The COVID-19 Pandemic has significantly affected the day-to-day life of our residents, businesses, communities, and the economy at large. In the face of the numerous inequities that have been amplified over this past year, I am proud that the City’s FY21-22 budget sets us on a just path to recovery – allowing us to invest in unprecedented ways in the areas where help is most needed. We will scale up our response to the homelessness and housing crises, we will implement approaches that reimagine public safety, including creating and supporting unarmed crisis response models that are not reliant on law enforcement, and we will provide financial relief to families and businesses designed to restore the dignity and economic stability of our communities.
This budget allows us to double down on our response to homelessness, with a proposed investment of $800 million. As a next step, I have asked the City team to develop a plan to scale up the number of outreach teams and streamline our oversight of the teams working on the ground. But at the end of the day, our outreach efforts to those living on the streets is only effective if there are long-term, affordable housing options available. The budget also establishes a new “Los Angeles Housing Department” with a clear mission, and more positions, to expand our efforts to develop more affordable housing.
The budget also supports a number of initiatives designed to systemically and strategically alleviate poverty including launching what will be the nation’s largest Guaranteed Basic Income Program, expanding WiFi access in disadvantaged communities, scaling up homeless prevention, eviction defense, and utility debt relief programs, as well as boosting local hiring programs. It also sets us on a path to finally implementing a non-law enforcement led response program to non-violent calls.
We will also see long-awaited improvements take shape across CD10 over the course of the next year.
Advancing an equity agenda fundamentally means lifting up and celebrating the iconic and cultural foundations of our communities, which includes Leimert Park Village – the center for Afro-centric culture and commerce in Los Angeles. This budget allocates additional necessary funding to complete the construction of the Vision Theater, as well as critical infrastructure improvements and cultural programs in the Village.
We have set aside funding for improvements at Lafayette, Queen Anne, Baldwin Hills and Rancho Cienega Parks, and will begin the long-awaited work of rehabilitating the former Washington Irving Library into a community asset.
We have much work ahead to ensure these investments have the intended transformative effect – but this budget launches us in the right direction.
Mark Ridley-Thomas chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee of the Los Angeles City Council.