For our 77th episode, we sit down for a chat with Kenneth Mejia, the millennial Filipino-American who is trailblazing in his race for the L.A. City Controller’s office. Kenneth and I discuss his upbringing in Los Angeles as the youngest of a single-parent household in the San Fernando Valley, as well as how he came to develop a passion for budgets over a decade, leading to his and his community’s special attention to the L.A. City budget today. We also discuss the actual meaning of “defunding the police” as it relates to public safety, as well as how folks out there interested in supporting his campaign can get involved. A can’t miss-session for voters everywhere in Los Angeles, but especially those in SFV, K-town, and then some.


Call In or Write to Oppose Mayor Garcetti’s Police Raises As Housing & Community Investment Lose Millions

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 69)

I’ve been to Tokyo, Shanghai, Mexico City, San Salvador, and Guatemala City, among others. With the exception of the latter two, all of these cities are larger than L.A. proper. But in none of them did I see thousands of encampments of unhoused people as I’ve seen in Los Angeles.

Over the next year, experts estimate that the number of unhoused people in California due to rising unemployment from coronavirus can grow by up to 20%, from 150,000 people currently to 180,000.

In Los Angeles County, which contains more than 40% of the unhoused population in California, that can mean an increase of up to 12,000 more people on the sidewalks over the next twelve months.

That’s 1,000 families left to L.A.’s concrete every four weeks. And if Project Roomkey shows us anything, it’s that given two months, the city of Los Angeles can barely manage to get well short of 3,000 of its 15,000 most vulnerable unhoused citizens into a hotel room.

Exactly what would be the point of “reopening” Los Angeles, then,
if all we have are more people in tents crowding below freeways, at schools and libraries, and around grocery stores and restaurants?

At the same time, the mayor’s proposed budget, which slashes $9 million from housing and community investment next year for a total of $81.1 million but increases the police budget by over $122 million for a total of $1.9 billion, is in the motions for approval by City Hall over the next four weeks.

That’s four weeks of time for residents in Los Angeles to use their first-amendment rights to express opposition to this proposal.

I ask readers to imagine if just half as many people who flocked to the city’s beaches and park trails over the weekends called in to their local Council Member’s offices or Board of Supervisors’ office to demand they rescind their support for the mayor’s budget in its current form.

Mayor Garcetti and each Council Member and Board Supervisor are supposed to be our elected officials, after all, not Kings and Queens of our fate; each of these representatives is supposed to advance our interests given that they’re paid for by money from our income, sales, property taxes, and more.

See below for two directories, one for L.A. City council members and the mayor’s office, and another for the L.A. Board of Supervisors:

Mayor’s Office & City Hall Directory
L.A. County Board of Supervisors Contact Info

The office of the City Clerk also features a little-known form online for the public to write in a comment for the public comment portion on items considered by the L.A. City Council, listed below:

Office of the City Clerk for Public Comment Form

Not sure how to start? Feel free to contact yours truly for some ideas.


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Public Restroom at Vermont avenue & Santa Monica boulevard

LAPD will receive nearly 1.9 billion dollars next year while housing & community investment will lose millions

(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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