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Amid Calls To Defund LAPD, City Council's Budget Committee Kicks Off A Month Of Hearings

A protest in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles on May 30, 2020. Chava Sanchez/LAist

The Los Angeles City Council budget committee met on Monday for the first time since large-scale protests against the killing of George Floyd and police abuses took over L.A. streets.

Committee chairman Paul Krekorian said this will be the first of a month of meetings, one every Monday in June before the fiscal year begins July 1.

But our work is not going to stop ... because of the dynamic nature of revenues, and the fact that COVID-19 has left so many people in great economic distress," Krekorian said. "We're going to be continuing to work throughout the fiscal year to make ongoing changes in this budget."

The proceedings kicked off with a look at the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. There’s a significant shortfall in city tax revenues caused by coronavirus stalling the economy, and it’s turned out to be a larger gap than budget analysts predicted.

The city will have to dip further into reserves to balance the books. (The City Administrative Officer’s full year-end financial status report is available here.)

Later, callers flooded public comment lines, asking the committee to consider a “People’s Budget” proposed by Black Lives Matter-LA and other community groups. It asks city leaders to almost entirely defund LAPD and divert the money to social services instead.

One caller, who identified herself as Emily and a member of Black Lives Matter-LA, asked: “You would rather continue to fund a failed system, than listen to the people and reimagine a budget that is moral and just?”

She added: “Do the right thing: Defund the police."

Last week, members of the city council introduced a motion to divert up to $150 million from police to support disadvantaged communities. The mayor has endorsed the idea -- but callers during Monday’s budget hearing were dismissive, saying it’s a relatively small amount of money compared to the $3.1 billion the city spends on LAPD.

“It’s a breadcrumb,” said Terry O’Neil. “We’re not stupid.”

That motion will be taken up at a hearing on June 15.


Teachers Union Calls For Disbanding LA School Police Department

Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter LA speaks at a rally of labor unions at City Hall on June 8, 2020. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

For decades, the Los Angeles Unified School District has commanded its own, independent police force — one of the largest school police departments in the nation.

But the district’s powerful teachers union may soon call to dismantle the L.A. School Police Department.

The board of directors for United Teachers Los Angeles recently voted 35-2 to call for stripping down the L.A. School Police Department. The policy proposal must win a vote of another body of UTLA members before it becomes the union’s official stance.

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl announced the incremental, but significant step on the steps of City Hall where numerous labor unions pledged to support a broader Black Lives Matter campaign to shift funding for police departments toward other social service programs.

Here’s Caputo-Pearl:

Schools should be places of learning, should be places of love, should be places of caring. That does not depend on policing. This movement [Black Lives Matter] now is forcing us to reimagine that.

In the last week, the Minneapolis and Portland school districts have voted to cut ties with local police departments. Activists are pressuring Chicago Public Schools to end its police contract, too. Unlike LAUSD, though, those school districts didn’t operate their own police departments.

In recent years, UTLA has sided with activists who opposed the L.A. School Police on certain policy questions — for instance, on ending the district’s policy on random student searches.

But the teachers union has explicitly stopped short of calls to dismantle the department — until now.

Leaders of the union representing L.A. School Police officers issued a statement last week saying they were “glad UTLA has become a voice for the tragic killing of George Floyd,” acknowledging “there is no doubt it diminished the trust and respect our communities have” in police. But they said UTLA had made an “over-arched generalized claim that ‘the police’ are ‘broken.’”

In the last week, the Minneapolis and Portland school districts have voted to end contracts with local police departments.


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Singing, Praying and Crying at LA's George Floyd Memorial

Funeral program held in conjunction with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and local faith leaders in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, June 8, 2020. Susanica Tam for LAist

Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim faith leaders gathered with Black Lives Matter organizers in downtown Los Angeles on Monday for a memorial for George Floyd and others killed by police.

They stood, in the shadow of City Hall, in robes and prayer shawls, making a wide circle around caskets covered with yellow flowers and framed photographs.

Behind them, people swayed and sang and held up protest signs and bouquets of flowers.

Rev. Gary Bernard Williams, lead pastor at Saint Mark Methodist Church in South L.A., said he supports "what Black Lives Matter is asking for: prosecute killer rogue police officers and defund the LAPD."

But other black clergy have been hesitant to join the Black Lives Matter movement. And in a speech, Black Lives Matter-LA co-founder Melina Abdullah called them out:

"The church and the movement should be united, not divided!" she said. "We need spaces to meet. We need access to your clergy. We need you to lend us your sound systems from time to time. And we need you to refuse to be the house negroes that this system of white supremacy wants you to be."


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Those Crazy Winds Caused 10 Brush Fires In The Past Day

Helicopters dropped water on the Equestrian Fire in Castaic (L.A. County FD via Twitter)

Ten brush fires have broken out across Los Angeles County over the past day as strong, dry winds reaching up to 65 mph ripped through the region, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The fires were mostly contained to a few acres, popping up in Elysian Park, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Lake View Terrace, and the Sepulveda Basin, among other spots. A fast-moving fire in Castaic was by far the largest, burning 86 acres.

It's not a typical situation for this time of year.

"Typically we're talking about June Gloom. Cool conditions along the coast," said Eric Boldt, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"This is an unusual weather system."


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LA City Attorney Wants Curfew Violators To Talk It Out With The Police

LAPD arresting protesters in downtown L.A. on May 30. (Frank Stoltze/LAist)

Activists and the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit calling on L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer to dismiss charges against peaceful protesters arrested for curfew violations or failure to disperse. Today he gave his response: They won’t face jail or fines, but I want them to talk it out with the police.

While Feuer will not file charges, his office said in a statement that it "will be creating opportunities for violators to participate" in a “non-punitive” process outside of the courts that in some cases would bring protesters together with police “to directly share their experiences and views.”

This “restorative approach” will “foster the mutual empathy, understanding and respect that are essential to building a better version of our City,” Feuer said in the statement.

The city attorney said his office will work with the community and law enforcement to develop the “menu of programs,” and that he expects to start rolling it out later this summer.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore endorsed the move, calling it “productive and appropriate.”

Meanwhile, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey sent a memo to her deputy DA’s stating that her office will not prosecute anyone for violating curfew or failing to disperse, because doing so “could be considered punishment for people exercising their First Amendment constitutional rights.”

Lacey’s office is responsible for cases in unincorporated L.A. and in cities that don’t have their own prosecutors.


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Guidelines For Next Phase Of Reopening Coming This Week, LA County Leaders Say

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Los Angeles County's coronavirus task force delivered its daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic. Read highlights below or watch the full video above.

Los Angeles County leaders said on Monday they are “actively reviewing” new guidelines from the state on how to begin the next phase of reopening.

That includes guidance on "schools, day camps, museums, camping, and spectator-free events," said County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Between now and Friday, county officials will announce which sectors can reopen and provide specific health protocols they’ll need to follow, she said.

Barger also said that unemployment claims dropped 17.8% last week compared to the prior week, which she said "shows steady improvement to support workers across the county."


County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer took a moment Monday to acknowledge the layers of historic moments the U.S. is in right now, including the "fight to racism."

But she also reminded the public that the virus is still out there and can easily spread in mass gatherings such as the local protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Asked about the risk of infection for the thousands of L.A. County residents who have taken part in demonstrations over the past several weeks, Ferrer said

"being part of a protest is really no different than having an exposure at an indoor mall or even at a restaurant or at the beach in all of the sites."She offered this advice:

"If you spent time in large gatherings — whether this was at the beach, in a shopping mall or protesting peacefully — and you think it's possible that you've been exposed to COVID-19 because you were not able to keep physical distance and not everyone near you was wearing a cloth face covering, the best step to take is to self-quarantine for 14 days, and to be particularly careful to protect the people around you who may be at great risk for illness if they become infected."


Dr. Christina Ghaly, who oversees the county's Department of Health Services, noted that all drive-through testing sites in the county were fully switching to nasal swabs to test for COVID-19, rather than oral swabs that have been used.

That comes after recent studies showing nasal swabs produce more accurate results, she said.


County officials reported 823 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 64,644 cases countywide. In total, 2,227 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 987 in Pasadena. (Those two cities operate their own health departments.)

Ferrer also reported 10 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 2,655.

So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. She also noted that a lag in death and case reporting typically leads to smaller counts on Mondays.

The death toll at institutional facilities in L.A. County continues to climb. Ferrer reported that 1,432 residents at those facilities have died, and nearly 90% lived in nursing homes.

There are now 6,031 cases among health care workers and first responders, Ferrer reported, and 41 health care workers have reportedly died from the virus.

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 2,463 of the victims:

  • 41% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 12% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 18% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 28% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • Less than 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% identified as belonging to another race or ethnicity

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Sunday, June 7. And looked like this:

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After Controversy, Magic Castle Rethinks Its Approach To Anti-Racism Protests

Protesters outside the Magic Castle — Charlie Mount, right, is a magician and member of the institution. (Lexis-Olivier Ray for LAist)

Beloved Hollywood venue the Magic Castle stumbled in its response to protests following the police killing of George Floyd, first issuing a statement that some members found lukewarm, then offering the LAPD the use the venue's parking lot.

After magicians and Magic Castle members held a protest outside the venue Thursday afternoon and the founder's daughter talked with members of the board, it issued a more full-throated statement in support of Black Lives Matter.

The Magic Castle noted in the new statement that, although their finances are strained, they wanted to take a tangible step. They pledged up to $50,000 in matching funds donated by members to social justice causes between now and the end of August. They also made sure to include three words that weren't in their original statement: black lives matter.

Both statements ended on a hopeful note. Their first: "The art of magic imagines that anything is possible — even a world that is fair." Their second, with a bit more humility: "United together in a common goal, we will acknowledge what we don’t know, and try to listen, learn and take steps toward positive change."


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ACLU Sues City Of LA Over Scooter Data Collection

(Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Transportation)

The local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Los Angeles over its electric scooter program, saying its collection of geolocation data violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and state privacy law.

The lawsuit, filed in partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a local law firm, also argues that in the wrong hands — which might include the government — the data could be weaponized against marginalized communities. ACLU officials say their goal is “to end all prospective collection, storage, or maintenance of precise location data acquired through [the program].”

“The government's appropriate impulse to regulate city streets and ensure affordable, accessible transportation for all should not mean that individual vehicle riders' every move is tracked and stored without their knowledge,” Mohammad Tajsar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement. “There are better ways to keep ride-share companies in check than to violate the constitutional rights of ordinary Angelenos who ride their vehicles.”


The city of L.A. launched its micromobility pilot program in April 2019, aiming to study how scooters are used and where the dockless vehicles might fit into local governments' wider vision for mobility.

Part of the agreement required scooter companies to share their location data in real-time. LADOT officials said this was integral to managing the tens of thousands of scooters allowed to operate on city streets. The real-time data allows local officials to see where scooters are being parked and if they're blocking wheelchair access, fire hydrants or building entrances, then respond accordingly.

The city collects three key data points:

  • where the trip started
  • where the trip started ended
  • the route from start to end

The data collected by the city is stored "free of any personally identifiable information," according to LADOT's website. But representatives from the ACLU say that doesn't guarantee anonymity and protection. In a statement, they explained it this way:

"The data does not include the identity of the rider, but that information can be determined in a number of ways. For example, when a trip begins at a home and ends at a sensitive location — such as a therapist's office, marijuana dispensary, a Planned Parenthood clinic, or a political protest — all the government would need to know is who lives at the house in order to identify the rider and why the rider was making the trip.

After it's collected, this kind of detailed information can ultimately be lost, shared, stolen, or subpoenaed. If in the wrong hands, it can also result in arrest, domestic abuse, and stalking… In other cases, location information in the hands of authorities can stoke racial and gender-based violence."

This isn't the first time L.A.'s scooter data collection has been questioned.

Digital privacy advocates have voiced concern about LADOT's process. Jump, a scooter operator owned by Uber, has been fighting with the city over its data since it first joined the pilot program.

LADOT spokesperson Colin Sweeney previously told me the agency is responsible for processing a myriad of data every day, like collecting financial information from parking meters.

"The idea that the department can't be trusted with data is a little much," he said.

Asked about the lawsuit Monday, Sweeney provided this statement from LADOT:

"We cannot comment on pending litigation, which we also have not seen. The department requires reasonable information about shared vehicles operated by for-profit transportation technology companies and remains committed to ensuring the safety and accessibility of our streets."



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WATCH: State Releases Guidelines For Reopening School Campuses


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is holding a press conference to discuss the California Department of Education's 62-page guidelines for reopening schools across the state.

"The intent of this document is to be a guide for local discussion
on reopening schools," Thurmond wrote. "It is not a “one-size-fits-all” document; rather, it is a document that honors the varied local contexts of each of our LEAs [Local Education Agencies]."

According to the California Department of Education's Facebook page, "educational leaders will find recommendations for face coverings, physical distancing, and symptom screening should schools plan to provide some form of in-person instruction and distance learning."

You can watch the full announcement of the guidelines above, and read the full document here.



The LA City Council Budget Committee Is Meeting Today. Here's What To Expect

Protestors on Wednesday stopped near City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Protesters flooded the streets of Los Angeles again this weekend, many carrying signs and chanting slogans asking city leaders to "Defund the Police" and invest in "Care Not Cops."

Today the L.A. City Council's budget committee meets for the first time since the killing of George Floyd. Activists want to see major changes in how Angelenos' tax dollars are spent. We'll get a taste of what's in store at 2 p.m.


Morning Briefing: Taking A Look In The Mirror

#SayHerName sign at City Hall. Chava Sanchez/LAist

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Just as the protests and demonstrations going on across the country are shining a bright light on so many Americans' disgust with systemic racism and police brutality, so too is this moment training a glaring spotlight on those who feel otherwise.

Locally, a Simi Valley city councilman is under fire after suggesting that protesters be hosed down with septic tanks. L.A. Galaxy midfielder Aleksandar Katai is now *former* L.A. Galaxy midfielder Aleksandar Katai, after his wife posted racist and violent content to Instagram and his contract with the team was terminated.

In other words, our current moment is making one thing clear: we will all, in one way or another, be seen for who we are. And if we don’t like the reflection staring back at us, it may be time to take a look inward.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, June 8

The Magic Castle has faced a backlash on social media after offering its parking lot to the LAPD as a staging area amidst protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, reports Mike Roe.

KPCC+LAist reporters are rounding up our coverage of issues involving race, policing and criminal justice in L.A. We hope these articles serve as informative guides as more Angelenos become involved in conversations, debates and activism.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.

The Past 48 Hours In LA

L.A. Protests: Demonstrators continued to demand justice for black Americans killed by police officers, and to ask officials to defund the L.A. Police Department. Our reporters saw no looting or violence between police officers and protesters. Some standout demonstrations included one organized by the Compton Cowboys, who rode Sunday with other African American cowboys and cowgirls; and the "Eastside Ride,” which involved cars of all vintages driving from Mariachi Plaza and the East L.A. Public Library to LAPD headquarters.

The Glaring Spotlight Of Social Media: Some constituents are calling for Simi Valley city councilman Mike Judge to resign after he suggested in a Facebook post that protesters should be hosed by septic tanks. The L.A. Galaxy ended its contract with Aleksandar Katai after his wife posted a meme on Instagram suggesting that protesters should be killed.

Local Government Responses To Protests: Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the National Guard will be leaving L.A. as of Sunday night. Curfews in L.A. County are (hopefully) a thing of the past, but that didn't stop Santa Ana officials from instituting their own last night.

Reopening L.A.: Starting Monday, 24 libraries across L.A. County will be open for contact-less pick-ups and drop-offs. The pandemic has forced the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to overhaul how it ministers to its five million person flock.

Coronavirus In Numbers: There are now 62,389 coronavirus cases and 2,624 deaths in L.A. County, and at least 129,077 cases and 4,610 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are more than 6.9 million cases and over 401,000 deaths.

First Person: Reporter Emily Guerin reflects on 24 hours covering two discordant but simultaneous events: peaceful protests, and destructive looting in downtown Santa Monica.

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