Portantino concerned about released prisoners

Los Angeles County will be seeing an influx of criminals as part of the state’s prison realignment plan, and state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) told the LCF City Council Monday night that he is concerned about the plan’s local impacts.

Portantino said the plan, which will see more than 8,000 parolees and 4,000 prisoners transferred from state responsibility to L.A. County Sheriff’s supervision and facilities, will result in reduced public safety.

“They’re supposed to be non-violent felons, but these are still folks who did some serious crimes,” said Portantino. “There are many of us who believe that counties around the state are going to face no other option than to consider releasing these felons into our community.”

Portantino cited California’s 70% recidivism rate as part of the reason why he opposed the plan, which he said would create a “revolving door” for the low-level felons qualifying for realignment.

“We certainly wish the [L.A. County] Sheriff’s Department well with their efforts to deal with that problem,” said Portantino. “But I wasn’t going to vote for it.”

Portantino made his remarks during his annual State of the State report to the City Council. He said Assembly Speaker John Perez’s decision to cut his budget and furlough his staff for six weeks is retaliation for his voting against the party line on prison realignment and the proposed state budget, which included the realignment plan.

Councilwoman Laura Olhasso said that the furloughing of Portantino’s staff would impact not only the assemblyman, but also his constituents in La Cañada, who will be without representation during that time.

“I find it appalling that the speaker is going to shut down your office,” said Olhasso. “I’d love to send a letter to the Speaker from this council decrying this, and get other cities in your district involved.”

Councilman Steve Del Guercio said he supported Olhasso’s idea, and that the furlough was undemocratic.

“I think it cuts right to the core fundamentally of the democracy as citizens and residents of California,” said Del Guercio. “[This] is more like some third world dictatorship that we live in right now.”

On Tuesday afternoon Portantino released a statement that said Perez had changed his mind. He said he received a letter from Perez indicating that the staff of the 44th Assembly District, which he represents, no longer would face furloughs.

In addition, Portantino reported that Gov. Jerry Brown had vetoed a bill he had proposed to simplify the process by which community college students applied for financial aid.

Currently, students apply for a Board of Governors waiver, Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or both. The bill, AB 91, would have established a pilot program to use only FAFSA at 10 community colleges. Portantino said the state was leaving federal aid money on the table by not simplifying the application process for students.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World