On April 19, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors received the 2022–23 recommended budget from the County Chief Executive Office. This is the first step in the County’s multistep budget process, which includes public hearings in May, deliberations leading to the approval of the adopted budget in June and the supplemental budget concluding with the approval of the final adopted budget in October. A 20-slide recommended budget PowerPoint overview was presented to the Board by Fesia Davenport, the County’s chief executive officer.
One merely needs to read the subhead underneath the first slide’s title, 2022–23 Recommended Budget, to quickly realize that the priorities of this $38.5 billion budget recommendation will continue to focus on a majority of board members’ policy agendas that do not include properly funding public safety, specifically the Sheriff’s Department. The subhead reads, “Turning the Corner to an Equity-Focused Recovery,” and what this new political buzz phrase exactly means is unfortunately not clearly defined in the recommended budget. What is clearly defined is the startling absence of any meaningful funding recommendations targeted to address the historic rising crime rates, as well as the surge of violent crime in Los Angeles County.
It certainly appears that the $12.3 million funding will not be exclusively directed for public safety services provided by the Sheriff’s Department.
According to a 2022 poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, Los Angeles residents have the bleakest view of any region in California about rising crime rates. The poll reported that 41% of respondents in L.A. view crime as a major worry, the highest in any region of the state. A record 34% of Californians responded that violence and street crime in their community was a “big problem,” which is up 10% from a year ago.
County employees, department heads and taxpayers, beware of the third slide — A Preview of Ambitious Changes Ahead, with another catchy subhead: “The Board’s priorities will include innovations that will take multiple budget phases to accomplish.” The slide concludes with what is to be launched this year:
- Four new County departments (Youth Development; Aging and Disabilities; Economic Opportunity; and Justice, Care and Opportunity)
- A new 988 Alternative Crisis Response system
- Groundbreaking three-year guaranteed income program
- A new prevention services model
- A heightened focus on equity in all programs and services
Other notable budget recommendations include the eighth slide, Resourcing the Care First, Jails Last Vision, by committing another $100 million to the Care First, Community Investment (CFCI) plan. The CFCI was created after Measure J was determined to be unconstitutional, but the County will continue to move toward the full set aside that was specified in Measure J by June 2024.
The CFCI addresses racial disparities in the justice system, providing a total of $200 million in year two of a three-year ramp-up to allocate 10% of locally generated unrestricted revenues (net County cost) in the general fund to CFCI programs. Additionally, $30 million to address the structural deficit in the Office of Diversion and Reentry, increase the number of public defenders and alternate public defenders, as well as the launch of a new Justice, Care and Opportunities Department.
Amazingly, the only budget recommendations addressing public safety are found on the 14th slide, Balancing Public Safety With Reforms, with the ominous subhead, “This is not a zero-sum game.” The slide continues with the advisement that the budget reflects a commitment to closing Men’s Central Jail and protecting the rights of those who are incarcerated by recommending $15.3 million be used to support compliance with a federal consent decree regarding the treatment of individuals with mental illness in County jails.
Additionally, the second budget recommendation states that also reflecting the Board’s commitment to public safety is $12.3 million in new funding for additional LASD Academy classes, which would support the recruitment and training of a new generation of deputies. It would also complement existing investments in CFCI, the Mental Evaluation Team (MET) and Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST), and a new Justice, Care and Opportunities Department. It certainly appears that the $12.3 million funding will not be exclusively directed for public safety services provided by the Sheriff’s Department.
It is a sad statement that the County’s 10 priorities and initiatives — (1) Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion; (2) Alternatives to Incarceration; (3) Chief Sustainability Office; (4) Digital Divide Regional Strategy; (5) Alliance for Health Integration; (6) Homeless Initiative; (7) Office of Child Protection; (8) Poverty Alleviation Initiative; (9) Justice Reform; and (10) Women and Girls Initiative — do not include, what most believe is the fundamental duty of government, the safety of its citizenry. The need for making public safety the highest priority for Los Angeles County needs to be immediately addressed in the 2022–23 recommended budget.