Most of SCV opposed Measure J, but L.A. County OKs initiative

Voters at the Stevenson Ranch Public Library in Stevenson Ranch on Tuesday, November 03, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Most of the Santa Clarita Valley has opposed Measure J, the Los Angeles County ballot measure looking to increase spending on community-based programs and decrease spending on law enforcement, but the rest of the county has approved the proposal. 

As of Wednesday evening, with nearly 60% of the votes counted, 56.98% of county voters, or 1.69 million, cast their support for the measure, while 43.02% (1.27 million) opposed, according to the county registrar. 

Dubbed “Reimagine L.A. County,” the measure would set aside 10% of the county’s unrestricted funds, or anywhere between $360 million to $490 million, for programs such as affordable housing, youth development, job training and alternatives to incarceration, including restorative justice programs and health services. Funds would not be invested in law enforcement agencies or jails and prisons. 

Measure J, co-authored by supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, follows monthslong Black Lives Matter protests and aims to “address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice,” according to the proposal’s analysis. 

“We have known for a long time that our communities need mental health services, housing, workforce development, and alternatives to incarceration,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater L.A., known as a major supporter of the initiative. “In this election, voters demanded change and were able to convert their protests into meaningful action. Our commitment to this issue doesn’t end with the success of this ballot measure. Diligent implementation, with the county government and the community together, will deliver a more just and inclusive Los Angeles County.”

But not all have backed Measure J, including Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley and who cast the lone “no” vote against placing the amendment on the November ballot. She has argued that while she agrees with investing in communities, the move would challenge the county even more amid the ongoing pandemic, and tie the hands of future county supervisors.

Santa Clarita City Council members also opposed Measure J. Councilwoman Laurene Weste said in mid-October during a council meeting that now is not the time to redirect funds. 

“I don’t believe mandating permanently taking 10% away from the county’s already-inadequate budget in a time of crisis is the right thing to do,” she said. 

Semifinal county vote tallies for those in the 25th Congressional District showed that 78,366 supported the measure while 112,101 opposed out of the 213,222 ballots cast, according to the county registrar. In Barger’s District, the cast “no” votes lead with a tally of more than 29,600 out of the 742,615 ballots cast. City of Santa Clarita residents voted: 49,826 opposed and 33,295 in support out of the 93,573 ballots cast. 

The total election results count is now 3.38 million, which is 59.24% of eligible county voters, and the county registrar is expected to issue its report on the estimated total number of outstanding ballots countywide later on Wednesday.

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