Supes approve Nov. charter amendment, Barger in opposition

Los Angeles County Seal.

A Tuesday vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors marked the final stamp of approval to place a charter amendment on the November ballot that aims to increase spending on underserved and low-income communities while decreasing spending on law enforcement. 

The Reimagine L.A. initiative is among several responses to demands calling for a change following monthslong Black Lives Matter protests. 

If approved by voters in November, at least 10% of the county’s unrestricted funding would go toward community-based programs, such as rent assistance and affordable housing, youth development and job training, along with programs aimed at finding alternatives to incarceration, according to a county counsel analysis. Funds would not be invested in law enforcement departments or jails and prisons. 

The amount of funding could be anywhere between $360 million to $490 million of the $34.9 billion in the current budget, Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai said in a prior board meeting. 

The board voted 4-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, casting the lone “no” vote, citing that the process for which the proposal made it to the ballot “was anything but transparent.” 

Tuesday’s vote mirrored that of the past two weeks, where only Barger stood in opposition. She has said that she does not disapprove of investing in communities but said the move would challenge the county even more amid the ongoing pandemic. 

“The county is facing monumental economic upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting prolonged closures and health care costs,” said Barger in a prepared statement. “The county should be even more judicious with taxpayers’ dollars and allocate funds accordingly. Unrestricted funds can be used in a variety of ways during this financial crisis, including to close the county’s current budget deficit and minimize future layoffs.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who introduced the measure, countered Barger, saying the move would not “tie our hands” but rather “exhibits our priorities.” 

If approved, Reimagine L.A. would be phased in July 2021 and would be fully implemented by June 2024. By a 4-5 vote, the board may reduce the set-aside in the event of a fiscal emergency that threatens the county’s ability to fund mandated programs, according to the proposition. 

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said that while he supports providing mental health and substance abuse programs, the proposal is actually out to defund law enforcement.

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