Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Lucia Solis looks to be on a mission to re-shape Los Angeles County in the image of her former boss, Barack Obama’s, vision of a world full of hope and change. Previously serving as the United States Secretary of Labor from 2009 to 2013, the Supervisor of the 1st District has recently been prolific in making motions to the law making body that are the harbingers of structurally de-funding the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and reallocating responsibilities and missions elsewhere; although, not necessarily to replace or even maintain the services that will be defunded.
Solis’ motions on record include social engineering initiatives aimed at placing the needs of under-resourced and low-income portions of the county at the top of the budget priority stack. A yet to be read motion co-authored by Solia and 3rd District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl supposedly scheduled for consideration at the July 28 meeting reported on by reporter Bill Melugin at local television station FOX11, “LA County proposes ballot initiative that would redistribute law enforcement funds to underserved communities”, contained a link to a draft motion with this far reaching mission statement,
“… This is not just a moment in time, it is the expression of a transformational movement on a scale not seen since the Civil Rights era.
In L.A. County, our most vulnerable neighbors—people who work at minimum wage jobs, young people trying to learn new skills, families who rely on our school system for meals and support, people with physical and mental illness, and seniors—are being doubly crushed, by a virus and by a long-standing lack of resources and opportunities.
To address racial injustice, over-reliance on law enforcement interventions, limited economic opportunity, health disparities, and housing instability, it’s time to structurally shift our budget priorities and reimagine Los Angeles County.”
The draft contained a scathing allusion to the relative privilege of the “white” portions of Los Angeles County, citing a 2016 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, along with a focus on increasing funds for the county’s Office of Diversion and Reentry and initiatives in creating low-income affordable rental housing, a traditional pathway to largess and wealth for well connected developers and landlords.
Creating this shift in county government requires both a funding source and a charter change. Solis and Kuehl propose to do both. Within the language of the draft motion, Solis et al propose drafting a ballot initiative for the November 2020 election that would radically change Los Angeles county. Specifically,
“Prepare a report on the processes and procedures associated with the placement of a County Charter Amendment on the November 2020 general election ballot, subject to the approval of a simple majority of the voters of the County.”
That’s a pretty bold move. It’s on the order of saying, “I feel like rewriting the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.” It’s certainly not something to be done in a cavalier fashion taking advantage of a crisis placing a ballot measure on short notice in the heat of the moment.
The funds seem to come from substitution of sources and uses theories about cost savings. One mentioned in the draft motion is the theory that every person taken off probation saves the county $450,000 per year; so the budget incentive is clearly to shrink size of the youth probation program. Another is that releasing indigent pre-trail county prisoners allows saves the county $500,000 per year, aggregating the cost of $206 per person per day. These are defunding programs no different than the “defund the police” initiative that is also besetting the most populated county of the United States.
LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva is on record stating that the defund cuts to his department will result in dramatic reductions in staff and services by his department, including almost all of the social services substitutes painstakingly taken on by law enforcement over the last three decades since the 1992 riots as I noted in a recent Red State VIP article, “Policing America: Starting Over Again”.
The bothersome thing is that while the simplistic accounting shows a net increase in available capital from such budgetary slight of hand, the is no acknowledgement of consequence costs; in particular, the consequence costs that these mandates will pass on to both the directly affected and, ultimately, the general populace.
What will those on probation cast out from the system do without supervision and guidance? Go back to the institutions that couldn’t handle them before? Like schools that have been stripped of campus policing support? Who will step into that role? What will that new cost be? What’s the phase in? What’s are the rules of engagement? The training and certification process?
Or, is the plan to let them languish, go deep into depression, and drag whatever family that might care for them with them? Are Supervisors Solis and Kuehl seriously saying that “sacrificing” some kids on probation to subsidize the tuition of others attending college is how they plan to make Los Angeles County a better place for the underprivileged? That seems rather harsh; particularly if you are one of those probationers targeted for designation as expendable, I mean non-essential, by this proposed policy.
Where will the indigent awaiting trial, who have nothing which is why they couldn’t make bail in the first place, go? Just tossing them back on the street strikes me as far too similar to the cruel practice of dumping people into the mass of homeless persons increasingly roaming urban America. What do Solis and Kuehl propose to do? Dump these people into the more affluent areas of the county? The so-called affluent incorporated cities that can absorb the social cost perhaps?
The thing about theoretical social engineering is that the consequence costs typically have a massive impact far larger than the limited good their designers envisioned. Things like law enforcement and social services tend to evolve gradually in tiny steps laboriously trying to stay in balance with a myriad of obligations and expectations from a diverse community. Things almost always go wrong when such matters are rushed, and misguided entropy is a one-way street; there’s no way to undo the damage once the cascading failure mode begins. You would think that someone who was at the Department of Labor during the worst years recovering from the 2008 financial crisis would know that.
The point here is that the people of Los Angeles County should demand answers to these tough questions before approving anything. We have seen to many well-meaning things turn into social engineering disasters already. This rush to judgement about where to take the lives of 10 million people deserves more airing and a demonstration that all the citizens of Los Angeles County are respected equally before anyone does anything we will all regret. Zeal is never a substitute for due diligence and on the 28th of July, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may want to demand a bit more diligence before acting on this motion.