In his State of the City address on Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed large shifts in policy and funding, including nearly $1 billion in homeless funding, a program that looks into slavery reparations to black residents, and a universal income pilot program.
Speaking outside of the famed Griffith Observatory, Garcetti said that his reform and budget proposals would not only amount to the largest city budget ever on record, but would also be one of the most progressive due to his focus on social justice and racial justice. In his speech on Monday, he called his proposal the “Justice Budget.”
“It’s a financial document, but also a roadmap to a city built on justice and equity. It’s the biggest city budget I’ve ever presented, and it’s the most progressive, too, arguably of any big city anywhere,” said Garcetti.
His largest singular proposal in the State of the City concerned homelessness, with Garcetti putting forward a $955 million spending plan. Much of the $955 million, which is partially funded by federal programs such as the federal COVID rescue plan, would go towards housing for the homeless. Garcetti explained that that buying, renting, and building homes would help end mass homelessness in the city, as would an increase of homeless outreach workers.
He also highlighted the fact that Los Angeles’ homeless funding has gone up by leaps and bounds since he first took office in 2013, when the city was only spending $10 million a year on homelessness.
“We know the key to ending homelessness is homes. Let’s rent them. Let’s buy them. Let’s build them brand new,” noted the Mayor. “The pandemic didn’t start our housing crisis, and our success in eliminating so much rent won’t end it.”
In addition, the Mayor challenged the state to invest $16 million over a period of four years to fund homeless housing and services, as well as challenging the federal government for a national “right to housing” policy.
Mayor Garcetti also proposed that LA join cities such as Stockton and San Francisco in creating a universal income pilot program. $24 million would go to 2,000 low-income households in the city, giving them $1,000 a month for an entire year. The Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program, if accepted, would become the largest universal income program in the country, with Garcetti saying on Monday that the money would be given to chosen households “no questions asked” with the hope that it will improve health and financial stability for low-income Angelinos.
“Los Angeles will launch the largest guaranteed basic income pilot of any city in America,” added Garcetti in his speech. “We’re betting that one small but steady investment for Angeleno households will pay large dividends for health and stability across our city and light a fire across our nation. When you give money to people who are poor, it creates better outcomes, it covers child care, it puts food on the table, it leads to more high school graduations and better checkups.”
Major “Justice Budget” proposals
Businesses hurt by COVID-19, in particular restaurants, were also part of the spending proposal in the State of the City address. Garcetti proposed to give small businesses and street vendors $5,000 checks to 5,000 businesses in a $25 million program, along with $2 million for low-income area restaurants to build permanent outdoor areas for dining and $1.3 million for street vendor improvements. Garcetti also called for quicker permit turnaround and the end of valet and off-site parking requirements or some restaurants in the city to allow them to save money.
“Businesses who want to open or re-open those doors, your city is going to have your back so you can reopen, hire up and spread wealth,” continued Garcetti.
Other proposals by Garcetti on Monday included creating an advisory commission over a possible slavery reparations program for black Angelinos, the creation of new departments focusing on youth and housing, a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling endeavors in the city, a ban on Styrofoam and other non-recyclable single-use foodware, and the city achieving 100% carbon-free energy by 2035.
“This is a make-or-break decade. It’s time to go big, go bold, go green, and cities are leading the way,” stated the Mayor.
The Mayor’s “Justice Budget” received a mix reaction on Monday and Tuesday. Some, such as LA city Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, praised the Mayor specifically for his homeless initiatives on Monday, saying that they were needed in the city.
“Meaningful change begins with action. I applaud Mayor Garcetti for understanding that Angelinos are most concerned about the number of homeless we see in parkways, in the streets, and living in vehicles and proposing an unprecedented commitment of resources to allow us to scale up our response,” said Ridley-Thomas on Monday.
“We will not address this moral crisis with the urgency and conviction that is warranted, if we don’t have a comprehensive strategy, sufficient ongoing resources, and ultimately, an enforceable obligation on government to act.”
However, many others blasted the Mayor for proposing to spend so much right after a devastating pandemic created the $400 million deficit in the city that resulted in over 15,000 city workers being furloughed.
“He just cares about how people will remember him at this point, not about the people who gave their careers and livelihood to the city,” explained former city worker Ramon Blanco to the Globe. “He ended countless jobs, but is now saying ‘well here. Here’s $1,000 per month instead.’ We want to work for the city again and help the city improve, but instead of doing that, he’s proposing a lot of expensive programs that will be going nowhere. He says he’s trying to help families with this, but really, it’s at the expense of screwing others over.”
Garcetti’s proposals will soon go before the city council, with Los Angeles expecting to have a new budget out by the beginning of the fiscal year in July.