Supervisors respond to judge’s challenge to county measure

Los Angeles County Seal.

A judge has ruled that Measure J — a county measure that would divert funds to alternatives to incarceration — is unconstitutional, and county supervisors said this week they will continue to pursue the measure’s goals even without Measure J becoming law.  

Although Supervisor Janice Hahn called the proposed ruling by Judge Mary Strobel “disappointing,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she is supportive of the intent behind Measure J, but called the process to deliver its promises “rushed.” 

Approved by county voters by a margin of 2,159,690 to 1,621,198 votes in November, the measure required that no less than 10% of the county’s general fund be directed to community programs and alternatives to incarceration.  

These programs would take the form of youth development programs, investment in small minority-owned businesses, rent/housing assistance and job training, and low-income jobs. Other forms of incarceration were also highlighted in the measure, including community-based justice programs, non-custody programs, health services and others.  

The amendment to the county’s charter would have taken effect on July 1 of this year. Judge Mary Strobel, in her ruling, however, called the measure unconstitutional given that it limited other, future boards from executing their future responsibilities as elected officials.   

“I have always been supportive of the intent behind Measure J, which aims to provide resources that empower and uplift our communities,” Barger said in a statement sent to The Signal on Wednesday. “I continue to believe that the Measure J process, which was rushed and not fully vetted, was not the way to accomplish these goals.  

“We will remain committed to funding the programs identified by the Measure J advisory body, which can be done with accountability and transparency by the Board of Supervisors,” Barger added.  

In a statement of her own, Hahn lamented the decision but took a similar stance as Barger in terms of moving forward.  

“While this ruling is disappointing, it in no way prevents me and my colleagues from continuing to invest in everything that Measure J prioritized — alternatives to incarceration, health care, housing and jobs,” Hahn said. “These were investments I supported before Measure J, they are investments the voters support, and I intend to keep my commitment to these initiatives.”  

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