Los Angeles Homeless Solutions Needed Now

homelessDecember marked a milestone in Los Angeles’ homelessness efforts when City and civic leaders gathered to break ground on the first Proposition HHH housing project for the homeless.  Approved in November 2016 by more than 76 percent of Angelenos, HHH authorized $1.2 billion over 10 years to construct 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing in the City of L.A.

In March 2017, voters again showed their urgency for solutions by approving Measure H, a county-wide quarter cent sales tax to bring in more than $300 million over 10 years for wrap-around supportive services for the homeless.  The last count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), showed that homeless residents in the city exceed 34,000, and the county total exceeds 57,000.

It is now clear that finding funding for our homeless crisis may have been the easy part. We don’t just need money. We need policy changes, political will and neighborhood support.

To deliver on the promise of Proposition HHH to build 10,000 units of housing for the homeless in the City of L.A., advocates of HHH have proposed a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance to remove unnecessary barriers and red tape in the approval process. The ordinance ensures that projects fit within the surrounding community and follow existing zoning requirements. By amending planning regulations to speed up the process and address the specific needs of PSH units (such as requiring fewer parking spots), this ordinance can save up to a million dollars on each project and enable more housing units to be built throughout the community.

Another less expensive and faster solution to house homeless individuals is the Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, which would aid in the transition of motel rooms into temporary or permanent homes. According to a report by the Planning Department, there are approximately 10,259 guest rooms in 382 motels that could be eligible for conversion if the owners are interested in the program.

Both of these proposals passed the City Planning Commission in December. They were heard in the City’s Homeless & Housing Committee a couple weeks ago, where Councilmembers requested report backs on a number of technical issues and emphasized the need for geographic equity. We urge members of the City Council to move forward on both of these policies, and to actively support specific projects in their individual districts.

The 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count took place last week and we expect the total count to go up. It is no longer acceptable for any of us to say, “I support projects to house the homeless, just not THIS project in my neighborhood or community.” The only way to dramatically impact our homelessness crisis is for every neighborhood in the City of L.A. and every community in the County of L.A. to be part of the solution.

resident & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Homeless Dreamers: DACA, Less than Half of It

Maria Ortiz, at left, a Mexican immigrant has been living in the United States for 23 years. "I am single. I work so hard to stay. I never needed support from the government," Ortiz said. She is not a citizen and works as a janitor, she said during an immigration protest outside Rep. Ed Royce's office in Brea. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: – MINDY SCHAUER, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – Shot 111713 – immig.fast.11.19 Advocates for immigration reform will camp our near the office of Rep. Ed Royce for five days, where they will stage a fast. They are asking OC's Republican leaders in Congress to publicly support an overhaul to the nation's immigration laws, including the so-called pathway to citizenship that would create a process for some 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally the right to become citizens.

Poor DACA Dreamers trapped in America without a home to go to through no fault of their own. Google counts 64,000,000 million hits. That’s quite a bit of concern expressed for the “turmoil and fear” caused by Trumps threat to end  Obama’s executive amnesty program of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, DACA. That’s a whole bunch of media driven stories to “save the children” some aged 37. The Right talks about anchor babies, the Left, “dreamers.” No surprise Congress and even President Trump are now so sympathetic to the  plight of youngsters (some of whom undoubtedly arrived with puppies). The American Dream is a long reach for the dreamers.

Perhaps a caterwauling Congress will take care of them. Democrats in the Senate threaten at shutting down the government believing the Republicans will as usual get the blame. Whatever the merits, there will likely be a law to replace the Obama executive order claiming to merely delay their departure. Now departure seems out of the question.

But wait a minute there are Americans, may we for a minute call them indigenous, native Americans. They were born in the USA, certainly after Columbus. They are documented, birth certified, social security enumerated, Americans also seeking, you guessed it, the American dream. Through little fault of their own they are trapped in their parents basements, guest rooms and garages. They are the homeless poor, the millennium and adulthood denied poor. Many with college degrees work jobs whose incomes do not afford them to pay rent let alone own their own homes. From birth through 34, there are over 75 million of such folks according to the 2010 census. That’s surely a lot of dreams denied. About 75 times the number of DACA Dreamers facing denial of a newly discovered entitlement.

We know where very many of these dreamers live — California which state leads the nation at the top and at the bottom in housing prices, also homeless ness, poverty, food stamps, welfare, Medicare, utility bills, gasoline prices, bike paths, HOV lanes, bicycling, hiking, surfing, endangered species, teacher salaries, remedial education, public employee salaries and pensions, public sector unions, foreign languages, sanctuary cities, and oh yes, not so coincidentally, government spending, taxes, and regulations.

Yes, some American Dreamers have high paying jobs in Silicon Valley, but live in trailer parks, in their cars or commute 3-5 hours a day to the off-the-coast counties because of housing shortages and high prices. This California dystopia, wishing it was Venezuela, or perhaps Zimbabwe, has driven some of the dreamer parents into poverty and into lower costing and lower taxing states.

Indigenous American dreamers of all colors, ethnicities and genders, are in dire straits through no fault of their own. Elitist NIMBY, environmental and labor regulations have driven several generations of Californians into a no to slow growth economy of stagnant wages and diminishing opportunities. Manufacturing and small businesses disappear, evaporate daily.

California is the future of America. No longer golden, it heavily regulates gold mining and imports sand and gravel as well as immigrants. Welcome to the Golden State where the war on liberty and capitalism extends into the future where a new nation, CALEXIT, may be aborning, where national socialism, very far from God, is envisioned just around the corner.

For the DACAs, either get in line or go to California … Oh, you are already there? Stop whining. You get whatever you ask for in the sanctuary state. Who needs Congress or Trump when you have the California Legislature and Governor Moonbeam 2.0 saving the children as well as the climate of the planet?

Meanwhile among the forgotten middle of America, shutting down the government for the sake of amnesty and a hollow military just may not go down so well.  What if the Democrats get rightful credit for shutting down the government for illegal aliens at the expense of both American dreamers and national security.  One might even look forward to the midterm elections?

Dr. Roger Canfield’s work on California issues, including immigration, goes back to being a Republican nominee for Congress, work in the California legislature, writing a daily column “Under the dome,” supporting Proposition 187 and supporting minuteman assistance to the Border Patrol. A number of California topics can be found at his http:/americong.com 

Solutions to Homeless Problem Should Not Target Homeowners

sanfranciscohomelessAs the search for solutions to the homeless problem continues, current property owners and the equity they have in their homes are often cited as targets for funding homelessness relief. What is ignored with these proposed remedies is that homeowners are counting on the equity in their homes to help with retirement or other needs.

Steve Lopez’s Los Angeles Times weekend article took issue with the wealth built up in homes partially because of limited housing stock while renters face difficult options.

While Lopez cited obstacles to housing reforms, he quoted two professors who suggested ways to find funding for homeless housing. One proposal was a “a tiered transfer tax on equity” promoted by Carol Galante of U.C. Berkeley’s Terner Center for Innovative Housing.

Lopez also spoke with UCLA professor Michael Manville who thinks it is okay to tax property because the increased value of the property has nothing to do with the efforts of the homeowner.

Manville, along with colleagues, wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times last July urging a $3 a day tax on property owners to build a homelessness fund. That $3 a day amounts to $1095 a year, a sizeable chunk of change for many homeowners who can find good uses for that money including maintaining or improving their homes.

Whether the increased property value comes from a wise investment decision or just dumb luck as Lopez writes, the value belongs to the homeowner. While the homeowner lives in the home, the increased property values are merely paper profits. Increased property value does not necessarily reflect an owner’s ability to pay increased taxes. When the increased property value is claimed it can be the lifeline to a comfortable retirement or for other needs.

While the legislature went down this path recently of charging property owners to help the homeless by creating fees for housing related documents, cutting into potential retirement funds with large annual or transfer taxes is a bad idea.

What’s disturbing is that those who enjoy government provided retirement pensions often suggest these proposals that can undermine a homeowner’s potential retirement fund.

Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily.

Oakland Mayor Urges Residents to Take in Homeless

During her annual State of the City address on Thursday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called on her constituents to open their doors and residences to the city’s homeless, as union workers picketed against her for her administration’s handling of the city’s rampant housing problem.

“Give up that Airbnb. Fix up that back unit,” Schaff said, encouraging property owners to lease apartments at more affordable rates to recently homeless individuals, according tothe San Francisco Chronicle.

“In Oakland, we don’t step over the homeless we step toward them,” Schaaf said.

The city’s uptick in vagrants is tied to a general gentrification in the Bay Area, stemming from San Francisco, where artists and innovators unable to afford skyrocketing rents have migrated to Oakland.

In May, the Chronicle noted that a survey by Everyone Counts found that the number of homeless persons in Oakland had increased by 25 percent since two years ago.

Outside Schaaf’s Thursday event and planned festivities, hundreds of Service Employees International Union (SEIU )Local 102 union workers — ranging from librarians to street cleaners to city employees — reportedly picketed against the mayor. According to the Chronicle, their stated aim was to draw attention to “the real state of Oakland,” as opposed to the one Schaaf presented on Thursday.

All eight City Council members reportedly said they chose not to attend to because of the demonstration.
Despite their protests, the Chronicle noted that Schaaf said she had great respect for the protesters who were “expressing Oakland values” and speaking “truth to power.”

Schaaf also took the opportunity to rail against President Donald Trump, specifically choosing to hold her event at the Islamic Cultural Center. She did so, she reportedly said, to send “one clear message. And that is that Oakland welcome and honor all people, all families, and all communities.”

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

California’s soaring poverty rates tied to its fiscal irresponsibility

homelessThe U.S. Census Bureau’s latest statistics, released this month, find that California’s poverty rate remains the highest in the nation, despite dipping ever so slightly. The reason is no surprise: It’s tied largely to the state’s unusually high cost of living.

Yet despite Democratic lawmakers’ oft-stated concern about rising income inequality, they spent the recently concluded legislative session imposing taxes, fees and new regulations that will drive up the costs of everything from transportation to housing.

In other words, they’ve been creating the poverty and inequality problem they say they’re here to solve. The burden of their failure falls most heavily on those Californians who earn the least. The new government programs they will fund with the additional tax revenue will benefit only a small number of poor people and very often at the expense of other poor people.

Under the official federal poverty measure, California’s percentage of residents living below the poverty threshold is 14.5 percent, which is nearly a percentage point above the national average. But using the bureau’s more relevant “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” which accounts for public assistance payments and the state’s sky-high housing costs, California’s poverty rate is a shocking 20.4 percent, well above the national average of 13. 9 percent.

California increasingly is becoming a state of haves and have-nots. The homeownership rates hover around 54 percent, lower than every state except New York. The cost of groceries, transportation and utilities are well above the national average, with California’s health-care costs being the only major cost-of-living area that’s around the national average.

To make matters worse, California’s troubled financial situation – mainly the unfunded debts the state has accumulated to pay for pension and medical care promises made to government employees – imposes an additional burden on taxpayers. That means higher taxes and an eroded quality of public services, as local governments struggle to balance their budgets.

The state’s distressing finances have achieved for us a kind of fame. A new study from “Truth in Accounting” ranked California near the bottom – 43rd in the nation – for its fiscal state of affairs. The group gave California a financial grade of F because of its “staggering debt burden of $255.1 billion.” That leaves “an unbelievable $21,600 for every California taxpayer,” compared to an average debt of $9,900 per taxpayer nationwide, the group reported.

The Truth in Accounting report only looks at state liabilities. California Policy Center, for instance, found that California’s total state and local debt may be closer to $1.3 trillion, which puts the total per-taxpayer burden above $100,000.

Obviously, state officials are not about to send a $21,600 bill to every taxpayer. As Truth in Accounting explains, state officials use a variety of accounting tricks to hide the size of the debt: They inflate revenue assumptions in the pension funds (the higher the expected rate of return on investments, the lower the stated pension debt). They count borrowed money as income. They understate the true cost of government. They delay payments of bills to the next fiscal year, to mask the size of the current debt.

The “Financial State of the States” report found it even more troubling that “state government officials continue to obscure large amounts of retirement debt on their balance sheets, despite new rules to increase financial transparency.” And while California has reported much of its pension debt, “the state continues to hide most of its retiree health care debt,” with a total hidden debt of $65.9 billion.

But as unfunded liabilities mount, officials will have to find ways to pay for the growing debt. “Gov. Brown needs to come up with this money through increased taxes, or slash promised benefits to teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants,” according to the group. In California, the courts have greatly limited public employee pension funds’ ability to reduce benefits, even going forward. That means Californians can expect the usual response: pressure for new taxes and fees at every level of government and cutbacks in promised services.

These debt levels aren’t inevitable. Nine states have surpluses as high as $38,200 per taxpayer, after all of their debts are paid. Several others have a relatively modest amount of debt per capita. But California and eight other states are financial sinkholes.

California is known for its progressive tax rates, meaning that the wealthiest people here pay the bulk of the state’s income taxes. Gov. Jerry Brown often warns during his budget presentations that the state’s reliance on capital gains tax receipts makes the general fund vulnerable to recession. If the economy dips, revenues fall precipitously, thus leading to large deficits. He cautions the Legislature against approving permanent spending programs that can’t be sustained if the economy goes south.

Despite such progressivism, the poorest Californians are not off the hook. The governor this year signed a large increase in the gasoline tax, averaging 12 cents a gallon. He also signed an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade system, which imposes new costs on manufacturers and refiners to force them to reduce their carbon emissions. The program’s extension is predicted to add as much as 63 cents on a gallon of gasoline by 2021, according to the well-respected Legislative Analyst’s Office.

These are “regressive” taxes that fall heavily on the poor.

California also has high sales and use taxes. The standard sales-tax rate is 7.25 percent. Many cities have local add-ons that increase those taxes to as much as 10.25 percent on most purchases, which is among the highest in the nation. These, too, are regressive taxes that boost the cost of living for everyone, but harm the poor most because they eat up a larger proportional share of their budgets.

Fiscal problems also hit poor people the hardest. Some of the state’s poorest cities (Stockton, Vallejo, Richmond and San Bernardino) have struggled under burdensome pension debts. When Stockton went bankrupt, for instance, local officials responded by increasing sales taxes as part of their “work-out plan.” High-paid public employees had their full salaries and pensions protected, while low-wage residents had to pay more in sales taxes.

But the biggest poverty problem involves housing costs. Even the state Legislature has recognized the degree to which soaring housing costs have become a statewide “crisis.” Yet the housing package that passed in the waning hours of the legislative session is likely to exacerbate the “cost of living” problem.

One measure (Senate Bill 2) increases fees on many real-estate transactions. Another will put a $3 billion housing bond on the November 2018 ballot. If voters approve, Senate Bill 3 will create new pressure on the state budget. The one measure (Senate Bill 35) that seeks to streamline the approval process for housing projects also includes a union-backed prevailing-wage requirement that could add significantly to the cost of building these projects. What one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

So, California legislators continue to drive up the cost of housing and transportation, which are the main drivers of the state’s depressingly high rates of poverty and income inequality. They ignore the bone-crushing debt levels that create constant pressure for higher taxes and that obliterate the public services upon which the poorest residents are most dependent. These actions speak far louder than their constant blather about helping the poor.

Steven Greenhut is contributing editor for the California Policy Center. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at [email protected]

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

Los Angeles approves plan to pay homeowners to house homeless

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

A pilot program that pays some Los Angeles County homeowners to build a second dwelling on their property to house homeless people was approved with a 4-0 vote Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Homeowners in unincorporated communities who qualify can receive up to $75,000 to build a second dwelling in areas zoned for such structures, while others may get $50,000 to update and legalize an existing dwelling.

The program was introduced last year as part of Los Angeles County’s set of 47 strategies to solve homelessness. The office of Regional Planning will work with several departments countywide with an allocated $550,000 in part to be used to offer subsidies.

Unlike a guest house, second dwellings include kitchens. …

Click here to read the full article

Why some cities won’t be paying Los Angeles’ new homeless tax

800px-Helping_the_homelessLos Angeles County’s sky-high sales tax will rise not once, but twice, this year.

In recent elections, Angelinos voted two new tax hikes upon themselves — one to fund transportation (Measure M) and the other to fight homelessness (Measure H).

As a result, the county’s 8.75 percent tax rate jumped to 9.25 percent on July 1. It’ll rise even further — to 9.5 percent — on October 1.

Of course, some cities in Los Angeles County have even higher tax rates. Seven of them — Compton, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pico Rivera, Santa Monica and South Gate — have rates of 10.25 percent that are among the highest in California, if not the entire nation.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Rather than increase their tax rates another quarter cent on October 1 like the rest of the county, those seven normally tax-loving cities will get a free pass — at least for now — in funding the fight against homelessness.

The seven cities will, of course, benefit from the estimated $355 million in annual tax payments the measure will raise but they will do so only by the courtesy of taxpayers in other cities. It’s a subsidy, plain and simple.

Why was Measure H drafted this way?

It appears to have been a rather clumsy attempt to dodge a state law capping local sales taxes. The law requires localities to limit voter-approved “district” sales taxes to 2 percent (on top of the state rate of 7.25 percent) unless they obtain specific legislative authorization.

Los Angeles County has received legislative approval twice in the past to increase this limit for transportation-related taxes. For some unknown reason, Measure H proponents didn’t want to bother with this step.

But the poor planning came back to bite them. Proponents claimed the new tax would take effect July 1, at the same time as Measure M. That would have been a lot simpler for everyone, including business owners who must now go through the trouble of reprogramming their registers twice to adapt to the rate increases.

Since the Measure H language was both unprecedented and legally questionable, the Board of Equalization rightly refused to collect the tax until the Legislature specifically voted to authorize it.

These delays have pushed back the start date of Measure H, resulting in lost funding for the fight against homelessness, and more confusion and headaches for taxpayers.

Even more troubling is the dangerous precedent this sets statewide. Will other local governments soon craft tax proposals that exempt politically-favored constituencies?

We believe the cap on local sales taxes exists to protect taxpayers and should be respected. Not every good cause merits a tax increase.

Governments are hungry for more taxpayer revenue, and seem increasingly impatient to add more and more taxes. They are also becoming more creative at disguising their efforts, and using public dollars to pay for them. The Fair Political Practices Commission, for example, is conducting an investigation into whether the county of Los Angeles illegally spent taxpayer dollars for political advocacy in its campaign for Measure H.

Before asking voters to approve more and more taxes, shouldn’t local governments identify and eliminate ineffective taxes that haven’t accomplished their promised goals?

If taxpayers are concerned about how local governments spend their money, then that question is certainly worth asking. If not, how else do we ensure taxpayers receive value for the dollars they are already paying?

George Runner is vice chair of the California State Board of Equalization. Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

Are Taxes the Solution to CA’s Homeless Problem?

800px-Helping_the_homelessApparently, politicians up and down the state think the solution to California’s homeless problem is taxes. In San Francisco, members of the board of supervisors want to tax the tech industry. In Los Angeles, the city council wants to raise property taxes on all property owners. On the state level, legislative leaders plan to shift income taxes from the rich paid to a fund to help those with mental illness to finance housing bonds for the homeless.

Homelessness is a complex problem and the solutions are not easy. As far back as 2001 a brief by the Public Policy Institute of California identified some of the reasons for a growing homeless population including the high cost of housing, debilitating personal habits and attributes of many of the homeless—alcoholism, crack cocaine addiction, and mental disorders— and income inequality. Its safe to say that since then the homeless situation has worsened.

But is raising taxes the solution?

In some cases it makes sense. Take the Proposition 63 income tax dedicated to help with mental illness. The fund was not being well spent according to an audit. The state effort to shift some revenue from that fund to a more useful function to finance bonds allows a foundation for helping the homeless across the state.

But the local solutions have less merit and again target business in large part as the answer to a problem.

In San Francisco, supporters of the tech tax blame the tech business for the homeless problem arguing that the booming tech industry is responsible for increased housing costs in the city. The tax would raise about $120 million a year.

Given that the city by the bay has been a haven for the homeless and downtrodden well before the boom in technology, it seems tech is being made a scapegoat. An attack on one industry could be an impetus for individual companies to pull up roots and find a friendlier business environment. The precedent setting idea of taxing one industry to solve a societal problem is dangerous for all sectors of the business community. The obvious question: Who’s next?

The Los Angeles approach is different but still questionable. The city council approved putting a $1.8 billion bond on the ballot, which will probably cost twice as much to pay off with interest and will be backed by property taxes. The council is also considering a parcel tax on all properties and may move forward with both plans until a final decision is made in August on which to put on the ballot.

The property taxes will fall heavily on residents who are struggling with the high costs of housing in the region. Homeowners, businesses and apartment owners will carry the burden. Renters covered by the city’s rent-control provisions will not have the tax passed on to them.

In both San Francisco and Los Angeles a two-thirds vote is required to pass the taxes.

Opposition from the business community and some local pols, including the mayor, are lining up against the tech tax in San Francisco. However, the mayor of Los Angeles has promised to find revenue for homeless issues and will support the final plan. Business reaction could be mixed, although the parcel tax, especially if the tax is calculated on a property’s square footage, will certainly bring out strong opposition from business.

One thing that is often ignored in looking for solutions to local problems is to improve the business climate, create jobs, and allow people to earn more. Admittedly, this is not a silver bullet solution for the homeless crisis but it should be talked about constantly instead of always falling back on the T-solution. Taxes.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

‘Homeless bill of rights’ diminishes policing authority

homelessIn California, helping the homeless is a popular issue in some cities and some political circles. In San Diego, elected officials of both parties say they don’t just want to reduce downtown homelessness, they want to end it. In Santa Clara County, the leader of the Board of Supervisors last week declared that targeting homelessness was one of his top priorities in 2016. In the state Senate, President Pro tem Kevin de Leon and other Democrats in January unveiled an ambitious plan to build $2 billion in housing for the mentally ill homeless around California.

But advocates of Senate Bill 676, a new bill that would ban police from fining or arresting people for sleeping outdoors, is facing a tough reception.

Sen. Carol Liu, a La Cañada Flintridge Democrat who is a sponsor of the bill, depicts it as being about human rights. The language of the measure says it “would afford persons experiencing homelessness the right to use public spaces without discrimination based on their housing status and describe basic human and civil rights that may be exercised without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, including the right to use and to move freely in public spaces, the right to rest in public spaces and to protect oneself from the elements.”

It would also allow homeless people to sue authorities if these rights were abrograted and would mandate that all local communities take steps to minimize the “criminalization of homelessness.”

Bill called counterproductive, poorly conceived

However, the administration of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and local business groups in the state capital call the proposal poorly conceived and warn it could have huge potential unintended consequences.

The Downtown Sacramento Partnership, a community assessment district of Sacramento merchants, approaches the issue from an entirely different direction.

Allowing people to sleep inside cities not only creates a public safety hazard, but it undermines current efforts to permanently house people because it signals that a city is comfortable with people sleeping on the sidewalk, said Dion Dwyer, who oversees homeless outreach efforts for the partnership.

“I want to provide a social safety net that can lift up that person off the sidewalk and into services and ultimately into sustainable housing,” said Dwyer.

That is from an article in the Sacramento Business Journal.

Mayor Johnson has won backing from Sacramento Councilman Jay Schenirer. “We fully recognize the good intent of this measure; however, we do not feel that it will make a positive impact in the effort to reduce and address chronic homelessness,” he wrote last month in a formal letter of opposition to Liu’s measure.

Is Sacramento really ‘criminalizing the homeless’?

Meanwhile, Sacramento Bee metro columnist Marcos Breton is pushing back against some of the tactics and generalizations of those who feel Sacramento is callous toward the homeless. On Jan. 9, he wrote that it was a great misconception that …

… the city is “criminalizing the homeless.” This is a claim often made by people with political agendas. Some are seeking to abolish Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance, which is designed to prevent people from setting up camps anywhere they wish.

The ordinance is about protecting people and property within the city limits. Protesters camped at City Hall for more than a month, however, are challenging the law, saying it unfairly discriminates against the homeless.

This being Sacramento, where political slogans are hatched and exported statewide, the “criminalizing” concept is being aggressively promoted, an incomplete narrative spread around a liberal city often flummoxed by its homeless problems.

The tension between the views of Liu and those of Breton and the Sacramento establishment appears to be one more example of the intractability of the homeless debate. Those who argue in an abstract that governments should do much more to help the homeless are countered by those who have been on the front lines of trying to directly address the problem. Many of the latter group maintain that because so many homeless people are mentally ill, the problem isn’t open to simple solutions involving using more government resources.

Liu’s bill is likely to showcase this argument and launch a statewide debate over whether local laws against sleeping in public areas are reasonable attempts to promote public safety and public health or are tantamount to criminalizing the behavior of some of the poorest, most troubled people in California.

The bill has yet to be subjected to a Senate committee vote. Liu has already amended the measure once to address concerns its language was unnecesarily broad.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

L.A. Turns to Feds for Help With Homeless

homelessStruggling to slow L.A.’s spike in homelessness, city leaders have booked an appointment with the federal government.

“Secretary Julian Castro will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday to meet with Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council members and county supervisors, HUD spokesman George Gonzalez said,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hoping for cash

Despite the crisis, which has drawn unfavorable media attention amid L.A.’s recent boom in homeless-heavy areas like the city’s downtown, expectations were set low. “No major announcement was expected to come out of the meeting. Gonzalez said it was intended as an ‘exchange of ideas’ on the state of homelessness in Los Angeles,” the Times added.

City leaders hope the agency’s concern could manifest in additional funds to fight what Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a public emergency around homelessness, as Los Angeles city and country governments both prioritized the issue. As the New York Times reported last month, the announcement marked the first time a U.S. city had made such a proclamation. “National experts on homelessness say Los Angeles has had a severe and persistent problem with people living on the streets rather than in shelters — the official estimate is 26,000,” noted the Times.

Uncertain goals

After announcing his initiative, Garcetti said, “he received a call from Castro, who had toured Skid Row earlier this year,” as the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

“The focus on homelessness came after a count conducted this year by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed that the number of homeless people in the county increased by 12 percent since 2013. More than 44,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County and about 70 percent of them live on the streets, in vehicles or in make-shift encampments.”

Questions remained as to what exactly Castro intended to accomplish through his visit. “He did indicate several times that HUD approved of the way that local elected officials were tackling homelessness,” Southern California Public Radio observed; in remarks, Castro noted that “more than anything else, I’m here […] to listen,” while insisting that “criminalizing homelessness is not the best approach. That is something that HUD has recognized very firmly.”

Despite the focus on L.A.’s significance to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, city officials appeared to place their funding hopes in the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Although former Secretary of Labor and current L.A. Supervisor Hilda Solis recently invoked the agency, the Daily News observed, its spokesman for the area covering Los Angeles threw doubt on the idea. “For homelessness, I’ve never heard that as a cause of an emergency because that’s a local social issue that would generally be handled at the city or county or state level,” he said.

A big pledge

In the interim, Los Angeles has pledged to allocate substantial sums to curbing homelessness, which has become an especially galling problem among veterans. “Members of the City Council say they are working on a $100 million plan to combat homelessness,” SCPR reported. “County supervisors this month voted to boost spending on homelessness to $100 million for the year. Earlier, Mayor Eric Garcetti had said he would release a blueprint to end homelessness in August.”

Garcetti’s priorities around urban issues have not been without their critics. At a recent speech in South Los Angeles, the mayor was confronted by Jefferson Park protesters, some of whom pounded on his vehicle and demanded the resignation of the current Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck. “I am disappointed that our conversation was cut short when there is so much work for us to do together to make our neighborhoods stronger and safer,” Garcetti later remarked, according to CBS Los Angeles. “I believe in our city and my commitment to our shared concerns continues stronger than ever.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com