Alan Ferdman | There is NO Justice in Measure J

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I don’t know your position, but I always watch in astonishment, whenever organizations attempt to pander for personal benefit.  In one of this year’s incarnations, the National Basketball Association, or NBA, showed their true colors and displayed a valuable lesson for all to see. Early in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement was on newsprint front pages, and presented on cable news, every day. NBA team owners got together and decided to print BLM on their basketball court floors and team jerseys. Think about it carefully. Do you really believe the NBA team owners were genuinely interested in supporting the BLM cause, or was this just a politically correct way, they thought, would attract a larger viewing audience? The answer became clear last week, when the NBA released viewer statistics showing the loss of 60% of their TV audience and announced their BLM involvement would end at the conclusion of the current season.

But it is not only corporations, who head the list of “Pandering Prognosticators.” There are no individuals who follow opinion polls closer, or who change their positions faster than our elected politicians, as they are constantly in the hunt for a few more votes. Our Los Angeles County supervisors are no exception, and as a result, on Aug. 5, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to place a Nov. 3 ballot measure in front of the voters modifying the L.A. County Charter.

According to the analysis by L.A. County’s legal counsel, this new legislation, named the “Re-Imagine L.A. County Measure,” would “annually allocate …. no less than 10% of the county’s unrestricted revenues in the general fund to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice through community investment and alternates to incarceration and prohibit using those funds for carceral systems and law enforcement.”

When I first became aware of this measure, I wondered where the money was going to come from. Will implementation require additional resources, would funding be taken from existing important services, or is there an amount of the county’s general fund that has been sitting unused for a prolonged period? Searching on L.A. County’s total budget,, indicated the 2020-21 budgeted amount that was presented to the supervisors is $34.9 billion, with almost a $1 billion shortfall.

Of the total budget the 2020 general fund is shown as $23.9 billion and allocated in the following manner: public assistance $7.4 billion at 31%, health and sanitation $6.5 billion at 27%, public protection $6.2 billion at 26%, general expenditures at $3.3 billion and 13.9 %, recreation $0.4 billion, and education $0.043 billion. Well, that answers question one. There is no pot of general fund money currently sitting around unused, or actually unrestricted.

Our county supervisors are currently spending three times the 10% they are talking about for public assistance, while currently not addressing any of the newly defined services the county will be required to provide by Measure J. This will either result in a large reduction of important heritage services or require large tax increases be established.  Someone needs to give these legislative geniuses a calculator and have them come up with a complete financial implementation plan before they tie their own hands by county charter and put themselves in an untenable position.

Yet, I wonder if Supervisors Solis, Ridley-Thomas, Kuehl and Hahn are merely pandering, possessing no intention of ever implementing this plan to fruition. Because should Proposition 16 fail to pass, California governmental agencies making financial decisions based on race will still be prohibited and if implemented most certainly would be challenged in the courts. The county analysis also state the Measure J Charter Amendment will be “phased in by June 30, 2024,” which is about four years in the future. By then, community polling will surely have shifted, and there will be some other hot-button issue looming large in our view. When this charter amendment fades from front-page news, it will, most likely, all go by the wayside. 

Next, I reviewed the list of funding guidelines revolving around homelessness, such as rent assistance, housing vouchers, affordable housing and assistance for those in danger of becoming homeless. I remember these problems were to have been solved when we voted to approve Measure H, several years ago. What makes anyone think our county bureaucrats will do any better this time around? It is a time for cooler heads to prevail and look this proposal over very carefully. We should be thankful there is one competent Los Angeles County supervisor, Kathryn Barger, who cast the lone dissenting vote against putting Measure J on the ballot.

Another prudent call to scrutinize Measure J was raised at the Sept. 8 Santa Clarita City Council meeting. Councilwoman Marsha McLean asked for the issue of Measure J be placed on the council’s agenda, at a future council meeting, for discussion and possible action. The discussion came to pass on Tuesday, Oct. 13.  If you missed the last council meeting, a link to the meeting video is available on the city of Santa Clarita website.

Other affected organizations are also taking appropriate action. “On Aug. 5, 2020, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) and 14 union organizations filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. … the suit claimed that the Board of Supervisors violated procedural requirements outlined in the County Employee Relations Ordinance, which requires county officials to provide impacted labor organizations with at least a 90-day advance notice of a proposal to amend the county charter.”

In conclusion, I ask you to please, ”JOIN ME in OPPOSITION to MEASURE J. This ill-conceived charter amendment was not well thought out, is not revenue-neutral, does not include a detailed plan, and may remain illegal based on the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. Lastly, blind implementation of this county charter change will put many important existing county services in jeopardy. VOTE NO on Measure J and protect Los Angeles County’s ability to serve the general public.

Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.

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