park or go visit the Newhall Library and you’re likely to encounter homeless. Our comfortable suburbia doesn’t insulate us.

In the early and mid-20th century the government dealt with problems of mental illness and homelessness, and we paid for it with our taxes. But later such heavy-handed tactics as mandatory mental health hospitalization and anti-loitering and “poor farm” laws were declared unconstitutional.

Thus the policies of the 1960s and later de-funded free mental health and homeless housing, leaving those figurative cans to be kicked down the road until the situation could no longer be ignored.

Now the level of homelessness is intolerable. Quality of life for those who don’t live in the streets is being compromised.

If we as taxpayers won’t take back at least some financial responsibility for the situation, that slide in quality of life – for all of us – will continue.

Critics of Measure H can point out problems: Its attempt at providing public oversight is inadequate. It arguably should extend for only five years. It offers few details about how sales tax hike monies would be spent.

It’s a brave new experiment in government cooperation drawn up by a consortium of service providers, regional governments and agencies, and nonprofits to jointly attack a problem on multiple fronts and region-wide.

That alone we find hopeful.

With Measure H we have a plan in hand that’s evolved from more than a year of research and collaboration by a collection of people and groups that want to make a difference in homelessness. It’s complicated; it requires from us a bit of an act of faith in people with high goals and a great deal of determination. It asks of us just pennies or less each day.

We believe we have to take action on this issue, and we urge a vote of “yes” on Measure H.

We also call on the city, as the third largest in Los Angeles County, to take an active role in the county Homeless Initiative that Measure H would fund to ensure Santa Clarita Valley homeless reap maximum returns.

City Council, let’s make the ad hoc homeless committee a permanent committee on the council.

 

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Comments
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  • Brian Baker

    As I wrote in my anti-H column, this is a prime example of exactly why this
    country’s going down the tubes. Creeping socialism, all under the guise of
    feel-good “do something!” policies that are improperly foisted on us by
    government hacks, while otherwise rational people fool themselves into
    supporting them.

    https://signalscv.com/2017/02/15/brian-baker-high-cost-feel-good-taxes/

    Sometimes I feel like the Cassandra in Greek mythology.

    • Ron Bischof

      What has the “War on Poverty” produced, Brian? There’s little to no change in the rate, eh?

      This concept of mobilizing for a “war” on a social issue is a defunct idea from the 1930s designed to extract taxes for huge ineffectual government programs.

      The focus should be on our local community. Our little valley can’t fix the decades of misguided County and state policies.

      • Brian Baker

        I couldn’t agree more, Ron.

    • Richard Slechta

      Yeah you’re right. Let’s just ignore the problem and maybe it will go away.

      • Ron Bischof

        Straw man, Mr. Slechta.

        Mr. Baker is critiquing Measure H as a “solution” to homelessness. In fact, if you read his column, nowhere does he suggest it will “go away”.

        If able, please compose a cogent rebuttal to the actual comment as written.

        • Brian Baker

          Thanks, Ron.

          • Ron Bischof

            No worries, Brian.

            Just assisting Mr. Slechta in avoiding further confusion.

          • Brian Baker

            Of course.

        • Richard Slechta

          I read your “anti-H column” and do not see any “cogent” arguments on how to alleviate the problem of homeless on our streets and in the Santa Clara River. All I see is your whining about an additional sales tax.

          H is not going to solve the problem, but it will most likely help. How is putting a measure to a vote by the citizens, and by passing by over two thirds “policies that are improperly foisted on us by
          government hacks”. What would the “proper” way be to implement change.

          By the way, you lost. “That’s just a fact of life.”

          • Ron Bischof

            You still miss the point, Mr. Slechta. I’ll reiterate it to see if it sinks in this time.

            Mr. Baker’s column (not mine), critiqued Measure H as a “solution”. No alternative was offered because that wasn’t the intent and columns have a 750 word limit.

            Any program should be evaluated by efficacy, i.e. measurable results that have a real impact. Saying it will “help” is a very low bar. Can you explain by what metrics Measure H will be graded on?

            For example, compare the poverty rate at the inception of the “War on Poverty” and the current rate. Any private enterprise that produced similar results would be considered an abject failure.

            I project that Measure H will collect and expend huge sums with few demonstrable benefits beyond government employees and NGOs.

          • Richard Slechta

            I don’t appreciate the language, “see if it sinks in this time.”

            My comments remain. What is your or Mr. Baker’s approach to alleviate homelessness in the Santa Clarita Valley? Is it to simply pass by a homeless person and say to yourself, “They probably made the choice to be homeless.”?

            I would like you to explain “by what metrics Measure H will be graded on?” And also explain what “huge sums” and “few demonstrable benefits” are. Please be specific with facts and figures.

          • Ron Bischof

            I was more pointed due to your obtuseness. Despite it gaining your attention, you’re still deflecting and calling for an opinion no one intended to write.

            You asserted Measure H would “help”. I challenge you on that and you risibly attempt to shift the burden of proof to me.

            The expenditure estimates are well known, i.e. $300+M annually for a sum of 10 years.

            This is my 3rd pass and we’re done here because you demonstrably don’t intend serious debate.

          • Richard Slechta

            We are done since, despite your name calling and innuendo, you have nothing positive to offer.

          • Ron Bischof

            I have called you no names other than your surname and I didn’t employ innuendo, instead offering clear prose, Mr. Slechta.

            I note your difficulty with facts, comprehension and language makes your participation here a challenge for you.

  • Ron Bischof

    Unfortunately, even if funding is available for mental health services, without a change in the law any staffed facilities will be ineffective revolving doors. Expect “activists” that rarely have personal experience with mentally ill family members to vigorously oppose any reform.

    I noted this professionally in the Washington State Mental Health System. Gleaming, modern, well funded facilities fully staffed by unionized state workers and mostly devoid of patients.

    When I inquired about what I observed, one administrator lamented that the mentally ill homeless that aren’t dangerous to others are picked up by law enforcement, cared for and stabilized with medications and then released to repeat the cycle.

    Treatment of substance abusers will have similar outcomes. Addiction resolution typically is internally motivated, not as a result of government programs.

    From what I’ve read, public/private partnerships administered within communities are best equipped to assist those who are temporarily homeless due to unfortunate circumstances. Temporary housing, food and employment search assistance are best applied in this fashion.

    Of course, individuals, private or government organizations will consider funding via Measure H as an upside. Money for organizations, staff and government employees is never viewed as a negative. The real challenge is efficacy and a sound cost/benefit. Since Measure H is funded by sales tax for 10 years, expect minimal accountability. When was that last time anyone remembers an admission of failure by those associated with a government program and an announcement that it’s shutting down?

    I’m deeply skeptical of the County’s ability to apply vast taxpayer expenditures in a useful way. “Doing something” that’s likely to fail to relieve guilt amounts to wasting the resources of productive citizens.

    For these reasons, I’m voting No on Measure H. Let the City of Los Angeles demonstrate long term efficacy with HHH funding before going to the taxpayer well again.

  • david t

    I have transported countless numbers of homeless to hospitals from downtown LA’s skid row. Many of them tell the same story. “I was given a hot meal and a one way bus ticket to California”. Other states handle their homeless by sending them here. This should be a tax on every state, not just here in California.

  • lois eisenberg

    “If we as taxpayers won’t take back at least some financial responsibility for the situation, that slide in quality of life – for all of us – will continue.” Ditto !

  • Volunteerthis

    It’s popular for the bleeding hearts to reminisce about the good ‘ole days when the homeless would get locked up in a mental ward without due process. The liberals criticized that system out of existence. Now, the homeless are free to be homeless, and the liberal instinct is to throw other people’s money at the problem. But when you subsidize something, you get more of it. Want to end homelessness? Don’t subsidize it. Vote no on H.