What You Need to Know About The New Voting Centers

On Feb. 22, Downtown voters had their first opportunity to cast their ballots for who they hope will run Council District 14 for at least the following four years.

While those five candidates are likely to grab the most attention locally for Downtown voters, there are also a pair of important measures that will alter two of our most important institutions: law enforcement and public education.

Measure R, which will increase the amount of oversight over the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office and Prop. 13, a state bond measure that would provide billions in funds for school facility improvements are the two measures to make the ballot.

Measure FD, a $0.06 parcel tax to further support the Los Angeles County Fire Department, will only be voted on by county residents and will not be on the City of Los Angeles ballot.

Below, we run down the two measures in front of Downtown Los Angeles voters and offer our recommendations.

Measure R

Measure R is the first Sheriff’s Office oversight measure to reach Los Angeles County voters and the first potential overhaul of the Sheriff’s Office since the Kolts Commission of the 1990s.

Authored by Reform LA Jails, the measure would amend a section of the Los Angeles County Code to require the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop what it calls a Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan. The plan would explore the feasibility of reducing the jail population by redirecting $2.4 billion in funds previously earmarked for the expansion of the the dilapidated Men’s Central Jail (Reform LA Jails put the cost at $3.5 billion) to supportive services like youth centers, mental health programs, drug rehabilitation, and diversion programs. Lastly, Measure R will alter what Sheriff’s Office documents are available to the Commission. The Board of Supervisors are not required to approve the report.

Measure R would also authorize subpoena power for the Civilian Oversight Commission, who would then be able to direct the Office of Inspector General to force records from the Sheriff’s Department, if necessary. The Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva have forged a contentious relationship since Villanueva took office over a year ago, with some officials arguing that the Sheriff’s Office has made it difficult to acquire documents for oversight.

The measure has the support of JusticeLA, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Community Coalition, the L.A. County Democratic Party and the L.A. branch of Black Lives Matter.

Villanueva has come out against the measure, arguing that the measure will “open the flood gates” for more frivolous lawsuits to obtain information.

What Would A Yes Vote Mean?

A Yes vote would authorize the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a plan to reduce the overall jail population and incarceration rates. It would also provide the commission with subpoena power to investigate complaints.

Recommendation: Vote Yes on Measure R

Measure R does two things that are sorely needed: provides stronger civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Department and a stronger focus on mental health and psychiatric care.

These alterations are critical. Los Angeles County currently has the largest jail population in the world with some 22,000 inmates filling our jail cells at any moment. A report from the RAND Corporation and presented to the Board of Supervisors last month found that some 60% of those inmates diagnosed with mental health issues could safely be treated in specialized community centers, instead of through incarceration.

Downtown has felt the impact of obviously mentally ill individuals being released out of the Men’s Central Jail without any sort of support system. Often, those individuals are found wandering Downtown streets. It’s a sordid situation that we can not allow to continue to happen.

Most importantly, a yes vote would protect the changes from any future alterations by any incoming supervisors. We encourage our readers to vote Yes on Measure R on March 3.

Proposition 13

Proposition 13 is the only state proposition on the ballot and would authorize a $15 billion bond to support the modernization of primary and secondary education facilities.

Preschool and K-12 schools will receive $9 billion, $5.2 billion of which will go toward updating school facilities and $2.8 toward the construction of new school facilities.

Universities will receive $4 billion and community colleges will receive $2 billion. The funds will be repaid by the state’s general fund over a 35-year period, to a total of $26 billion, including $11 billion in interest.

Supporters include the California Democratic Party, the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, the Association of California School Administrations and the Board of Regents of the University of California. Elected officials Gov. Gavin Newsom, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Superintendent Tony Thurmond are just a few of the more than 50 elected officials to throw their support behind the Proposition.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has argued against Prop. 13, taking issue with a provision in the proposition that would nearly double the amount that school district’s are able to borrow. It’s worth nothing that any district bond measure would have to be approved by local voters before going into effect.

What Would A Yes Vote Mean?

A Yes vote would authorize $15 billion in bonds that would go toward the repair and upkeep of preschool through K-12 and California State University and University of California facilities.

Recommendation: Vote Yes on Proposition 13

Proposition 13 might seem like just another ill-advised funding measure for California’s public schools, but it actually goes a long way in reversing some of the issues caused by the state’s previous school bond measure, Proposition 51, in addition to upgrading some of the state’s out-of-date facilities.

Where Prop. 51, approved in 2016, rewarded speediness when it comes to district renovation applications, Prop. 13 protects smaller districts by allocating funds on a sliding scale formula, ensuring that underfunded schools receive a comparable amount of funds to their more affluent neighbors.

Locally, Downtown residents probably would have liked to see something on the measure that alludes to the construction of new schools considering the often reported stat that Downtown will likely add 125,000 residents by 2040, but with declining enrollment being the theme statewide, Prop. 13 at least addressed the current shortfalls in our primary and secondary education facilities.

While it won’t close the funding gap that education administrators have lambasted for the past decade, it will help ensure that our students are learning in environments free of mold and other critical maladies. We encourage our readers to vote Yes on Proposition 13 on March 3.

sthomas@timespublications.com.