Boosting police officer ranks and tackling homelessness was the focus of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s fiscal agenda this week, in which she delivered her first State of the City speech and unveiled her first budget proposal. The City Council will take up the spending plan over the next few weeks.
On the homelessness crisis front, Bass is proposing to spend $1.3 billion, which she said in a press conference Tuesday morning, “represents a big city funding increase.” Of that, $250 million would go to her Inside Safe initiative, which she launched last December to shelter people in motels and clear encampments.
Bass has also promised that Inside Safe, which has been rolled out in Venice, Hollywood, South LA and other areas of the city, will house people eventually, but it has so far relied on placing people in motel rooms to clear sidewalks — an option that is costly and difficult to manage. Bass’s budget would put $47 million into outright purchasing whole motels as a way to reduce the costliness of the effort that partly comes from booking rooms by the night. She has also proposed setting aside $21 million to fund permanent housing.
Advocates who have tracked the outcomes of the program have pointed to difficulties, with many participants of Inside Safe getting shifted from one motel to another, and not getting adequate meals and other types of care and assistance. Bass’s budget proposes $62 million for case management, to help Inside Safe participants through the complicated process of getting housed, with some of those funds also going to food and other support, and $21 million to fund permanent housing.
Aside from homelessness, Bass says she is hoping to focus the city’s spending priorities on hiring and training more police officers to address the police officer ranks, which are down from its peak. At the moment, the number of officers hovers just above 9,000. Bass is proposing to replace retiring officers and train additional new ones to get the number of police officers to 9,504 by June 30, 2024, the end of the next fiscal year (late summer 2024), through offering incentives, such as a $15,000 recruitment bonus for new officers and transfers from other law enforcement agencies.
Bass’s plan to increase police ranks comes amid mounting calls to reduce police spending, so dollars can be freed up for creating safer communities without involving law enforcement. Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles is leading a coalition that’s circulating a survey to get the public’s participation in shaping city spending. They hope to present their results, as part of a “People’s Budget L.A.,” to city officials in the coming weeks. The coalition behind the “People’s Budget L.A.” has presented to members of the City Council in the summer of 2020, during which they pointed to other spending priorities identified by survey participants, such as housing, social workers and healthcare.
Meanwhile, Bass’s budget would address programs that offer alternatives to law enforcement through the creation of an Office of Community Safety, to be managed by her office, which will fund unarmed emergency response, as well as add $13 million to the budget of an existing program aimed at intervening with gangs and reaching out to young people, called GRYD (Gang Reduction and Youth Development). The budget would also continue funding or expanding other existing programs, including LA Rise, a jobs program for people who are formerly incarcerated. Some members of the City Council, which will be delving soon into the mayor’s plan and potentially proposing revisions to it, are also pushing to scale up programs that send out unarmed teams in response to 911 calls.
The budget Bass released this week, ahead of the April 20 deadline set by the city charter, lays out her spending proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2024. The City Council will be taking up the plan over the next several weeks, and is required to adopt a budget by June 1. That would send the budget back to the mayor who will get five days to approve or veto any changes. The council will also have a chance after that to try to override any actions by the mayor they do not agree with, with a two-thirds vote.
Beyond addressing the City Council and petitioning the mayor’s office on the budget, in the coming weeks, another avenue for providing input is being offered by the neighborhood council system, which has a team of budget advocates that presents a “white paper” to the City Council’s budget committee each year. The budget advocates is circulating a survey, see it here
That and other budget books can be found on the City Administrative Officer’s website.
Bass’s news conference giving remarks on her budget proposal can be viewed here.
The Los Angeles city controller has offered an analysis of the budget, which can seen below: https://twitter.com/lacontroller/status/1648396324122013696?s=20