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LA County Takes Step Towards Asking Voters To Divert More Money To Social Services

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The Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. (Susanica Tam for LAist)

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 today to put a measure on the November ballot that would permanently require at least 10% of the county’s unrestricted general fund dollars go towards social service and racial justice programs. During the current fiscal year, that’s estimated to be about $800 million.

The motion by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis today is a first step. County staff must now draft the ballot measure's exact language and the supervisors need to vote on it twice more in the next two weeks before it gets placed on the ballot.

At that point, voters would be asked to approve the move through a change to the county charter. Money would be redirected to a variety of areas, including:

  • job training
  • rent assistance
  • affordable housing
  • mental health services.

Kuehl said:

"I would say since there’s so much talk about democracy and voting and how important it is, that we allow the people of the county of Los Angeles to say what direction they would really like us to take."

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Board Chair Kathryn Barger, who argued that the proposed change to the charter "will nullify any meaningful dialogue or policy deliberations for years to come." She said that before placing the measure on the ballot, the supervisors should subject it to "ample analysis ... unfortunately, that was not the case in this instance.”

Some of the money would likely come from the Sheriff’s budget. Sheriff Alex Villanueva blasted the supervisors in a tweet. He argued that diverting money would leave L.A.'s streets looking "like a scene from Mad Max" and urged people who agree with him to "tell the board what you think."

But others believe it makes sense to ask L.A. County residents to weigh in on how the county's budget should be spent.

“We’re really creating a people’s budget that reflects our values to reimagine an L.A. County that is more just and inclusive than it has been,” said Elise Buik, president of United Way of Greater L.A., which helped put the motion together.

MORE ON EFFORTS TO REALLOCATE PUBLIC MONEY

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Nearly A Quarter Million In Arts And Entertainment Have Filed For Unemployment

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A pedestrian walks past closed businesses in Hollywood. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

With movie and film production at a complete standstill and concert halls and theaters padlocked, 238,000 Californians who work in entertainment and the arts have filed for unemployment so far this year.

According to official state numbers, those out of work are largely based in L.A., where 68,000 of the claims come from. There have also been tens of thousands of claims from Orange and San Diego counties.

In early March, only a few hundred arts workers statewide filed for benefits. By the end of that month, however, that number had grown to 46,000.

And even though the state’s overall jobless rate has been falling, the number of initial claims from artists and entertainers has gone up about 40% over the past month.

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Cal State Ethnic Studies Proposal One Step Closer To Reality

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Langsdorf Hall at Cal State Fullerton. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The California State University moved one step closer today to creating an ethnic studies requirement for undergraduate students in the 23-campus system.

The CSU trustees’ committee on educational policy voted 10-2 to approve the Ethnic Studies and Social Justice requirement, setting up a likely approval on Wednesday by the 17-member board.

The proposed requirement is six years in the making, and all involved agree that current upheavals over police brutality and racism against African Americans and Latinos make steps to increase racial and ethnic understanding that much more important.

The rule would allow campuses to give various departments say over course content, as well as the ability to design a menu of classes. That would give students a choice, said CSU Chancellor Tim White.

“And some [students] will choose an ethnic studies course. And others may choose a Jewish studies course or an LGBTQ course because they wanted to learn how individuals in that community have been oppressed,” he said.

The CSU plan has a competitor, in the form of a bill in the state legislature, AB 1460, which also would create a requirement for an ethnic studies class. The difference is that the bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), would give ethnic studies scholars control over what’s taught.

The Senate has passed a slightly different version of the bill, and the Assembly is expected to follow suit next week, sending the measure on to Gov. Newsom. If he signs it into law, it will supersede the CSU requirement.

READ OUR STORY ON ANTI-RACISM EFFORTS AT CSU:

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Too Much Coronavirus Spread For Full Contact Tracing; 'Dimmer Switch' Needs To Be Used, CA Health Secretary Says

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California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly today reiterated a common message from Gov. Gavin Newsom's updates: that reopening the economy is a "dimmer switch," with modifications and closures being toggled up and down to avoid large-scale surges. And, he said, it's time for that switch to get used.

Ghaly spoke during a live-streamed update on coronavirus in California. You can read the highlights below or watch the full video above.

USING THE "DIMMER SWITCH"

Ghaly noted that some have viewed the reopening of different sectors of the economy as a "green light" to resume normal life. That's led to hospitalizations, case positivity rates, and deaths increasing, he said.

"Despite early behaviors which felt a lot more normal than we expected, we now need to use our dimmer switch to ensure that we get transmission rates under control," Ghaly said.

The state wants to avoid closing in the future, Ghaly said, but their fingers will remain on the "dimmer switch" and they aren't afraid to use it, based on health data.

"We continue to expect transmission to come down with some of the dimming actions that we made over the past few weeks," Ghaly said.

It may take more than the two- to three-week period that has been discussed in the past to see an impact on the numbers — it could even take up to five weeks, Ghaly said. He added that the state hopes to see numbers that show the impact of the statewide mask mandate, moving indoor businesses outdoors, closing businesses that couldn't do that, limiting further openings, and targeting certain counties.

Reducing the spread will allow contact tracing to be used more broadly, and will allow the economy to keep going at the level that it's currently at, Ghaly said. But, he added, there remains the potential for further "dimming" in certain parts of the state if the data indicates that is needed — particularly in counties on the state's monitoring list, such as Los Angeles.

Ghaly said that he and the governor won't commit to a certain date for when the state will or won't take further action when it comes to adjusting that "dimmer switch."

Ghaly said that California is preparing to put out what he described as a "playbook" that helps augment the guidance that has already been put out. It's meant to help factories and businesses of all sizes reduce transmission. One of the biggest challenges remains physical spacing, Ghaly said.

TOO MUCH SPREAD FOR CONTACT TRACING

Ghaly indicated that, while the state's contact tracing program is operational, there are still issues in that area.

"High levels of transmission have made traditional contact tracing impractical and difficult to do," Ghaly said.

But he added that the hope is that combining reducing transmission with continuing to scale up the program will make contact tracing more doable on a wider scale — he described it as a point of equilibrium.

"At the level of transmission that we're seeing across the state, even a very, very robust contact tracing program in every single county will have a hard time reaching out to every single case," Ghaly said.

Ghaly said that it can be helpful for COVID-positive people to reach out to their contacts themselves to reduce transmission.

While the state has contact tracing staff available, it takes time for counties to onboard them into their own local systems and in a way that makes sense for their communities, Ghaly said. It's "not realistic" to trace every single case, but he said he thinks it's smart that some counties are targeting their contact tracing. That includes focusing on contact tracing for essential workplaces like larger factories and businesses, allowing for the transmission pattern to be understood and addressed.

Ghaly said that L.A. County is working hard to build up its own contact tracing.

"No one has anticipated building a program to contact trace the level of cases we're seeing here," he said said.

Ghaly noted that disease investigators are also needed alongside contact tracers. Those disease investigators look at the case initially, trying to understand where the case may have come from and where it led to. Then contact tracers talk to contacts, as well as working on messaging and following up on isolation and quarantine, Ghaly said.

Ghaly reiterated the need to wear a mask, maintain six feet of distance, wash your hands, and minimize mixing. He said that it's important to do these things consistently. He added that the evidence is clear that masks are the single most important action that we can take to decrease the spread of the virus.

WHERE CALIFORNIA'S BEEN SO FAR

The state's goal remains to "box in" the virus, Ghaly said, using guidance for different sectors, alongside testing and contact tracing. People doing as much of a quarantine as possible is what helps to box in the disease, Ghaly said.

Pointing to data from the month of May, Ghaly said that the reopening was guided by data showing stability in hospitalization numbers. It remained stable after county variances were announced May 8, as well as when churches, in-store retail, and hair salons were allowed to reopen in late May.

The state succeeded in fighting COVID-19 early on because of the state coming together, Ghaly said. He emphasized the need to continue to learn and adapt throughout this process to lead to the best outcomes.

Ghaly reminded viewers that California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order. He said that order was meant to help change personal and community behavior, and to prepare California's health care delivery system. Doing so helped to avoid a single high surge, according to Ghaly. Instead of uncontrolled surges that would exceed hospital capacity, the state has seen moderate surges, Ghaly said.

Ghaly said that time spent planning means more is known about COVID-19 as a disease, that California's supply inventory has been built up, and that the state has sufficient hospital surge capacity. He noted that there have even been some effective therapies now in use.

Closing the economy and schools caused mental, economic, and educational impacts, Ghaly said. Those losses may be felt not only now, but in the long-term — even affecting several generations of Californians, according to Ghaly. He said that the overall health and well-being of Californians guides the state's decisions when it comes to COVID-19.

Ghaly acknowledged what he described as grave consequences for the state's economy that officials are working to address, as well as mental health consequences. The state is particularly focused on vulnerable and overlooked members of the community, Ghaly said, and will remain to focus on these communities, including communities of color.

He noted that testing capacity has grown from 2,000 tests to more than 100,000 tests per day.

Ghaly said that leaders are proud of the work that's been done so far, but that they're in it for the long run. He said that they are confident that their data-driven approach and commitment to ongoing learning, adapting, and adjusting will guide California successfully through the pandemic.

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Trump Is Trying (Again) To Prevent Immigrants Without Legal Status From Counting Politically

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Trump at a July 2019 press conference on the census with Attorney General William Barr (center) and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Just over a year ago, the Trump administration backed down in its failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Last July, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to use government records, including from state DMVs and federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security , to produce anonymized citizenship data that could be used to redraw voting districts in a way that, a GOP strategist concluded, would politically benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic white people.

Today, the president is expected to sign a memorandum that once again seeks to exclude immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission from the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country. The action, according to a White House official who spoke to NPR on background, "will clarify that illegal aliens are not to be included for the purpose of apportionment of Representatives following the 2020 Census."

The move by the president, who does not have final authority over the census, is likely to spur legal challenges.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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Morning Briefing: Child Care Workers Consider Unionizing

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(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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This week, child care providers in California will vote on whether to unionize. The move could mean they will finally be able to fight the state for more reimbursement and better pay – hopefully, something higher than the current national average of $10.72 per hour.

Many such providers are women of color. Speaking to KPCC’s Mariana Dale, Lea Austin, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, noted that the low wages associated with childcare can be traced back to the days when Black women were kidnapped, trafficked and forced into unpaid labor in America.

"There's a long history in this country of people expecting servitude, and [for] Black women and Brown women to care for other people and other people's children," Austin said.

The union, Child Care Providers United, is a partnership between the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Votes will be tallied on Friday.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 21

L.A. County officials are considering a measure for the November ballot that would require that a certain percentage of county funds be spent every year on affordable housing, job training, mental health services and more. Robert Garrova will have the story.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Confronting Racism: Trader Joe's is getting rid of product names such as Trader José's, Arabian Joe's and Trader Ming's that critics say are racist and perpetuate "harmful stereotypes."

Coronavirus Updates: L.A. County officials reported 3,116 new confirmed cases of coronavirus Monday, bringing the total to at least 159,046 cases countywide. Gov. Gavin Newsom stressed the importance of a national testing strategy for containing the coronavirus. The start of fall high school sports is delayed until at least December.

Money Matters: In another blow to the beleaguered movie theater business, Warner Bros. has pulled Christopher Nolan’s big-budget Tenet from release this summer. International travel to Los Angeles has dwindled to almost nothing, amounting to nearly $5 billion in lost revenue for the local tourism industry. This week, 43,000 California child care workers will decide whether to unionize.

Horse Racing: The California Horse Racing Board has approved a plan that will allow races to continue at Los Alamitos track after the facility was placed on probation.

First Person: In this last installment of a three-part series, Bumdog Torres reflects on his journey as a photographer living and working the streets.

Here’s What To Do: Watch The Mads riff on an Ed Wood movie, learn how racism is a public health issue, listen to Broadway performers play original material, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.


Photo Of The Day

The view of L.A. City Hall from 4th street, as the sun sets.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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