Council overrides Garcetti veto, then they agree on funds to aid communities of color
For months, L.A. politicians have wrestled with how to spend tens of millions of dollars cut from the city’s Police Department budget after protests erupted over George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis last May.
A draft plan approved by the L.A. City Council in December would have devoted $88 million to youth and recreation programs, neighborhood beautification initiatives, job and business programs, nonprofit services and more.
But that proposal ran into opposition from the police chief and the police union, as well as Mayor Eric Garcetti. The mayor vetoed the plan, saying the reprogrammed money should focus more heavily on racial justice, income inequality and community safety programs.
On Tuesday, in a rare move, the City Council voted to override Garcetti’s veto, then went on to pass a more detailed proposal that seems to hew closer to his vision for how to allocate the money. Garcetti, in a statement, said he supports the council’s latest version of the spending plan.
Tuesday’s vote marked the first time that the council has overridden a veto by Garcetti, city aides said.
The plan backed by City Council President Nury Martinez and several council members now allocates $14 million slated for policing alternatives, including community intervention officers, according to a city report.
An additional $18 million would be allocated for homeless prevention and homeless services, including eviction defense services, jobs and outreach workers.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti vetoed a plan backed by the City Council to spend $88 million diverted from the LAPD to aid disadvantaged communities, saying it did not meet “the call of history.”
That initial allocation of $32 million reflects the spending priorities of six council districts.
Tuesday’s vote was 11 to 4, with council members Bob Blumenfield, Monica Rodriguez, Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino voting against the proposal. Ten votes were needed to override Garcetti’s veto.
Blumenfield voted against the original spending plan, saying on Tuesday that “it wasn’t true to the intent of the funding” and that he was glad the mayor vetoed it.
But he also voted against the revised plan Tuesday. Blumenfield cited several reasons, including recent budget cuts that slashed services and reduced city employees’ pay.
“I love many of these new expenditures,” Blumenfield said. “But how can we look at our employees and our constituents, look them in the eye and tell them to accept all of these sacrifices, and then spend wildly on a host of new council-directed projects, as good as they are?”
Other council members voiced concerns that residents outside the six council districts wouldn’t be able to access programs funded by the $32 million.
Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, told the council at Tuesday’s meeting that her group strongly supported the council’s plan to override Garcetti’s veto.
“We must get the money that was reallocated from LAPD into our communities,” Abdullah said, adding that “dollars need to go to intervention work, dollars need to go into the hands of those who are struggling in communities, dollars need to go into housing, especially for Black people.”
In a letter sent last week to the city’s top budget and legislative officials, Martinez said the council’s objective is to “invest these funds in a manner that uplifts the voices and needs of their residents.”
“The council should affirm its intention that these funds be used to address areas of most concern to our residents, including youth programming, city services, jobs and economic development, community and nonprofit investment, reimagining public safety, and homelessness,” Martinez wrote.
Under the plan passed Tuesday, $6 million would go toward a universal basic income pilot program in Councilman Curren Price’s South L.A. and downtown district. Such programs, which typically provide a monthly stipend to a small pool of residents, have been launched in Stockton and Jackson, Miss.
Under the initial plan, a total of 500 households of single parents in Price’s district would receive $1,000 a month for 12 months.
An additional $7.75 million would go to a fund dedicated to paying for an “unarmed response” to homelessness and nonviolent calls, according to budget officials.
Under the program, the greatest share of the money will go to districts with the greatest number of census tracts experiencing poverty and unemployment. Nearly $50 million would be distributed to three of the council’s 15 districts, all of which take in portions of South Los Angeles.
The council is asking budget analysts to prepare a report with a list of additional appropriations, totaling about $56 million, by Friday.
“From the beginning, this conversation has been about making bold investments that lift up our communities and speak to the urgency of racial and economic justice,” Garcetti said in a statement. “The latest version of the council’s spending plan does that, and I support it.”
“It’s significant that we move this issue forward in terms of how we reimagine and reinvest public dollars,” said Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes Koreatown and parts of South Los Angeles. “And it can’t be a one time proposition.”
Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig L.A., which seeks to promote representative government and fight corruption, said the City Council was being “disingenuous” in its override of Garcetti’s veto.
“The only reason anybody is OK with you overriding the mayor’s veto is because you’re now doing what the mayor told you to do,” Quan told the council.
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