July 23, 2020

Hahn Says LA County Budget does not “Meet this Moment”

Los Angeles, CA — Today, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn voiced strong criticism of the LA County CEO’s budget proposal which includes cuts to County departments that provide community services and fails to make new investments in a “Care-First, Jail-Last” framework for reforming our criminal justice system.

“The budget we are considering today does not meet this moment,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “It does not meet the needs of struggling families and it misses the opportunity to invest in a Care First, Jail Last restorative justice system. It is a status quo budget in unprecedented times.”
Supervisor Hahn abstained from a vote taken on the budget proposal and urged the County’s CEO to make substantial changes to the budget before the supplemental budget comes back to the board this Fall.

Read the Supervisor’s full remarks on the budget below:

“Thank you, Sachi, for your work on this budget.

I really consider you a great guardian of Los Angeles County and you always manage to protect our resources and our ability to provide for our residents for decades to come.

In a lot of ways, it is a commonsense approach you are taking here: make cuts to stay within our means and wait and see if we get additional help from the state and the federal government to restore these cuts.

I respect that. This budget prioritizes the bottom line: it keeps our government whole.

But this is a status quo budget in unprecedented times.

I don’t think this budget meets the moment.

This may very well be the worst combination of crises our residents have ever faced.

We are seeing more people losing their housing, their jobs, their businesses and their health, at a scale I haven’t seen before — and they need our help.  Granted, we’ve done some modest things to address these problems through Board motions, but not at a scale commensurate with the power and resources of the largest County in the United States.

And in a lot of ways, the pandemic has forced us to address homelessness with an urgency that I’ve been calling for for some time now. We’ve also seen more people being released from jail and diverted to services than ever before.

Why slow this momentum?

We take pride as a County for being the “ultimate safety net” for our residents. But at a time where we are needed more than ever, we are voting on a budget that holds back our ability to be that helping hand.

For example — LA County was allocated $1 Billion from the federal government through the CARES Act The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But as of right now — $900 Million of that $1Billion is still sitting in our county coffers.

We need to spend more of this money now on people who need it. That is not in this budget.

I know that we have to be mindful of our bottom line and preserve our financial stability.

But the rainy day is here.

It is easy to help people when times are good. It is hard, but it is our responsibility to help people when times are bad.

On top of this — I say every year that a budget is a statement of our values. I don’t think this budget reflects our values.

Over the last several years we have talked A LOT about our aspirations for reforming our criminal justice system and building a restorative justice system.

We have set up the Office of Diversion and Reentry.

We voted against replacing Men’s Central Jail with another jail.

We passed a historic framework for Alternatives to Incarceration.

And now — people are literally taking to the streets demanding changes — many of which this board agrees with and has been working towards.
Now is the time to put our money where our mouth is.

And yet — I don’t see a restorative justice budget in front of us today.

In fact, this budget cuts funding for the Public Defender and the Alternate Public Defender — two agencies that defend the homeless, juveniles, the mentally ill and the indigent– which will likely result in layoffs that will seriously impact their ability to do their important work.

According to the Alternatives to Incarceration framework (that Supervisor Sheila Kuehl initiated and that we all voted for) — we should be investing more in these positions not cutting them.

Plenty of our speakers during public comment brought up the idea of creating an Alternatives to Incarceration Fund. I think that is a good idea and that is something we should absolutely do.

This budget’s 8% cut in NCC across the board was not strategic. What we need is a surgical scalpel — that cuts from some but invests in others.

In addition, my colleague, Supervisor Solis wrote a letter to you on Friday, Sachi, and expressed her concerns about the needs of our communities of color that are not met with this budget. I agree with her vision for how this budget can be improved and how we can bend this budget towards people of color.

I have thought long and hard about this budget and I have decided to abstain from this vote. In abstaining, I am asking you, Sachi, to approach this budget differently than you ever have before.

I know we call this the “final budget” but, as you like to say, Sachi, — we actually have three bites at the apple. This is the second bite. Next we will have the supplemental budget. I hope I can vote yes then.

I urge you to rework this budget so that it meets the challenges of these extraordinary times.”


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