Mark-Ridley Thomas

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What does it mean to Reimagine Los Angeles?

Dear Council District 10 Residents and Stakeholders:

 

The last year has been unprecedented. More than 20,000 Angelenos, the majority of whom are people of color, have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus, shedding light on the systemic inequalities that define our region.  At the same time, in the wake of officer-involved killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, as well as Fred Williams and Dijon Kizzee here in Los Angeles, we saw a national awakening to another, much longer-standing, public health crisis—namely, the widespread violent and unjust treatment by law enforcement of communities of color, and, in particular, of African Americans.  These events have brought us to an inflection point: we have the opportunity to decide whether to continue with the status quo or seize this moment to create the lasting changes Los Angeles desperately needs.

 

By taking action this past summer to transfer $150 million from the LAPD budget into alternative public and community services, we can initiate the reimagining of a better Los Angeles—one that is safer, more just, and one that is sensitive to and provides for the needs of its most vulnerable residents. The City Council initiated this work, but it is now the obligation of the Council to reinvest these funds in specific programs that reflect the future we want to see in Los Angeles. 

 

As I considered how to reinvest these resources in the 10th District, I’ve appreciated the work of a range of community organizations, convened by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, who developed the proposed “People’s Budget LA”, based on a survey of over 24,000 respondents. This survey indicated that residents overwhelmingly support “Universal Aid and Crisis Management”, and under this category, addressing housing security – defined as ensuring people have housing and can stay in housing – was the top priority of Angelenos.

 

In Los Angeles, where Black residents make up 8% of the population, a staggering 34% of our unhoused population is Black.  Combined with Latinx residents, roughly 70% of the unhoused population in Los Angeles are people of color.  We know that these numbers reflect a fatal prognosis.  Roughly four people die on the streets every day in Los Angeles.  And, since people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement, our unhoused residents—a disproportionate number of whom suffer from mental illness—are the most vulnerable to being killed at the hands of police.  So, unless we dramatically scale up our response to the homelessness crisis, and look at systemic opportunities to ensure that unarmed mental health professionals and social workers respond to non-violent incidents, we will continue to see dire, and often the fatal, outcomes which disproportionately affect our Black and Brown residents.       

 

This coming Tuesday, March 2nd, the City Council will have the opportunity to consider a proposal that has been advanced by Council President Martinez, and Councilmembers Harris-Dawson, Price, De Leon, O’Farrell, and myself, to provide clear direction on how to begin investing $88 million in traditionally underserved communities, with funds allocated based on poverty rates within each Council District.  My colleagues and I seek to make it clear – these funds should be invested in reimagining public safety and addressing homelessness and poverty across the City.

 

The 10th Council District, based on its rates of poverty relative to other Council Districts, is anticipated to receive approximately $4.5 million.  I have proposed that this allocation be used to invest in the following categories:

 

Addressing and Preventing Homelessness

 

  • $1,500,000 to “Encampment to Home” Initiatives to transition the homeless from the streets into housing in Koreatown, Mid-City and Leimert Park/Crenshaw Corridor
  • $500,000 to support the operations of the South Los Angeles Homeless Street Engagement and Coordination Hub
  • $500,000 to augment the Stay Housed LA program, administered by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, for Eviction Defense Services to prevent eviction and homelessness for residents and prevent business closures in CD10
  • $100,000 to launch the proposed Center for Interagency Policy and Action on Homelessness

 

Reimagining Public Safety

 

  • $420,000 to support a City-wide effort to initiate an Unarmed Response to Homelessness and Nonviolent Calls Program, with funds allocated from multiple Council Districts totaling $7,754,000
  • $120,000, matched with an additional $240,000 from Council Districts 8 and 9, to support a City-wide effort to study Unarmed Traffic Enforcement Models
  • $150,000, matched with an additional $2,000,000 from Council Districts 8 and 9, to hire and train Community Intervention Workers in those districts through the Urban Peace Institute

 

Reimagining Los Angeles means operationalizing the hard work of building a legal obligation that requires government to help our residents up when they are down, and to prevent them from falling down in the first instance.  For that reason, I have introduced a Right to Housing motion, which seeks to establish such a legal framework. This motion will be on the March 3rd City Council Agenda.

 

In order to position ourselves for success as we endeavor to tackle these challenges, your engagement is critical. I hope you will join me, in partnership with the Empowerment Congress, to begin this discussion on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at 6pm. Please confirm your participation with Brett Louie at brett.louie@lacity.org.

 

I also ask for your support as the City Council considers my Right to Housing motion, and demand that our government take responsibility to ensure that no resident of this great city has to live on the streets. To comment on this item, please visit https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/?cfnumber=20-0102. The motion can be found at council file item 20-0102.

 

As someone who started his career as an organizer, I continue to be inspired by the work and dedication of so many community stakeholders, and I look forward to partnering with you as we tackle the most pressing challenges facing Los Angeles.

 

With hope,

 

 

MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS

Councilmember, Tenth District

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