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Mon, Jun

Imagine Eunisses Hernandez at City Hall

LOS ANGELES

DEEGAN ON LA—-“Protect those that protect your interests” is a phrase that sounds like it should be sharing space in a mouth that’s chomping on a cigar. 

It’s a circling the wagons type appeal, an offer of a quid pro quo. A possible sign of desperation memorialized in a leaked video of Councilmember Gil Cedillo (CD-1) appealing to voters assembled on the roof of the Grammy Museum recently. 

Maybe newcomer Eunisses Hernandez has a chance, if this is what she’s up against.

After two terms, Gil Cedillo (CD-1) is running for his political life against her. 

Should we beware that Hernandez has the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles? The last time they endorsed a candidate for City Council it was Nithya Raman (CD-4). 

That one caveat aside, Hernandez has a more impressive record of political achievement than Raman did when she came into office almost two years ago with no political experience. Her chaotic and alienating first 18 months in office showed how unprepared for political responsibility she was on the constituent service, staffing choices, and policy levels. 

Mike Bonin (CD-11), her closest council ally who often made motions with her, is voluntarily leaving politics after the November election. Raman needs a new partner at City Hall. 

Maybe Hernandez teaming up with Raman will create a 2-for-1 combo that works to help advance a progressive agenda. Raman got to City Hall first as a spearhead for the Socialists which is not a bad legacy, but Hernandez may be the better mentor. Raman can show Hernandez around City Hall; Hernandez can show Raman around politics. 

Hernandez is clearly prepared for political responsibility and to lead. Her successful association with the County’s Measure J, in the last election cycle, started by organizing a subcommittee on “Diversion, Behavioral Health, and Health”. She used seven pages of a meeting report to transparently show every step of the way that resulted in creating a subcommittee that would be “responsible for making Measure J spending allocation recommendations to the Advisory Committee and also responsible for identifying programs and services that can be funded by Measure J and that will support communities and people impacted by systemic racism”. 

Measure Jis a care first, jails last budget allocation for alternatives to incarceration. It would amend the county's charter to require that no less than 10% of the county's general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration, such as health services and pre-trial non-custody services. 

By making it a charter amendment, it would become a permanent annual allocation from the county’s budget. A big win like that, reflecting on Eunisses Hernandez, would give her political credibility on day one if she gets elected. 

By a vote of 57% yes to 43% no, the charter amendment was approved on the November 2020 ballot. However, a lawsuit was quickly filed by plaintiffs that included the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. 

They alleged that it “unconstitutionally limited the ability of the county board to allocate revenue”. Months after the voters said “yes”, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge said “no” by agreeing with the plaintiffs that Measure J “unconstitutionally limits how the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors can decide revenue allocations”.  

All was not lost when, shortly after the judgement, the County Supervisors approved the allocation of $187.7 million to projects within its care first, jails last vision. The program was created through input from an advisory committee created to provide ideas for alternatives to incarceration. This is the committee and the hard work that Eunisses Hernandez led, so her good work was not in vain. 

If all goes according to Hernandez’ plan, these funds will go to community investment and alternatives to incarceration.

For community investment, the amendment included allocations of funds to the following:

  • youth development programs.
  • job training and low-income jobs.
  • investment in small minority-owned businesses.
  • rent assistance, housing vouchers, and transitional housing.

For alternatives to incarceration, the amendment included allocations of funds to the following:

  • community-based restorative justice programs.
  • pre-trial non-custody services and treatment.
  • health services, counseling, and mental health and substance use disorder services.

The body working on Measure J implementation was reconvened as the Care First Community Investment Advisory Body to continue work. 

The Advisory Body put together the CFCI Year 1 Spending Plan, which asked for, and the board of Supervisors approved, $100M in Measure J resources in funding in year one. The Advisory Board is working on Year 2 funding recommendations. 

A key term in Hernandez’ vocabulary is “reimagine”. The metaphorical cigar smoke in City Hall blinds vision and needs to be blown away by fresh air, starting with the turnover of many incumbents. We badly need a City Hall climate change, and a clarity of vision. That will never come from the same-old-same-old politicos that have smoked their cigars down to the stub. Without some radical changes to who our representative politicos are, imagining a better LA will go up in smoke.

(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].) 

 

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