Few Voters Decide Big Issues

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Turnout was expected to be low for Tuesday’s Los Angeles County elections. And it was.

Unofficial figures released early Wednesday put the turnout figure at 11.29 percent.

Election experts noted that the turnout tends to be low when there is no presidential race on the ballot, even when there are local offices up for grab and tax raising measures on the ballot.

The election included a countywide quarter-cent sales tax measure to combat homelessness, a successful re-election run by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, local council races and measures to control development and the production and sale of marijuana in the City of Angeles.

Of the 593,233 ballots tallied as of early Wednesday, 239,853 — or roughly 40 percent — were vote-by-mail, while the rest were cast at the polls, according to the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

It was unclear how many late, provisional and questioned ballots still need to be counted, and how they would affect the final turnout figure, but this is how it looked on Wednesday:

County Measure H

The quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs appeared to emerge victorious by a thin margin.

With all precincts reporting, Measure H had 67.44 percent of the vote, just ahead of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. The measure was short of the threshold much of Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, but it steadily gained ground as vote-counting continued, and it passed the two-thirds mark only when the final precincts reported.

The Board of Supervisors declared homelessness a countywide emergency and chose the sales tax hike over a number of other funding alternatives, including a millionaire’s tax, a parcel tax and a special tax on marijuana.

There are roughly 47,000 homeless people countywide, according to a point-in-time count in January 2016. That total reflects a 19 percent increase since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

City of L.A. Mayor, City Council

The city’s mayor and six members of the Los Angeles City Council were celebrating re-election victories Wednesday, while Councilman Gil Cedillo appeared to have won as well, but by a tenuous margin over activist/businessman Joe Bray-Ali.

With all precincts reporting from Tuesday’s election, Cedillo finished with 50.98 percent of the vote, appearing to win re-election outright.

Cedillo had a 1,952-vote lead over Bray-Ali, a bike activist and former bike shop owner.

Of the three challengers looking to unseat Cedillo in the 1st Council District, which includes the Westlake area, Chinatown, Highland Park and Lincoln Heights, Bray-Ali presented the biggest challenge to the political veteran first elected to the seat in 2013 and who also served 14 years in the Assembly and state Senate.

It was unclear Wednesday whether the final count might land him under the 50 percent threshold to avoid a May 16 runoff.

Meanwhile, Mayor Garcetti was preparing for another term Wednesday, after easily outpacing a field of 10 challengers and avoiding a May runoff to keep his job.

The mayor proclaimed victory relatively early Tuesday night – when early returns had already given him about 80 percent of the vote – greeting supporters at a campaign party in downtown Los Angeles, touting his achievements over the past four years and vowing that more is to come.

“While other people are talking about doing big things, Los Angeles, we are doing big things right now,” he said. “My friends, big things don’t happen by accident. They require leadership. The job of the mayor is to get things done, and that’s what I’m going to keep on doing for each and every one of you here in this city. We’re breaking records at our port and our airport.”

“We’re breaking records for tourism and filming. We’ve housed more homeless veterans than any city in America. We’ve paved more roads than ever before. We’ve confronted climate change head on, by cleaning our air, conserving our water and expanding our green spaces. We enacted the largest tax cut in our city’s history and we’ve seen more small businesses start in the last four years than we’ve seen in decades.”

“… So we are doing big things, but we have a lot more left to do.”

Measure S

Despite a defeat at the ballot box, backers of a hotly debated initiative aimed at limiting development in the city of Los Angeles in part by blocking General Plan amendments for two years said Wednesday they were happy that their campaign has prompted change at City Hall.

“We not only exposed corruption but we began a process of reform,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which largely bankrolled the campaign in support of Measure S. “We built a citywide movement and we planted the seeds of change. Los Angeles will be a better place to live as a result of the Yes on S campaign.”

Measure S was handily defeated by voters in Tuesday’s election. The initiative was the most expensive – and in many ways the most bitter – campaign in the Los Angeles city election.

The measure would have halted all General Plan amendments, or special permission to developers known as “spot zoning,” for two years while the city updates its General Plan and community plans that guide neighborhood development.

The measure’s backers argued that City Hall is plagued by a “pay-to-play” climate in which wealthy developers who contribute money to elected officials’ campaigns get spot zoning requests granted while the proliferation of high-rise towers and other expensive developments have caused increases in the cost of housing.

Opponents, however, argued the measure goes too far, saying a halt to all General Plan amendments would undercut the city’s efforts to build affordable housing and housing for the homeless while severely hurting the local economy. Officials also argued that updating the General Plan and community plans within two years is not possible.

Measure M

Los Angeles voters have overwhelmingly approved a measure that gives the city tools to regulate the recreational and medical marijuana industry.

The city-sponsored Measure M easily bested a competing ballot issue, the initiative Measure N, which was crafted and pushed onto the ballot by a marijuana trade group that later opted to throw its support behind the City Council’s measure.

The measures were placed on the ballot in reaction to California voters in November agreeing to legalize recreational marijuana starting in 2018.

Measure M will allow the city to repeal a current ban on medical marijuana dispensaries under the previously approved Proposition D and replace it with a new set of rules for different types of marijuana businesses.

It will give the city tools to enforce its regulations, such as authorizing fines, criminal penalties or loss of power and water service for businesses operating without a license or ignoring city rules.

The measure also allows for gross-receipt taxes to be imposed on marijuana businesses, including the sale of general-use and medical cannabis, delivery services and manufacturing.

“Los Angeles is leading the country and world in responsible and inclusive approaches to legalization,” City Council President Herb Wesson said. “The passing of Proposition M is a great victory for common sense, law enforcement and all Angelenos. We gave communities a voice in the process, and their voices will continue to be heard. This measure is what responsible marijuana laws should look like, and we couldn’t be prouder of our city.”

Measure N called for giving permitting priority to 135 businesses that have been allowed to operate under the Proposition D ban, and also includes taxation and permitting provisions.

But since the city-backed measure also wound up containing a provision to prioritize the Proposition D-immune medical marijuana dispensaries, the group behind Measure N, the UCBA Trade Association, opted to back Measure M.

Part 2: EGP Ballot Recommendations for March 7 Primary Election

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

City of Los Angeles

 Mayor of the City of Los Angeles – Eric Garcetti

In the race for mayor, Eastern Group Publications (EGP) endorses the reelection of Eric Garcetti. Garcetti has proven that it’s possible to be a mayor for all Angelenos by his constant attention to the needs of all the city’s neighborhoods, while still giving special attention to the homeless, the poor and immigrants.

As mayor, Garcetti has continued to press for action to reduce pollution and to make the need to conserve water a shared responsibility.

Garcetti has been a strong voice for continuing the building of a world-class transit system and a world-class airport, making progress in each of those areas by gaining the support of both Angelenos and neighbors in other cities.

His endorsement of a livable wage for low-income workers has won our admiration, as has his support for protecting undocumented immigrants in the city. Most of all, we appreciate the fact that in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the world, our mayor can move around this city with the ease and comfort and demeanor only officials that are well liked and trusted are able to do.

Vote Eric Garcetti for Mayor of Los Angeles.

 

City Council District 1 – Gil Cedillo

Our endorsement goes to the incumbent, Gil Cedillo. For the most part, we have been pleased by changes in the First District, including cleaner streets in areas once heavily littered, and the faster cleanup of trash and items illegally dumped. No small task, given that the district is one of the city’s most densely populated.

While there are still many upgrades and improvements needed across the district – and all across the city, for that matter – Cedillo has made progress on improving the district’s infrastructure, including installing new streets signs and street lights along neighborhood thoroughfares.

Yes, we understand that bicycle activists are unhappy with Cedillo’s decision not to support a bike lane along North Figueroa Street, but as this newspaper reported at the time, there were many in the community who agreed with him, and many have told us they still do.

Gentrification will continue to be a hot button issue across the district and the city.

And while we agree that the building of more affordable residential units is needed, we disagree that the loss of affordable and rent control units can be blamed solely on Cedillo or any single city council member. There are limits – under current city regulations and ordinances – to the control the city has over what an owner can do with his or her property, and on who is allowed to buy property in the city.

In our view, Cedillo and his staff need to do a better job or articulating what they have done when it comes to development, why he has approved certain developments, and how he intends to protect neighborhoods from over development. But that’s not to say that we believe the councilman has neglected the communities in those areas, rather to emphasize that a little more face-to-face discussion and consultation could go a long way to reduce distress and dissention.

We give our endorsement to Gil Cedillo for Council District 1.

 

Previous EGP Ballot Recommendations:

City of Los Angeles

Measure S is Not the Solution – Vote No

Measure S – The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – asks Los Angeles voters to approve a two-year moratorium on developments that don’t conform to the city’s current, but outdated General Plan, but the intended and unintended consequences will do more harm than good and deserves a no vote.

 Yes on Measure M, No on Measure N

Measure M is a sensible step to ensuring the city can responsibly regulate enforcement and taxation on the commercial production, cultivation and sale of marijuana, now that California voters have approved its legalization.

Vote No on Measure N – which is no longer even supported by the cannabis industry.

 

Los Angeles County

 We Need to Invest in Services for the Homeless – Vote Yes on Measure H

Measure H will authorize the County to hike the sales tax a quarter-cent to pay for much needed services for the homeless population in Los Angeles County. Funding includes services for mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, housing subsidies, outreach and other supportive services for homeless adults, families. Vote Yes.

 

EGP Ballot Recommendations for March 7 Primary Election

February 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

City of Los Angeles
Measure S Is Not the Solution – Vote No
Measure S – The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – asks Los Angeles voters to approve a two-year moratorium on developments that don’t conform to the city’s current, but outdated General Plan, but the intended and unintended consequences will do more harm than good and the measure deserves a no vote.

Any development requiring an amendment for height or zoning changes would be blocked.

At first glance, Measure S appears to be good government reform, stopping city officials too willing to approve zoning variances for construction projects in return for campaign donations. But developers aren’t the only special interest group with deep pockets and political muscle.

Angry about plans to construct two 28-story buildingss next to the headquarters of the AIDS Health Foundation that would block their view, President Michael Weinstein pushed forward Measure S and the group is the campaign’s largest donor.

Weinstein says uncontrolled development is a serious health and quality of life issue.
He may be partially right, but the reality is Measure S is also the latest form of NIMBY thinking: Not In My Backyard.

We understand the anger many people feel about developments changing the character of their neighborhoods and building projects out of sync with what communities want, but Measure S is not the solution; it’s overkill.

Yes, the city has done a miserable job of updating its now nearly 20-year-old General Plan to meet the city’s current needs. The 35 community plans that dictate where housing, commerce and industrial projects will be built, have languished for years.

Yet, while well intentioned, Measure S would not only stop bad development, it would also stop the building of much needed affordable and market-rate housing, homeless shelters and other projects.

Passage would be a hit to the economy, costing as many as 12,000 jobs and $1.9 billion in economic output, according to a study by Beacon Economics. Between 2,100 and 2,800 housing units would be lost annually, the study estimates.

The city, which is already facing a multi-million dollar deficit, would lose about $70 million in revenue from building permits, licenses and other fees, according to the Financial Impact Report issued by former City Administrator Miguel Santana.

Feeling the pressure from Measure S, the city council has now approved major changes to how it will handle future development. Under a proposal brought by Councilman Jose Huizar, the city will now update its community plans every six years at a cost of $10 million annually. Developers will also now have to use a city-approved company to complete their environmental impact reports.

Measure S has many things in it to like, but the problems it will cause outweight the benefits, there we urge a no vote.

Yes on Measure M, No on Measure N
Measure M is a sensible step to ensuring the city can responsibly regulate enforcement and taxation on the commercial production, cultivation and sale of marijuana, now that California voters have approved its legalization.

Passage would replace Proposition D, which currently regulates and licenses medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles, but is now outdated due to legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Measure M calls for the city to gather input from the community at public hearings on its implementation of the city’s licensing, taxing and enforcement regulations.

We believe that if you must have the licensing for the dispensaries growth and sale of marijuana, it should be controlled by a government agency and not by the industry as proposed by Measure N – which is no longer even supported by that industry. Vote yes on Measure M and no on Measure N.

Los Angeles County
We Need to Invest in Services for the Homeless – Vote Yes on Measure H
Placed on the ballot by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, Measure H will authorize the County to impose a quarter-cent sales and use tax increase to pay for much needed services to the homeless population in Los Angeles County.

Funding includes services for mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, housing subsidies, outreach and other supportive services for homeless adults, families, battered women, seniors, veterans, children and battered youth among others.

It also includes an important allocation for “bridge funding” to help people on the brink of homelessness –many of them seniors struggling to survive on fixed incomes – stay in their homes.

Measure H is a companion measure to City of Los Angeles Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to build thousands of permanent and transitional housing for the homeless over the next decade.

Taken together, the two measures represent a comprehensive, multi-layer approach to the complex issues that lead to homelessness.

We urge a yes vote on Measure H.

Community College Board Seat 4
Our endorsement goes to Community College Trustee Ernest H. Moreno.
Moreno has earned our endorsement for his years of dedication to the district after bringing East Los Angeles Community College back from a college mired in debt and in an old falling apart campus to the largest community college, well-maintained and progressively run and for having similar results while at Mission College.

Moreno has proven to be an excellent and judicious voice for the community he serves as a member of the board of trustees.

Ernie Moreno the best candidate for Seat No. 4.

With Ballot Initiative, Los Angeles Looks Toward Ending Homelessness

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While Los Angeles is home to the nation’s largest homeless population, L.A. County has responded with a broad spectrum of programs to match.

The scope of the problem is large, but the agencies and organizations tasked with ending homelessness are making progress – progress that advocates say could be helped by greater public investment.

The March ballot initiative known as Measure H proposes a quarter-cent sales tax that would finance the medical, housing, and employment needs of a homeless population that includes large numbers of former foster youth, women, and people of color.

Voters have already shown a willingness to fund measures that help the people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. Measure H would complement a $1.2 billion bond measure that voters approved last year to build 10,000 housing units for the homeless.

If Measure H were to pass by the needed two-thirds vote, it would create an annual fund of $355 million to help a population that has swelled to nearly 47,000. The county would approve spending plans based on recommendations from those on the front lines of the fight against homelessness.

“We have a pervasive crisis of homelessness,” says Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell, who helped create homeless prevention programs in his former role as chief deputy director of the county’s social services department. “This would help us deal comprehensively with the issue and address the needs of different homeless categories. This is a complex problem that requires government, business and nonprofits.”

The Home for Good coalition led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has housed about 18,000 veterans and more than 16,000 of the chronically homeless since 2011. It is among the organizations that will advise the county if the tax is approved.

Homeless man parks his RV on San Fernando Road in Linoln Heights. (Photo by Mike Alvarez)

Homeless man parks his RV on San Fernando Road in Linoln Heights. (Photo by Mike Alvarez)

Chris Ko, Home for Good’s director, says that more resources for homelessness prevention are needed because of high housing costs in the county.

In Koreatown, for example, Ko says that more than 1,000 people are homeless, and many more are “on the brink of homelessness.” Homelessness extends into all ethnic communities in Los Angeles, and Ko says that housing insecurity rates of Asians and Pacific Islanders are twice as high as those for whites.

Gentrification is creating more housing insecurity in Latino communities, says Celina Alvarez, the executive director of Housing Works, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.

“People are living in parks and under freeways with no hope,” she says. “Every human being has a right to a home and the right to live in communities where they are valued … We have criminalized their behavior and stigmatized and ostracized them.”

Ethnic media reporters and advocates gather at Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 3 to take part in a discussion about the county’s homelessness initiatives.  (New America Media)

Ethnic media reporters and advocates gather at Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 3 to take part in a discussion about the county’s homelessness initiatives. (New America Media)

While the most visible homeless community is central to the Skid Row area, homeless teens and young adults – a growing segment of L.A.’s homeless population – are more dispersed, and thus can be “invisible” to agencies, according to Andrea Marchetti, the executive director of Jovenes Inc. Marchetti’s organization provides housing and employment counseling for youth and at-risk families in Los Angeles. The homeless youth population in L.A., which is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 young people, includes many who were formerly in foster care, Marchetti says.

Women also represent an increasingly large segment of the homeless population, partly because of domestic violence, says Debra Suh, the executive director of the Center for the Pacific Asian Family, an organization that helps Asian and Pacific Islander (API) domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

One third of the homeless population is female, she says, and there has been a 55 percent increase in homeless women in the past three years. “We are not addressing domestic violence,” she says.

“Women have to choose between violence at home and unsafe streets. They are between a rock and a hard place.”

Many immigrant women seek her organization’s help because they have no network of friends and relatives, and because her teams can communicate in many different API languages.

More “cultural competency” in homeless services is needed if more people from a variety of communities are to be engaged, says Va Lecia Adams Kellum, the executive director of the St. Joseph Center, an organization that annually provides housing, mental health, educational, and vocational services to about 6,500 people in South Los Angeles and the city’s Westside.

The size of the homeless population that is African American is extremely disproportionate, she says. African American Angelenos are 39 percent of the homeless population in a city that is only 9 percent black.

“Who we hire makes a difference in this work,” she says. “African Americans and Latinos should be among those hired. It’s called ‘cultural competence’ and we should demand it.”

Moreover, ending homeless isn’t rocket science, according to Libby Boyce, the director of access, referral, and engagement for L.A. County’s Housing for Health program.

“The solution is housing with services,” she says. ”We know how to solve this problem. We just need the resources to reach all the homeless in our communities … The vast majority on our streets are long-term homeless and many have mental health problems and substance abuse problems.”

Reba Stevens is a Los Angeles resident who was homeless for 21 years until she obtained medical help for her substance use disorder. She jokes that when she first heard about Measure H, she changed her name to Reba “Measure H” Stevens.

“Supportive services are the reason I’ve been continuously housed the past 17 years,” she says. “Measure H will provide the resources to address individual needs.”

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