This week we will get to work on the City’s annual budget. The question is: “What will it do for South Los Angeles where most African Americans in our city live?”
Last year, in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis and a reckoning with our law enforcement systems, the City began this critical work. At a time of tremendous fiscal uncertainty, we prioritized keeping Angelenos housed and helping the homeless transition off the streets. We helped thousands move into shelter and housing, and allocated almost half a billion dollars in rent relief and eviction defense programs.
The City doubled down on COVID-19 testing, and then vaccinating our most vulnerable residents. Funds were shifted from law enforcement agencies in an effort to reimagine public safety – and we are now beginning the work of putting systemic change in place to ensure that mental health professionals and social workers respond to non-violent emergencies, instead of a misuse of sworn officers.
President Biden’s signing of the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan is a game changer – providing vital resources to cities like Los Angeles that will allow us to not have to worry about cutting services to balance our budget, and instead continue focusing on where investment is really needed.
First and foremost, we must continue our work of reimagining homeless services, public safety and economic opportunity in Los Angeles. We must use this opportunity to operationalize a comprehensive housing stability program to ensure Angelenos stay
housed once the statewide moratorium on evictions is lifted this summer, and ensure there is a municipal obligation to provide safe and affordable housing for our residents. This would be a meaningful first step in our work to create a “Right to Housing” in Los Angeles generally and in South Los Angeles in particular, where chronic homelessness is most pronounced.
We must also continue to promote community safety, not just community policing. We can do this with training and deploying more interventionists and assessing the feasibility of deploying civilians for functions like traffic enforcement. South Los Angeles needs serious alternatives.
We must also expand economic opportunity and stability through innovative efforts to guarantee income to our most vulnerable South Los Angeles’ families, an effort that has already shown great promise in other regions across America.
But we also have an opportunity to use these resources to do even more. For example, the Community Coalition, Inner-city Struggle, SEIU 2015 and Brotherhood Crusade have advanced the Make LA Whole proposal, a multi- dimensional approach to envisioning a path forward that acknowledges persistent inequities, as well as inequities exposed by impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tragically these inequities overlap far too often. The proposal focuses on saving jobs primarily held by people of color and establishing summer jobs for teens in disadvantaged communities. It promotes the allocation of sufficient funds to expand the work of the Office of Racial Equity and establish a City department dedicated to the needs of youth.
It advocates for more support for low-income families with young children and seniors in need of care. And it elevates the need for training, employment opportunities, and support for women-owned small businesses and non-profit organizations—so that a diverse and gender-balanced workforce is poised to participate and benefit from our economic recovery. This is the type of thinking that’s needed to ensure that communities that have historically been left out are finally lifted up.
This agenda may seem ambitious – but collectively, these are the types of investment that are long overdue, not just to reimagine Los Angeles, but to reinvest in an equitable city – starting with South LA where the largest concentration of African Americans reside. We can do this. We must do this. It’s time to get to work.
Marqueece Harris-Dawson represents the 8th District of the City of Los Angeles and chairs the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
Curren Price represents the 9th District of the City of Los Angeles and chairs the Economic Development and Jobs Committee.
Mark Ridley-Thomas represents the 10th District of the City of Los Angeles and chairs the Homeless and Poverty Committee