*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.
If you live in Los Angeles County, you will have seen Measure J on the 2020 ballot and might be happy to know that it passed with almost 60% of votes in favor! Measure J was to change LA`s budget such that 10% of locally-generated revenue goes toward community investment and alternatives to incarceration. SO much of the LA budget is diverted to law enforcement and other issues, instead of spending money on solving the issues that drive crime.
This measure was co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. The measure`s move toward community investment involves amending the county charter, which is essentially the county`s constitution.
The passing of this bill is directly tied to the work of BLM and the goals of demonstrators the last several months. The UCLA Black Policy Project co-chaired the campaign for Measure J, and one of its members, Isaac Bryan, commented, “I'm incredibly excited about what has happened here in Los Angeles, I think in terms of prioritizing justice on the ballot, L.A. has set a standard for the rest of the country and the rest of the state.” He is completely right; measure J really helps pave the way for government that serves and uplifts the people, specifically people of color and skirting the poverty line as well.
With an allocation of 10% of the budget, measure J programs are due to receive somewhere around $600 million to $900 million each fiscal year. To those that argue that this sounds like an exorbitant amount, you should consider that LA county currently spends $3.5 BILLION of its budget on the LA Sheriff’s Department. And that total doesn't even include LAPD or the money spent on incarceration and parole.
You can see that we already invest so much on ‘cracking down on crime’; so why not spend money on preventing it? People whose needs are being met are not as likely to commit crimes. Also over policing and terrorizing communities that are already being marginalized and denied opportunities in other areas is not the answer. Studies show that punitive approaches are not the answer; what we need is restorative justice and to uplift and support communities.
Measure J means that much needed community support will be provided on a number of fronts. One front this measure funds is housing solutions; this might include low income housing developments and rent assistance. Another would be services for mental illness. Currently, social workers trained to deal with mental helath crises are under utilized, while we send armed law enforcement who are not trained to deal with these kinds of crises. This is because we over fund police and have traditionally under-funded services and development like training, health and social workers and developing a “care first” approach. It expands the budget to help with costs for mental illness and addiction treatment and therapies.
Overall, Measure J passing is a very positive and progressive step into the future for LA county. I am confident there will be extensive benefits and will prove to be effective and worthy of expanding even further.