Trump deserves credit
I was set to read Jake Pickering’s letter with an open mind but right away he got me when he says in his first sentence that “Vladimir Putin’s puppet, Donald Trump…”
Hold on, Mr. Pickering. Even the Mueller Report noted that Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election “did not entail collusion” with the Trump campaign. President Trump has acted more decisively and aggressive toward Russia that his immediate predecessor ever did.
As for Pickering trotting out the big number of mental professionals against Trump, I’m sure I could find a number of mental health professionals who hold serious reservation about Joe Biden’s state of mind. Seriously, folks, have you watched Biden when he’s trying to talk to reporters? With a teleprompter, the man can barely form a sentence.
President Trump’s Prison Reform Act deserves credit—even from the likes of Mr. Pickering. He deserves to be reelected.
LA’s budget reveals its values
Earlier this month, Mayor Garcetti made headlines when he announced $150 million in cuts to the LAPD budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Yet for all the pomp and circumstance, this revised budget does little to address the current economic and social crises facing our city. The financial and physical devastation resulting from COVID-19 and mass demonstrations have painfully revealed the inequities entrenched in our society. We must boldly rethink our city’s spending priorities and how they serve the community.
With the budget set for final adoption on June 30, the question remains if our politicians have the courage to enact a 21st-century vision grounded in a commitment to equity.
The $150 million budget cut amounts to only 8% of the originally proposed $1.86 billion LAPD budget. Moreover, it does very little to change the city’s current spending pattern, where policing in LA regularly accounts for over half of all general fund expenditures. Data from the state controller shows that LA spends more on police than the next nine cities in California combined. Put another way, LA accounts for more than 20% of all police expenditures in the state, despite accounting for only 11% of its population.
And it’s not even clear these police funds are being put to good use.
Perhaps the biggest shock I encountered when I moved to LA was the liberal use of helicopters, which comprise the largest airborne police division in the world. I can appreciate the advantage of having helicopters at the ready in this traffic-choked city, but are they really needed to patrol 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every single day? And despite costing $1,000 an hour and nearly $20 million a year to operate, the last study evaluating the effectiveness of the program was in the 1960s. To put this cost into perspective, what we spend on just this one police division equates to 80% of the entire Economic and Workforce Development Department budget, which provides vital financial support for businesses and jobs training.
It has also become increasingly apparent over these past several weeks that LA’s 10,000 police officers are not keeping us safe. As a Downtown resident, I’ve seen first-hand officers outnumber protest groups and provoke what was a peaceful demonstration into violence; I’ve had my building forced into lockdown as LAPD conducted sweeps to arrest individuals whose only crime was being out past curfew; I’ve had a gun pointed directly at my ninth-floor window simply because I was chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
Accompanying the veiled commitment of up to $150 million in LAPD cuts is an additional $100 million earmarked for reinvestment in communities of color. All of this $250 million should come from the police budget. The heart of our city’s spending remains the police. This is despite the fact that:
• Violent crime and property crime are at generational lows, down over 50% since the 1980s;
• Over 66,000 people are facing homelessness in the region, an increase of nearly 70% since 2011;
• We’ve lost over 1,300 residents, disproportionately people of color, to COVID-19, with the expectation of more frequent pandemics due to climate change;
• 300,000 residents have lost their jobs since March, with little prospect of returning to work.
• We don’t need more cops. Instead, we need more mental health services, housing, environmental initiatives, and reinvestment in the economy.
The foundation for positive change is already in place. Just last year, the mayor announced LA’s Green New Deal, which champions the environment, the economy and equity. Embodying the values of this alternate vision for LA, here are just a couple of ideas on ways we could prioritize our spending:
• Increase funding for housing assistance programs and enforcement of tenant protections, making it possible to hit LA’s audacious goal of ending street homelessness by 2028;
• Accelerate the planting and maintenance of 90,000 new trees to help cool LA’s streets and improve air quality;
• Double down on our commitment to complete streets and Vision Zero initiatives, which aim to make our streets safe and accessible to everyone;
• Expand job training programs that target underrepresented individuals so all Angelenos can share in LA’s new green economy.
Following this framework, LA can begin to address the systemic inequity in our society, which COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated.
Visionary change is possible. As we learned earlier this week, Minneapolis has taken the bold step to dismantle its police department and rethink public safety. The solution for LA might look different, but it needs to start with the recognition that our strength as a city comes not from the size of our police force, but through our ability to provide for the well-being of all community members. Understanding this, many activists have been advocating for an alternative “People’s Budget.” May our politicians listen to them.
HR&A Advisors consultant