Barger pushes for Measure H passage

Kathryn Barger in Signal Editorial Board meeting. Dan Watson/The Signal

For Kathryn Barger, Measure H is Topic A.

The newly minted County Supervisor from the Fifth District, which includes Santa Clarita, met with The Signal’s editorial board on Friday – and the Measure H homeless initiative that’s on the March 7 ballot dominated the dialogue.

“We have to show the fact that it’s needed,’’ Barger said.

Measure H calls for a quarter-cent sales-tax increase that would raise an estimated $355 million a year over its 10-year lifespan — the money being used specifically on a detailed plan to battle what the county has identified as a homeless state of emergency.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, 46,874 people were homeless during a January 2016, one-day survey in L.A. County. But county officials estimate as many as three times that many people experience homelessness over the course of a year.

That same one-day survey identified more than 7,000 homeless in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys combined — and more than 300 in the City of Santa Clarita alone.

“There’s no question, it’s no longer just Skid Row,’’ Barger said.

Barger was a key player in crafting certain details of Measure H – specifically, that the sales-tax increase be targeted specifically to fund a homeless initiative. Originally, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had proposed a general tax for that purpose.

“But my concern was it (the money) wasn’t going to go where it belongs,” Barger said, emphasizing that under the measure now on the ballot, “There is an oversight group in place, and it (how the money is spent) is going to be transparent.’’

Because the proposed tax increase is targeted, it will require two-thirds support to pass.

“No one wants to do a quarter-cent sales tax – I don’t,’’ Barger said. “But at some time … I feel we have an obligation to do better – as a society, as a state.’’

Measure H would fund 51 specific strategies, covering six general areas, including: preventing homelessness; housing subsidies; increasing income through job training; increasing case-management services; coordinating systems across all of L.A. County’s 88 cities, as well as within the programs themselves; and building new affordable housing.

Barger said the lifespan of Measure H – 10 years – is a key element of its big-picture plan of attack.

“Ten years will allow us to get the housing component,’’ she said – indicating that would also be a part of the job element, creating jobs attached to the construction of those new housing units.

Other segments of Measure H focus on the mental-health and addiction aspects of homelessness.

An earlier county plan to help the homeless, called the 2015 Homeless Initiative, identified 48 strategies to combat the problem on a regional basis, and invited all L.A. cities to sign on.

But the Santa Clarita City Council never put such an item on its agenda. Council members Bob Kellar, Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean argued at the time that the city already works with the county on various homeless strategies, and has some local programs in place as well.

“I think at this point in time, Santa Clarita is able to carry through and do a good job,” Weste said in June 2016.

While Barger did not criticize the Council, she did say she hopes Council members will embrace Measure H’s efforts to attack the homeless issue on a big-picture scale.

“It’s important for them (Council members) to play a role,’’ she said.

“There’s this notion that the homeless are not from the area – not true,’’ she said.

But, Barger added, “In defense of the city, I should reach out to the city.’’

Barger also said that if Measure H passes, Santa Clarita would benefit.

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