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LAUSD Board Reduces School Police Budget By 35%

LA Unified Board members debated a 35% budget cut to the district's school police force at its June 30, 2020 meeting. (LAUSD Screenshot)

After the second marathon meeting in as many weeks, Los Angeles Unified School Board members voted 4-3 to cut $25 million from the L.A. School Police Department — the indepdendent, district-run force of 400 sworn officers that patrols LAUSD campuses.

In addition to a 35% reduction to the department's $70 million budget, the board's vote also directs LAUSD to recall school police officers from campuses and take them "out of uniform" until a district task force meets and issues a report.

The reduction was included in the board's approval of the district's overall $8.9 billion budget -- and while the $25 million cut from the L.A. School Police was just a small fraction of the total, it was by far the dominant issue in more than 13 hours of discussion and debate on Tuesday.

Initially, García sought to immediately cut the school police budget by $35 million — a 50% cut.

Goldberg said she couldn't support that large of a cut, but offered a substitute motion as a compromise. García agreed, and board members Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez signed on.

Black Lives Matter-L.A. co-founder Melina Abdullah addressed the board earlier in the day:

“Let’s divest from school police and invest in the things that our children actually need like nurses, librarians, school social workers and smaller class sizes.”

L.A. School Police Chief Todd Chamberlain said the effects would be evident within the next two months: LAUSD will need to lay off 65 officers, close 39 vacant officer positions and eliminate the school police force's entire overtime budget.

School police officers also be available only during daytime hours, Monday through Friday, scaling back from the current 24-hours-a-day, 7-day-a-week schedule.

Board member Richard Vladovic opposed the move and begged his colleagues to delay their action, saying the remifications of these immediate cuts aren't yet clear.

"We're walking right into this without knowing where we're going, and how we're going to get there," said Vladovic, who joined board members Scott Schmerelson and George McKenna in opposition.

School board members also voted to approve the district's overall $8.9 billion budget for the upcoming school year, which largely maintains the district’s current spending levels — at least for now.

Board members’ vote on Tuesday fulfills a requirement under state law that they pass a budget by July 1.

In the coming weeks, LAUSD officials expect they’ll have to make adjustments to their spending plan as it becomes clearer how much funding California’s largest school district can expect from the state and federal governments.

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This post was updated shortly after posting to include comments from Abdullah and Vladovic.

LA City Council Expands Police Oversight; Plan Calls For Unarmed Responders On Nonviolent Calls

Demonstrators confront police in the Fairfax District on May 30, 2020 during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while while being arrested and pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer. MARK RALSTON/AFP via

The L.A. City Council approved a stack of measures on Tuesday aimed at increasing police oversight and scaling back the role of law enforcement in city life.

In the remaining days before a 3-week long July recess, councilmembers are racing to respond to calls for substantive change coming from constituents who’ve been protesting for racial justice.

One green-lit measure orders a plan for replacing LAPD officers with unarmed crisis response personnel for nonviolent emergency calls. In theory, a call to 911 about a homeless person in distress, for example, or a domestic dispute, would be answered by mental health professionals or social workers, instead of a police officer with a gun.

The council also voted to require independent oversight of an investigation into the conduct of LAPD officers during protests in May and June.

Councilmember Mike Bonin helped introduce the motion asking the LAPD to bring in former defense attorney Gerald Chaleff to oversee the agency's after action report. Chaleff is a member of the LAPD Police Commission who oversaw a federal consent decree that was imposed in 2001, after a scandal involving corruption within the police department's Rampart Division.

“If anyone threw brick at an officer, that’s a crime and they should be prosecuted,” Bonin said. “But if anyone threw a punch at, shoved or fired into peaceful protesters -- that’s a crime and they should be punished. We owe the people of Los Angeles...a thorough and independent investigation.”

Bonin said he wants to see a close review of the LAPD’s tactics, use of force against protesters, and treatment of protesters who were arrested.


Newsom Says Some Hotels Housing Homeless Will Be Purchased By State

Gavin Newsom announcing some hotels will be acquired by California. (Screengrab/Office of the Governor)

Governor Gavin Newsom announced today that the state will try to acquire some of the dozens of hotels being used in Project Roomkey, which has brought thousands of Californians inside to shield them from the pandemic.

He said that the program going forward will be renamed "Project Homekey," to give it a sense of permanency.

One of the major unanswered questions about the program is what happens next when hotels start wanting their rooms back. Nobody wants to kick people back out to the street, but at some point the pandemic will end.

So Newsom said some of those hotels will be bought and converted into permanent housing, with $550 million allocated in the state's new budget.

The Governor said it’s cheaper to acquire already extant buildings than trying to build new housing from scratch.

“To get the funding, to acquire the site, to get it set up, do the entitlement process, to get it built, to get it occupied, three, four, five years go by," said Newsom. "And at the end of the day, the pricetag in L.A. right now is about $500,000 per key, per unit."

Previously, L.A. County Supervisors have discussed in public meetings potentially aquiring four Motel 6 locations currently in use through the project.


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LA Will Offer Cash Payouts To Convince City Workers To Retire

Protestors socially distancing at City Hall on June 6, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The City of Los Angeles will offer some workers a cash incentive to retire under a new measure the City Council approved on Tuesday.

The separation agreements were designed as an alternative to the 16,000 civilian worker furloughs that Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed in his budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which starts this week.

Labor groups don't want their members to face what amounts to a 10% pay cut -- so unions presented the buyouts as another way for the city to control short-term costs.

"[The program] will also realize ongoing savings if the council remains disciplined in the degree to which empty positions are filled in coming years," Budget Chair Paul Krekorian said.

Here's the gist: if a furloughed employee who is eligible to retire chooses to do so this year -- they'll get a cash payment stretched out over two years, with $7,500 up front and a larger sum one year later. It will be based on the employee's salary and years of service, with a maximum of $80,000.

Some councilmembers expressed fears about the program's effect on city services and the workforce.

"I worry about that we're expecting junior employees to take on these additional duties," Councilmember Bob Blumenfield said. "This is not a simple, quick fix. I don't know that we have succession plans in place."

"The brain drain will matter," City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn acknowledged during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday.

If enough of the 2,800-plus workers who are eligible for the program sign up, buyouts could minimize or eliminate furloughs. If not, furloughs could begin by September.


WATCH: Robert Fuller's Funeral Livestream

Friends of Robert Fuller shared images of him on Twitter. Photo shared on Twitter

Mourners will tune in via livestream for the funeral of 24-year-old Robert Fuller, who was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale earlier this month.

The preliminary finding that Fuller's death was a likely suicide sparked an angry outcry from those who believe officials were too quick to jump to conclusions in a case that was not yet clear.

The funeral, which started at 1 p.m PST, is being held at the Living Stone Cathedral of Worship in Littlerock, CA.

Watch the stream above.


California Budget Spares Cuts To Early Childhood Programs

A teacher at the Young Horizons Child Development in Long Beach helps a student wash his hands. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

California's budget for the next fiscal year preserves many existing child care programs, but falls short of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s aspirations to extend those services to thousands of new children.

Child care providers who serve low-income families were spared a 10% cut in their rates, proposed to help offset the state’s projected $54 billion budget deficit.

“That's a big win because providers have been out. They stayed open,” said Cristina Alvarado, executive director of Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles. “They have been providing the services.”

In mid-April more than half of licensed L.A. preschools and child care centers had closed, but most home providers remained open.

The state budget also includes:

  • Funding through the end of September for essential workers who received subsidized child care during the pandemic. Newsom previously set aside $50 million for these workers.
  • An outline of how to spend $350 million in federal aid for child care. About 40% of the money will reimburse the state for coronavirus-related expenses.
  • $2.3 million to transfer child care programs to the state’s Department of Social Services. The creation of a new state agency to oversee child care programs was shelved.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District is voting on a budget that also maintains the early childhood programs that enrolled almost 22,000 kids last school year.

There’s about $100 million for a “primary promise” initiative, announced by Superintendent Austin Beutner on April 20, “to make sure every child has a foundation in literacy, math skills, and critical thinking before they finish elementary school.”

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Newsom: ‘We Have To Enforce’ If People Don’t Wear Masks, Don’t Stay Home


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to the coronavirus from a Bay Area motel that's part of the homeless housing program Project Roomkey in Pittsburg, California. You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.


There are currently 19 counties on the state's watchlist, and that's likely to go up to 23 with four more counties in the next 24 hours, Newsom said.

The governor said that more announcements about pulling back on the state's reopening are planned for tomorrow.

"If you're not going to stay home, and you're not going to wear masks in public, we have to enforce, and we will," Newsom said.

The governor also said that they will put financial conditions on local officials if they don't enforce regulations on a local level.

He said that the state will be looking at health orders on the county level when it comes to indoor v. outdoor activities. He noted that it has to be recognized that spread in indoor facilities, outside the home, is far more likely than outdoors.


Newsom said that one of the biggest areas of concern is family gatherings — not just bars and protests. Family gatherings were the top concern when health officers were surveyed over the weekend, he said. With families and extended families mixing, people may let down their guard, Newsom said.

There's increased concern about that going into the Independence Day holiday weekend, with family gatherings being part of the holiday tradition.

"They may walk into that barbecue with masks on, they may put the cooler down — immediately the mask comes off," Newsom said, "and you have a glass of water. And all of a sudden nieces and nephews start congregating around, and then they're jumping on top of Uncle Joe, and then Uncle Joe's putting them back to Aunt Jane. And all of a sudden here comes Uncle Bob — two hours late. He gives everyone a hug, and they're all, 'Hey, Uncle Bob, where's the mask?' And Uncle Bob, 'I don't believe in that,' so the whole thing starts to take shape."


During the press conference, nearby Black Lives Matter protesters shouted out and called on the governor to redistribute resources. The protesters also ran a siren at several points during the press conference and spoke through a bullhorn over the governor. They yelled accusations, including that Newsom doesn't care about the homeless.


The governor said that Californians had bent the curve of coronavirus once, and that we will do so again.

A total of 6,337 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, Newsom said. Hospitalizations yesterday went up 6.3%, with ICU patients up 4.3%.

Newsom reiterated his announcement yesterday that over the past 14 days, there has been a 43% increase in hospitalizations, and a 37% increase in ICU patients. The state's positivity rate has also gone from 4.4% two weeks ago to 5.6% today.


The governor spoke about poverty and homelessness, including Project Roomkey, the state's effort to support homeless people amid the coronavirus pandemic. There have been 15,679 rooms acquired for the program so far, Newsom said. An estimated 14,200 people have been placed in those rooms. Rooms for asymptomatic, high-risk homeless individuals are 85% occupied, Newsom said.

Newsom spoke from one of the motels that's part of the program, with almost every room full, according to the governor. The program also provides residents with three meals a day and other support services.

The governor addressed his signing of the state's budget on Monday. He noted that the budget provides an additional $1.3 billion for cities and counties to support programs like Project Roomkey, with $900 million of that from the state. It includes $550 million for fully acquiring rooms to house the homeless and get them off the street permanently, Newsom said.

The expanded, permanent project beyond coronavirus is called "Project Home Key." He noted that Project Roomkey has been extended each month, through a partnership with FEMA, but isn't a permanent program.

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How Polluted Is The Water At Your Favorite SoCal Beach?

A surfer with a face covering at Venice Beach, May 13, 2020 (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Once a year for the past 30 years, Heal The Bay has released its annual beach report card for California, which rates the cleanest and dirtiest spots along our coastline.

They just released their 2019-2020 report.


Compared to historic averages, beaches in Southern California were slightly dirtier than in previous years during our dry months, but slightly cleaner during our wet ones.

The slightly cleaner wet weather ratings could be due to the late season rains not coming early enough to impact the report card, which compiled water-testing data from April 2019 to March 2020.

Heal The Bay's rating system takes into account three different types of bacteria when rating a beach: total coliform, enterococcus and fecal coliform or E. coli, all of which can come from the digestive tracts of humans and animals, and the presence of which can be indicative of pathogens in the water.

Those bacteria are particularly present following sewage spills and rain, which washes bacteria from land down to our coastline. That's why you get sick when you surf right after a storm.

The higher the presence of bacteria in water quality tests throughout the year, the worse a beach's rating.


If you’re looking for clean beaches in L.A. County, three made Heal The Bay's Honor Roll:

  • Palos Verdes Estates, at Palos Verdes Cove
  • Rancho Palos Verdes, Long Point
  • Redondo State Beach at Topaz Street

Orange and San Diego Counties dominated the list with many of their beaches, including:

  • Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock
  • San Clemente, at El Portal storm drain
  • Encinitas, San Elijo State Park at north end

It should be noted that all of the above beaches could be made dirty on any given day given a variety of factors, including sewage spills and rain.

Heal The Bay puts out a daily report card for a number of beaches in SoCal.


In L.A. County, Topanga Beach was one of the dirtiest places in the state to dunk your head, making Heal The Bay's Beach Bummer list. Understandable, as it's in front of a very stinky lagoon.

“The lagoon receives high amounts of dog and bird fecal matter, so when the lagoon is breached, the fecal matter flows into the ocean resulting in high bacteria concentrations,” said Luke Ginger, a water quality scientists with Heal The Bay.

Poche Beach and the San Clemente Pier in Orange County made the Bummer list as well.

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The Antelope Valley's History Of Racism

Balloons hang from the tree where Robert Fuller’s body was found in a park in Palmdale. (Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)

While the L.A. Sheriff's Department continues its investigation into the hanging death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller in Palmdale, some in the area are highly skeptical of the initial finding of suicide, convinced that the young Black man was lynched.

Not only did Fuller's death happen in the midst of the national reckoning about systemic racism, but it occurred in the Antelope Valley, which has a particularly troubled racial history.

Neo-Nazis and skinheads have remained a presence there. And then there was the U.S. Department of Justice investigation a few years ago, which concluded that the L.A. County Housing Authority and the Sheriff's Department had been systematically discriminating against Black people living in Section 8 housing.

The racial situation in the area is "a powder keg — a bomb ready to explode," said Pharoah Mitchell, co-founder of an Antelope Valley activist group.


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LA County Faces Painful Program Cuts And Job Losses. Officials Blame The Pandemic

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy sits in a patrol car in a file photo from 2016. (Maya Sugarman/KPCC)

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal from the county CEO on Monday that slashes over 3,200 county positions and will likely force hundreds of layoffs this fall.

The revised budget from CEO Sachi Hamai cuts 8% from all county departments across the board to make up for a $935 million tax revenue shortfall, which the county attributes to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic crisis.

Nearly every part of L.A. County’s government will feel the cuts. But law enforcement takes up a large chunk of the budget -- roughly 40% of the county’s version of a general fund -- so the Sheriff’s Department faces the bulk of reductions.

The department could lose nearly 1,400 positions and face more than 300 layoffs. During the remote budget meeting, Sheriff Alex Villanueva argued that his department was being unfairly targeted and the loss of funding would impact public safety.

“Crime will predictably increase,” Villanueva said. “We’re not exempt to the laws of gravity. People are going to get hurt with this budget, plain and simple.”

Social service programs, alternatives to incarceration, and post-prison reentry programs are among the many facing cuts.


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LAUSD’s Board Votes On A Budget Today — But Don’t Expect It To Be The Final Word

Los Angeles Unified School Board member Mónica García listens to fellow board member George McKenna speak during a meeting on Aug. 22, 2017. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

When L.A. Unified School Board members meet today to vote on the district’s annual budget, don’t expect it to be the final word on school finances for the coming year.

That’s because LAUSD officials don’t know exactly how much state funding to expect.

California lawmakers have reached a deal to spare K-12 schools from deep cuts that Gov. Gavin Newsom had proposed in May — at least for now.

But the coronavirus recession has tanked revenue forecasts, and lawmakers are likely to revisit the state’s funding levels as the revenue picture from the delayed July 15 tax filing deadline comes into sharper focus.

From LAUSD officials' presentation accompanying their $8.9 billion budget proposal for the 2020-21 school year. (Screenshot/LAUSD)

Like all California school districts, LAUSD officials must approve their own $8.9 billion budget by today. The district’s budget essentially calls for maintaining the status quo. LAUSD officials plan to return to the board with an updated spending plan, perhaps as early as August.

We’ll be watching the meeting today at 9 a.m. to see if anything major comes up.



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A Melrose Shopkeeper Loses All, But Maintains Empathy For Protesters

Nedjatollah "Ned" Harounian (R), has owned Palais Des Modes for more than 30 years. His son, Ebbi, has worked there since he was a teen. Sabrina Fang/KPCC

On Saturday, May 30, Ebbi Harounian was watching TV coverage of looting and fires in the Fairfax District in the wake of protests over the killing of George Floyd. He saw firefighters trying to put out the flames at the shoe-and-leatherwear store his Iranian immigrant father had owned for more than 30 years.

Ebbi finally was able to reach him on the phone:

"Dad, what are you doing?"

"Ebbi, I'm here."

"What are you doing there? Everything is on fire! Everything is engulfed on fire!"

"Where am I going to go? My whole life is burning down. I can't just go home and sit down."


'We Know Your Voice Needs To Be Heard': The Heartbreak Of A Melrose Shopkeeper

Morning Briefing: Time To 'Hunker Down' – Again

Cache Jones and her daughter attend a June 16 protest urging officials to defund L.A. School Police. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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ICYMI, the coronavirus is making a comeback here in L.A. – so much so that yesterday had the unfortunate designation of seeing the most reported new cases in a single day in the region since the outbreak began.

The reason, according to County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, is simple: people aren’t following the guidelines intended to keep us all safe. Bars and restaurants aren’t enforcing masks or social distancing, and many of our fellow Angelenos have “gone back to living as if COVID-19 is not in our community,” Ferrer said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has already ordered L.A. County bars to close after reopening for a whopping nine days, and Ferrer recommended behaving, in upcoming weeks, the same way we did at the beginning of the pandemic: act like everyone is sick.

"This is the time to hunker down, back in your home, whenever you can,” she said during a press briefing. “At this point, if you're not part of the solution to slowing the spread, you're ending up being part of the problem."

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, June 30

When Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree, the fear that he was lynched grew out of the Antelope Valley’s long history of racism. Emily Elena Dugdale has the story.

Nedjatollah "Ned" Harounian, who immigrated with his family from Iran, operated his shoe-and-leatherwear store on Melrose Ave. for 30 years until it was burned down during the recent protests. Sabrina Fang profiles the 81-year-old as he decides what to do next.

Several proposed cuts to early childhood programs have been reversed by state legislators, reports Mariana Dale. Providers who care for children from low-income families will not see their rates cut 10%, and the state will not add 20,000 new state preschool slots as previously proposed.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Updates: On the same day the county announced its most new coronavirus cases in a single day, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to redouble their efforts to get the region's recovery back on track. He also warned that the pandemic was beginning to gain the upper hand again. L.A. Public Health officials said hospitals could reach capacity in just two weeks as coronavirus cases surge.

L.A. Kids: A survey of parents by the advocacy group SpeakUp found that many are dissatisfied with online instruction from LAUSD. The district’s superintendent said child care may be provided this fall in unused community buildings – for an estimated cost to the district of $100 to $150 per child per day.

Policing Policies: As calls to defund the police go mainstream, there's a push for alternative first responders to incidents involving homeless people. The LAPD and FBI have set up a website to get the public's help in identifying people involved in assaults, arson and looting during the George Floyd protests.

Money Matters: L.A. County's CEO presented a revised budget proposal to county supervisors. Today is the last day for immigrants without legal status to apply for pandemic relief funds from the state, but some lawmakers say the program needs to be extended. Project Roomkey has provided shelter for L.A.'s unhoused -- and for some, it's provided jobs, as well.

Wildfire Season: A fast-moving brush fire tore through Niland last night, an impoverished remote town at the Salton Sea.

Here’s What To Do: Catch a drive-in flick or a drive-in concert, check out a panel discussion on "artivism," scratch your true crime itch with two new Golden State Killer releases, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.

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Photo Of The Day

Protesters spurred by the death of Robert Fuller signal to drivers who honk in support on a busy street in Palmdale, California.

(Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)

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