CITY HALL--I don’t come from the political class. I was not groomed to become anything but an honest person.
I was raised by immigrant parents who taught me how to be a good citizen, a good husband and father, and a person who can keep my promises and respect the law. I believe in fairness, equity, and efficiency.
If I hadn’t run for LA City Council, and beat the establishment candidates, I would not be here today with you all -- at the Palm rubbing shoulders with anyone.
I became a Councilmember, because as an LAPD Senior Lead Officer doing everything I could to help my community, I kept running into bureaucracy and thought I could do more to solve problems as a Councilmember.
To my complete and total disappointment, the LA City Council has been tarnished by multiple incidents of members acting against the best interest of our city.
For the last decade, I have viewed problems in Los Angeles through the lens of my constituents. They just want problems to be solved - urgently. And I feel the same way!
But the LA City Council has lost the trust of the people it is meant to serve.
This is why I would like to talk to you about money in LA politics.
Now that I have witnessed a third colleague indicted by the Department of Justice, we must have a serious conversation about the core issue at hand - campaign contributions as the root cause of political corruption in Los Angeles.
In the near future, I will be introducing the idea of limiting the LA City Council's power over land use and planning to the policy level, where it belongs, and reducing the Council’s influence over individual projects by strengthening the roles and responsibilities of the Mayor’s office and the professionals within the Department of Planning.
The political class will be upset by this move because of the evolution of a cottage industry of people influencing the discretionary land-use powers of the city council.
We must create an environment that protects the planning process by allowing the planning and land-use professionals to do their job, and limiting the council’s role. Los Angeles must create streamlined rules that are clear; we must remove impediments, accelerate timelines and create predictability for development projects.
This would not limit local control, but it would certainly limit an elected official's influence over land-use issues.
Our current zoning practices create an entire industry peddling influence.
It’s why the LA City Council is tainted.
Speaking about solving problems urgently, many of you may already know of my efforts to put a measure on the ballot that will end street camping.
My efforts to end street camping in the Council’s legislative process have not generated support from my colleagues.
You may remember that I had to invoke a rarely used “Rule 54” which allowed me to withdraw my anti-camping ordinance from the Homelessness & Poverty committee after it was not addressed for more than nine months!
Then when the motion was finally addressed by the full council, it was completely and totally watered down.
The current anti-camping ordinance approved by the Los Angeles City Council is slow, bureaucratic, and will not achieve the end of street camping. It tacitly allows camping on most streets and sidewalks in the City, even if a bed is available, and even if a person repeatedly rejects offers of medical, mental health, or substance abuse treatment.
Allowing someone who is addicted to drugs, or suffering from mental illness to slowly die in public is not compassionate, it is cruel.
My ballot measure proposal is simple: the City will provide enough emergency housing for everyone living on the streets, along with substance abuse and mental health services, while banning encampments in all public areas. Anyone who needs a bed will get one, but a choice to refuse housing and services will result in an order to move on. It is the City’s policy that no one lives outdoors in public spaces.
For a very long time, this issue has been controlled by a small minority of people in the city, and my measure will allow the voters to have a bigger say.
My ballot measure requires the City to focus on providing more immediate, emergency housing vs. costly and slow permanent supportive housing that we have already invested in.
Currently, Permanent Supportive Housing takes 3-5 years to build and open, and while we have nearly 100 different projects in various stages of the pipeline, it will take a decade for all if it to be built out.
Tiny Homes have proven to be the preferred choice of the unhoused and the preferred choice of the neighborhoods they are built in. And we need to build enough emergency housing to take EVERYONE off the streets as soon as possible.
My ballot measure would create a citywide ordinance that would prohibit camping in all public areas if temporary housing is available and offered. Temporary housing is a pathway to Permanent Supportive Housing and is much more safe, healthy, and dignified than a tent on the street.
The goal is that everyone is diverted to the help that they need - whether that is substance abuse treatment, a mental health bed, or simply a place to call home.
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(Joe Buscaino is the son of parents who, like many others, came to Los Angeles in pursuit of a better life. Buscaino was born in San Pedro and has chosen to raise his family in the same neighborhood where he grew up. His first job with the City was working for the Department of Recreation and Parks, followed by the Los Angeles Police Department, where he served the San Fernando Valley before becoming a Senior Lead Officer for his home community of San Pedro. Buscaino served as a first responder for 15 years, becoming an LAPD Sergeant. He is married with two children attending his neighborhood LA Unified schools.
Buscaino is the immediate past President of the National League of Cities, where he served as President in 2020. Under his leadership, the National League of Cities spearheaded the campaign for federal aid to help support local governments’ funding during the pandemic. That campaign culminated in President Biden’s most recent stimulus bill, which will provide Los Angeles with an estimated $2 billion in recovery funding.)