Hot topics headlining current news mirror the priorities in the 2021-2022 budget proposed by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Delivering the financial document to the City Council on April 20, the mayor indicated his top interests include addressing the homelessness crisis, investing in small businesses, upgrading opportunities for young people and improving the quality of life for many Angelenos by implementing a guaranteed basic income pilot program.
Describing his proposal as a “Justice Budget,” Garcetti said, “It’s a financial document, but also a roadmap to a city built on justice and equity. It reflects our values. It restores what we love best about Los Angeles.
“It reinvests in our health and our strength. And it reinvents what has held us back. It is the biggest city budget I’ve ever presented. It’s the most progressive, too — arguably of any big city anywhere.”
The projected allocations include nearly $1 billion towards ending homelessness, $25 million to aid small businesses with $5,000 “Comeback Checks,” and funding for a Youth Development Department along with $5 million to create an Angeleno Corps, which will pay 400 student workers. Also, the basic income pilot will dedicate $24 million to the program, Garcetti said.
“Los Angeles will launch the largest Guaranteed Basic Income pilot of any city in America. [The budget will] provide $1,000 a month to 2,000 households for an entire year, no questions asked, wherever poverty lives in our city,” insisted the mayor.
“And thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Curren Price, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and other councilmembers, these funds will grow to more than $30 million in direct help to begin to tear away at poverty in our city and show this nation a way to fulfill Dr. King’s call for a basic income once and for all,” he added.
Other innovations in the proposed budget include $2 million in grants for low-income neighborhood restaurants to create permanent areas for outdoor dining as part of the City’s Al Fresco dining program, and $1.3 million to help street vendors maneuver through the City’s permit process and purchase modern carts. A $12 million budget will go to a pilot program entitled L.A. REPAIR – Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgement of Institutional Racism.
“The L.A. REPAIR pilot will give communities a direct say in grassroots investments to support job creation and provide organizational backing for community intervention, racial healing, justice and reconciliation. We will also use that funding to partner with community and faith organizations to establish spaces that foster dialogue among youth and adults alike to name the things that have so starkly divided our fortunes … and hold our city to promises of a better future,” explained Garcetti.
“The overarching mission of L.A. REPAIR is to make sure that we never forget the toll that evils from the past take on people’s lives today. To that end, I’m going to name an advisory commission and engage an academic partner to help me push toward creating a pilot slavery reparations program for Black Angelenos.”
Garcetti also called for increased funding for the Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) program to support the hiring of “80 new peace ambassadors planting seeds of reconciliation, calm, and unity.” In addition, he raised the Cultural Affairs Department’s budget by 30 percent to increase staffing to teach classes for youth “in visual arts, animation, music and more, boost direct grants to artists across our city,” and initiate “a youth and creative workers mural program to commemorate many more of Los Angeles’ neighborhoods and history,” he said.
Recalling the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor earmarked money to help the city recover. He allocated $75 million to deliver vaccines, testing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to neighborhoods throughout the city as well as requested the Cultural Affairs Dept. to assist with creating COVID memorials around Los Angeles.
Stressing the importance of technology, Garcetti announced the establishment of WiFi access points in “300 underserved neighborhoods that will act as giant hotspots, allowing entire neighborhoods to have dependable, fast Internet connections.” Highlighting environmental initiatives, he said his budget asks the L.A. Department of Water and Power to give “ratepayers $60 for smart thermostats and installing smart meters.” Also, LADWP will increase solar power in low-income neighborhoods and double the number of houses that receive free insulation and other energy-saving upgrades.
Reaction has been swift regarding the budget with local activists weighing in as to where funding should be allocated. Some housing advocates expressed dismay that Garcetti emphasizes physical dwellings instead of supportive services like mental health assistance. Other social action representatives were disappointed that the police budget wasn’t reduced more.
Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter criticized the mayor on Twitter during the speech for appropriating progressive language from the “People’s Budget,” created by the activist organization, the People’s City Council, but lacking that budget’s substance.
However, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas was happy that Garcetti gave a boost to his “Right to Housing” motion.
“Meaningful change begins with action. I applaud Mayor Garcetti for understanding that Angelenos are most concerned about the number of homeless we see in parkways, in the streets, and living in vehicles and proposing an unprecedented commitment of resources to allow us to scale up our response,” he said.
“We will not address this moral crisis with the urgency and conviction that is warranted, if we don’t have a comprehensive strategy, sufficient ongoing resources, and ultimately, an enforceable obligation on government to act.
“Just like we believe all citizens deserve a right to vote, and we all have a right to clean air. It must be the responsibility of local government to address the homeless crisis and ensure that our neighbors have a right to a roof. A billion dollars dedicated to this takes us in the right direction,” Ridley-Thomas said.
He added that he wants the final budget to advance his Right to Housing framework, which he proposed in a motion that was unanimously approved by the City Council on March 3.
The community also can weigh in on the final budget by participating in the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee meetings and voicing opinions about budget items as well as suggesting other funding areas. To view the committee’s meeting schedule, visit clerk.lacity.org. Read the mayor’s proposed budget in its entirety at cao.lacity.org.
City News Service contributed to this article.