County Wants Authority to Treat Severely Mentally Ill Without Their Permission

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to work on legislation that would allow social workers and law enforcement officers to detain severely mentally ill individuals who refuse treatment that could save their lives.

By law, those with mental illness who pose a danger to themselves or others or are “gravely disabled” may be held for involuntary evaluation and treatment in a psychiatric setting. The definition of gravely disabled focuses on an individual’s ability to care for his or her own physical needs, to find shelter and food to survive.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger urged her colleagues to consider expanding that definition to include an inability to seek care due to a mental disorder.

Barger talked about meeting a woman named Deborah who has lived on the streets for 20 years and mistakenly believes her parents live across the street.

“There are predators out on Skid Row and this is a woman who, if not getting access to care and housing and shelter, is going to die on our streets,” Barger said, later telling the board, “She’s not going to make it through the winter, she’s just not.”

Barger and mental health advocates said the resources are available to help Deborah and others in desperate need, but that health care workers’ hands are tied.

“There are individuals in such dire need that their lives are in jeopardy,” said Brittney Weissman, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Los Angeles County Council. “The limits of the law insist (health care workers) turn away from providing life-saving help.” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted no.

“I’m very grateful for the impulse behind this motion … but I could
not disagree more,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl asked the head of the county’s Department of Mental Health what happens when someone is brought in on a “5150 hold,” a reference to the relevant state government code that allows involuntary treatment.

Dr. Jonathan Sherin explained that a mental health team would engage the person, who would be taken to a hospital emergency room and then evaluated over a 72-hour period. Depending on the severity of their mental illness, the individual would then be released with a plan for care or kept for a longer period of time.

“So the 72-hour hold is whether they agree or not. They could protest, but under the law, it’s a `for your own good’ kind of thing?’ Kuehl asked.

Sherin replied that longer holds would require court approval.

Kuehl has expressed concern that changing the law could violate civil liberties and that people could be targeted for not meeting transitory definitions of what is “normal.” At an earlier board meeting, she recalled a time when gay and lesbian individuals were judged to be mentally ill.

Dr. Emily Defraites, a psychiatrist who works at the Veterans Health Administration, told the board that efforts to expand the definition of “grave disability” were aimed at a small segment of those with mental illness.

“I’ve realized that I really need this motion to try to take good care of people,” Defraites said. “This will only apply to a very small minority of our sickest psychiatrically and medically ill people.”

Kuehl warned that a county-sponsored bill to change state law would be unlikely to pass, citing her past experience as chair of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.

“Personally, it think it will have a fairly rough time in Sacramento and I would prefer that the county not be a sponsor of the bill,” Kuehl said. Barger originally brought this motion two weeks ago, as part of broader set of recommendations for helping mentally ill and homeless individuals. The board had postponed a vote in favor of further discussion.

Barger said Tuesday she would welcome working with Kuehl to make sure any recommended legislation dealt with her concerns, but that the time to act was now.

“The county is a safety net provider for a reason and has a moral obligation to ensure that those on our streets who are suffering from  grave mental illness, who are living in deplorable conditions and unable to provide for themselves, (for their) basic human needs, receive life-saving treatment and care,” Barger said.

An estimated 30 percent of the county’s homeless population and roughly 27 percent of county jail inmates suffer from serious mental illness, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the sheriff’s department.

The board directed Department of Mental Health staffers to work with county lawyers, mental health advocacy groups and civil rights organizations to develop a set of recommendations in 60 days.

Sample Ballots In the Mail for Assembly District 51 Special Election

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGPNews) –Sample ballots for the Dec. 5th runoff in the 51st Assembly District Special Election have been mailed out to registered voters, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) announced this week.

On the ballot are community activist Wendy Carrillo and nonprofit healthcare director Luis Lopez.  Both are Democrats.

Carrillo was the top vote getter in the Oct. 3 Primary, with Lopez coming in second.

According to the County Clerk, 220,475 Sample ballot booklets will be mailed. Approximately 10% of voters registered in the district voted in the primary election.

The back cover of the booklet indicates a voter’s polling place location and also serves as a Vote by Mail request application, the County Clerk said in a written statement.

To receive a sample ballot booklet, residents must be registered to vote. To register to vote or to check voter registration status visit lavote.net.

For translated election materials in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai or Vietnamese, call (800) 815-2666, option 3.

City, County, State Take Up Fight to Defend DACA

September 14, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
initiative, has sparked a whirlwind of activity at the city, county and state level, all aimed at thwarting the president’s action and to push Congress to adopt a permanent solution for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The protests and promises of legal battles is not surprising given that one in four DACA recipients – or about 200,000 of the young beneficiaries – live in California.

Speaking in Los Angeles Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to fight the decision “on every front.”

Becerra, joined by the attorneys general for Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, filed a lawsuit Monday in San Francisco against the administration, arguing that the federal government violated the Constitution and federal laws when it moved to rescind DACA.

“The DACA initiative has allowed more than 800,000 Dreamers — children brought to this country without documentation — to come out of the shadows and become successful and productive Americans,” Becerra said following a roundtable meeting with immigration advocates in downtown Los Angeles. “I’ve never seen a time in our country when we punish kids for coming out of the
shadows.”

Last week, the University of California filed suit against the administration on grounds that the decision would violate the due process rights of thousands of immigrant UC students. That same day, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion directing the city attorney to either file his own lawsuit or to join the state’s lawsuit being promised by Becerra.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County supervisors added their voices, adopting a measure to support the lawsuits brought by other government bodies and to pursue a financial boycott of sorts of states “unfriendly” to DACA by banning county employees from traveling to those states on county business.

California’s Attorney General Tells Dreamers to Reapply

According to Becerra, with the help of the state’s 200,000 DACA recipients, California has become “the sixth largest economy in the world.”

Federal immigration officials are no longer accepting new requests for DACA, but the agency is hearing two-year DACA renewal requests received by Oct. 5 from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire before March 5.

Flanked by representatives from immigrant rights groups, Becerra said Tuesday that financial help is available to cash-strapped Dreamers who don’t have the $495 renewal fee. “If you have the opportunity, submit your paperwork,” the attorney general said. “We don’t want anyone to be deprived of the chance to reapply.”

Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, urged recipients not to “make money an issue.”

Added Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center: “Don’t let financial concerns be a reason not to reapply. We can find solutions.”

Becerra said the DACA phase-out indirectly affects millions of residents, as well as businesses, nonprofits, and the state’s towns and cities.

“We’ll do whatever we can to win,” he said.

Fifteen other states have also filed a lawsuit challenging the end of the DACA program.

UC Is First University System to Enter Legal Battle

The UC’s lawsuit filed Sept. 8 in San Francisco against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its acting secretary, Elaine Duke, is the first of its kind to be filed by a university. The lawsuit alleges the Trump administration failed to provide proper notice to the impacted population as required by law.

”As a result of the defendants’ actions, the Dreamers face expulsion from the only country that they call home, based on nothing more than unreasoned executive whim,” the complaint reads. UC President Janet Napolitano, who was secretary of DHS from 2009 to 2013, spearheaded the Obama administration’s creation of the DACA program in 2012, setting in place a rigorous application and security review process, according to the lawsuit.

Applicants for DACA were only approved if they were in or had graduated from high school or college, or were in the military, or an honorably discharged veteran. They cannot have been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanor or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

“Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, Napolitano said. “It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community.”

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside Trump’s  action because it is “unconstitutional, unjust, and unlawful.”

L.A. Councilman Calls for City Attorney to Join Lawsuits

Roughly 100,000 DACA recipients are believed to live in the Los Angeles area. A motion introduced last week by L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar states, “These Dreamers were brought here as children and have proven themselves to be lawful residents contributing to the social fabric and diversity of the United States.” It also instructs City Attorney Mike Feuer to pursue legal action on behalf of the city to defend their presence.

When asked to comment on the motion, Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox said, “Our office is already in discussions with other government entities on how best to maximize our impact on fighting the removal of DACA.”

County to Support Lawsuits, Boycott DACA-unfriendly States

County supervisors voted Tuesday to institute a travel ban on DACA-unfriendly states and to support legal challenges to Trump’s order ending the policy.

Supervisor Hilda Solis championed a one-year restriction on county government travel to nine states that threatened legal action to end the program, saying it could “cost the United States approximately $460 billion in GDP.”

Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia will be subject to the travel restriction, which will not apply in the case of emergency assistance for disaster relief or critical law enforcement work.

The vote was 3-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissenting and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstaining, though they both support DACA and voted in favor of related measures.

The young adults nationwide affected by the administration’s action are contributing to America’s economy, not taking from it, said Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.

“Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients are employed. DACA is a net positive for the U.S. economy” and ending it would cost California alone $11.3 billion,” Diaz told the board.

David Rattray, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, promised the support of business leaders in any fight to restore the program.

Employers have invested in hiring and training so-called Dreamers and are “dumbfounded about how stupid this is, frankly,” Rattray told the board.

Barger, the only Republican on the non-partisan board, said the county should take an aggressive, hands-on role in pressing Congressional representatives to craft new legislation.

“We need to be at the table and we need to push as hard as we can,” Barger said. “This is bipartisan, this is about doing what is right,” quoting then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 remarks saying DACA was “a temporary stopgap measure” to give Congress time to act.

“Congress needs to get to work, they’ve had over five years to do it,” Barger said. “If Congress does not act in six months, shame on them.”

Ridley-Thomas proposed having county lawyers file “friend of the court” briefs in support of several states suing the Trump administration.

DACA recipients are entitled, Ridley-Thomas said, to “the right to privacy, the right to work, the right to move within the halls of government and elsewhere without wondering if someone is going to report you or snatch you.”

The vote on amicus briefs was 4-1, with Barger dissenting.

Based on Solis’ motion, the board will also send a letter to the president and Congress demanding legislative action, a move that garnered unanimous support. The board also directed the county’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to help existing DACA recipients renew their status by Oct. 5.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion to add immigration to a county list of policy priorities, which currently include homelessness, child protection, reform of the Sheriff’s Department, integration of county health services, and environmental oversight and monitoring.

The board’s vote in favor of the new priority was unanimous.

LA Council Approves Sale of ‘Ultracompact” Weapons

August 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 Tuesday to undo a longtime ban on the sale of so called “ultracompact” handguns, bowing to legal pressure from the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle & Pistol Association.

The ban was enacted in 2001 under a motion authored by then-City Councilman Mike Feuer, who is now the city attorney. Feuer and other gun control advocates argued at the time that the smaller weapons, or “pocket rockets,” posed a risk to public safety because they would be easier for criminals to conceal.

The ban prevents the sale within city limits of firearms with a length less that 6.75 inches or a height less than 4.5 inches.

The NRA and California Rifle & Pistol Association have long been opposed to the ban, and last year wrote a letter to Feuer threatening legal action if it was not overturned, arguing that state law allowed the sale of some of the weapons and preempted the local ordinance.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Feuer, noted that the state law changed after the ban was enacted and that other cities and counties have already undone similar ordinances.

“The other municipalities like L.A. County and West Hollywood and San Francisco and Sacramento also have repealed this ordinance,” Wilcox told City News Service.

Wilcox also said that no person has ever been prosecuted for violating the ordinance.

Stand Up and Be Counted – Maybe

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It took Nick Alati half a day to cast a ballot in Arizona’s August primary — and his vote didn’t even count.

A self-employed home inspector in suburban Phoenix, Alati had moved recently. He tried to update his registration information, but never received a new voters card. On primary day, he went to the precinct in his old neighborhood, but poll workers turned him away, sending him to another spot. That precinct, not finding him in the rolls, sent him right back.

There is no act more central to a democracy than voting. Electionland is a project that will cover access to the ballot and problems that prevent people from exercising their right to vote during the 2016 election. Read more and sign up.

Back at the first precinct, poll workers allowed him to fill out a provisional ballot. Under federal law, no one who wants to vote can just be turned away: Instead, people are allowed to vote provisionally when there are questions about their eligibility, though some of these ballots are discarded for a variety of reasons.

Alati went ahead and filled out the form, even though he suspected his vote might be tossed. Still, when I told him his vote indeed had been disallowed because he’d voted in the wrong places, Alati said it was upsetting.

“I tried very hard to be registered,” said Alati, calling the back-and-forth between polling places a “pain in the butt” and “time off without pay.”

“I’m not getting paid to go vote, it’s my job as a citizen of the United States,” he said.

State-to-state differences in the handling of provisional ballots can end up leaving people like Alati disenfranchised.

Alati was one of 3,330 people in Maricopa County who voted with a provisional ballot in the August primaries. Some 1,300 of these votes were discarded, more than half for the same reason as his was. At the time, poll workers weren’t allowed to warn voters that provisional ballots cast in the wrong location would be wasted, said Elizabeth Bartholomew, communications director for the Maricopa County Elections Department.

“We didn’t want to leave it up to poll workers to say that their ballot would not count,” she said.

Provisional ballots can be indicators of deeper voting issues — or not, said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. When unusually large numbers are cast somewhere, it can be a sign that the state hasn’t properly updated voter rolls, or that they’ve done a poor job communicating with voters about ID requirements or polling locations. But it can also indicate a state is just trying extra hard to let people vote. Similarly, states that reject high numbers of provisional ballots may have rules that are overly strict — or just be good at detecting ineligible voters.

Prompted by the 2000 election, when thousands of would-be voters were turned away in Florida, federal legislators passed a bill mandating that all states offer provisional voting except for the handful that already offered same-day registration. But the law set few guidelines on how to count provisional ballots, or under what circumstances they can be tossed out; there remain substantial differences in how provisional ballots are treated state-to-state — and even county-to-county.

Voters cast provisional ballot for lots of reasons. In almost all states with voter ID laws, for example, people without appropriate identification can vote provisionally; their ballots are supposed to count as long as they return to specified locations with proof of who they are.

In the 2012 election, some 2.7 million voters cast provisional ballots, about a quarter of which were disallowed. According to the Election Administration Commission, the top reasons provisional ballots are rejected nationwide are that voters aren’t registered (38 percent) or vote at the wrong site (25 percent).

But the likelihood that a ballot gets tossed for a particular reason can vary sharply from state to state: In Texas, 15 percent of provisional ballots were rejected for being cast in the incorrect place; in Ohio, it was 28 percent; in Indiana, it was 45 percent.

Experts say some states likely do a poor job of informing voters where they’re supposed to vote — and that casting provisional ballot in the wrong place is likely futile. Poll workers routinely get only a few hours of training and may not know the consequences of voting in the wrong spot, or may not express those consequences to voters.

Voters themselves sometimes refuse to listen when poll workers try to tell them where to go and what to do.

“Many voters will just say, ‘No, I want to vote,’” said Tammy Patrick, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center (and an Electionland advisor). Patrick, who served on a 2014 presidential commission to modernize voting and address problems, also said she’s seen party officials, lawyers and others stop voters from leaving polling places and demand that they ask for provisional ballots.

Fifteen states, including California, count portions of provisional ballots cast in the wrong precincts or jurisdictions, accepting votes for candidates for statewide or federal offices that could have been cast anywhere or that apply to wherever a voter is registered.

Arizona, however, is one of 22 states that take a harder line, rejecting such ballots entirely. The Arizona Democratic Party has sued the state over this, as well as having what the plaintiffs say are an inadequate number of polling places.

Following complaints after the August primary that voters were not told their ballots would not be counted if they voted in the wrong precinct, Maricopa County election officials are placing warning signs like these in all polling locations.

“These are individuals who took the time to register to vote, went to the polls on election day, presented the sufficient ID to vote, and yet their ballot was thrown out completely because they went to the wrong precinct,” said Spencer Scharff, voter protection director for the Arizona Democratic Party. “To throw out a ballot when a voter is eligible to vote for the majority of the things on the ballot is disheartening.”

In Maricopa County, complaints came in from both parties after the August primary about poll workers not informing voters that provisional ballots cast in the wrong location almost certainly would not count, Bartholomew said.

Melita Towler was left confused by the process. She’d cast a provisional ballot at the polling place nearest to where she was on primary day and said no one told she needed to vote in the precinct where she was registered. She was surprised to learn that her ballot hadn’t been counted.

“If they had just said that to me, I would have gone somewhere else,” she said. “I’m glad I found this out before the election in November.”

As a result of the complaints, Bartholomew said, the county changed its policy for the November presidential election. “Now, we are training our poll workers to let them know that if you are in the wrong polling place your vote will not count,” she said.

Maricopa County will also place signs reflecting this outside of precincts and near the roll book table, and has ramped up voter education stressing that the law requires voters to vote in the correct precinct.

“This has been in state law for many years, so every single election we try to make sure that these issues get smaller and smaller,” she said. “We’re hoping that number will continue to decrease and voters will go to the correct polling place.”

Whether you are a voter interested in sharing your experience at the polls this fall, or a journalist wanting to be a part of the Electionland coalition, find out more about the project and sign up.

 

Jessica Huseman is a reporting fellow at ProPublica.

 

L.A. County Primary Election Turnout

June 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

During the first three hours the polls were open today, about 9.04 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County had cast ballots in the presidential primary election, according to the county registrar-recorder’s office.

There were 4,799,548 registered voters in the county as of the end of May, according to the office.

During the presidential primary four years ago, about 21.87 percent of those eligible to vote did so. There were 4,450,035 registered voters in the county at the time of the 2012 presidential primary.

The polls opened today at 7am and will be open until 8pm.

Editorial Cartoon

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

03-We must vote

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