(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 50)
In East Hollywood, walking through the neighborhood these last few days has led me to realize it’s going to get significantly more polluted over the next year, especially since the mayor has announced a budget for 2020-2021 with a reduced amount set aside for certain basics like clean-up & graffiti removal due to COVID-19. This column reviews just a handful of numbers taken from the mayor’s proposed budget for 2021: Exhibit A: Summary of Appropriations.
In fiscal year 2020-2021, the Bureau of Street Services, for one, which oversees street walkability and safety, including management of street trees and the urban islands where many of L.A.’s encampments can be spotted, nearly 32 million in pay-cuts from the previous year will leave the bureau with a total of $167.6 million for services in 2021.
Similarly, for the Housing and Community Investment department, a resource for L.A.’s renters and property owners alike, including for complaints or forms to report abuse, its budget will be slashed by almost 9 million for a total of $81.1 million through 2021.
Transportation, meanwhile, which runs and maintains services such as the DASH buses that particularly serve L.A.’s elderly population, will lose $6 million, operating on a budget of $180 million during the next fiscal year. Other investments on the local level, such as Neighborhood Empowerment, or funding for the Neighborhood Councils around which local citizens organize for their communities, will also have their budget reduced by over half a million, to operate on just $2.8 million for 2021.
But while these services, which for years have been under-resourced and over-worked, will have to make due with less the following year, the Los Angeles Police department will actually receive a pay-raise of 122.6 million, amounting to nearly $1.9 billion in payments from the city’s budget through 2021.
To place that into perspective, even L.A.’s Fire department will see only a third of LAPD’s pay-raise, with an increase of 44.6 million to operate on a budget of $732.2 million dollars through 2021.
Years ago, I remember getting together at least a couple of times with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, when it still organized neighborhood clean-ups once a month. Groups used to cover at least 3 – 4 blocks picking up trash and beautifying the neighborhood; gloves, brooms, rakes, large plastic bags, massive dumpsters, and a truck or two available for hauling were all provided by teamwork between various groups such as the neighborhood council, Mitch O’Farrell’s office, and more. It was literally some of the closest I’d ever felt to some of the city’s local leadership, and after a morning’s worth of the activity, I can still remember thinking how I could only want more of my peers alongside me for such work in the neighborhood, if only there was more support for it.
In the years since those days, there have been less clean-ups, and–as any local can tell you–definitely more encampments throughout East Hollywood. With budgets like the one proposed by the mayor’s office above, I fear the trend will continue down this way; the Los Angeles City Council will review the proposal during the next few weeks before it’s approved, and The L.A. Storyteller will continue close behind to report back.
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