What is the Reimagine LA program? Sheriff warns streets will look like 'scene from Mad Max' if plan is approved

What is the Reimagine LA program? Sheriff warns streets will look like 'scene from Mad Max' if plan is approved
(Getty Images)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, July 21, voted 4-1 in favor of putting a measure on the November ballot that would need at least 10 percent of the county’s unrestricted general-fund dollars getting used in social service and racial justice programs. The quantity of money is estimated to be around $800 million in the current fiscal. The motion, which gives a call to Reimagine Los Angeles County, was made by supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis. This marked the first step and now the county staff needs to draft the ballot measure’s language. The supervisors will cast a final vote on the matter on August 4 before it is placed on the ballot. 

During the ballot, the voters would need to approve the move through a change to the county charter. The funds are meant to be redirected to areas like mental health services, job training, rent assistance, etc. “I would say since there’s so much talk about democracy and voting and how important it is, that we allow the people of the county of Los Angeles to say what direction they would really like us to take,” Kuehl was quoted as saying by LAist.com.

The only voice that dissented against the move was Board Chair Kathryn Barger who said the proposed change to the charter would only nullify any meaningful dialogue or policy deliberations in the future. She said the supervisors should have analyzed the measure several times before placing it on the ballot, the report added.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (Getty Images)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was also not happy with the proceedings. In a tweet, he criticized the supervisors to say that diverting the funds would leave LA’s streets look “like a scene from Mad Max” and appealed to people to support him to “tell the board what you think”. Reimagine LA County hit back at Villanueva in a tweet saying: “Sheriff Alex Villanueva says LA County shouldn't be able to vote on our #ReimagineLA proposal because he doesn't think it's what we want. That's uh...not how democracy works. We, the voters, should decide how we use our taxpayer dollars.” 

On June 29, the supervisors voted to approve slashing $145 million from the Sheriff’s department budget and it came in the face of a budget shortfall caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The county approved a budget that would see a reduction of $453 million in county spending to make up for a whopping $940 million budget deficit with various departments facing cuts.

Villanueva told Fox 11 that the slashing of $145 million on top of $400 million which his department was already lacking would see big layoffs. He said he would have to get rid of over 340 employees of his department, including deputies in uniform. But there were also voices that supported the county’s latest move. Elise Buik, president of United Way of Greater LA County that helped the motion’s passage, said efforts were underway to create a “people’s budget” that would reflect the values to reimagine an LA County, which is “more just and inclusive”.

Calls for defunding the police have become big across cities in the US in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd in the custody of cops on May 25 (Getty Images)

Calls for defunding and disbanding police departments across the US have gained traction in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd, a Black American, in police custody on May 25. Police excesses against people from the community of color have been making the headlines frequently in the US and Floyd’s agonizing death added fuel to the fire, resulting in massive civil unrest. 

Response to 'Reimagine LA County'

Twitter was divided over the Reimagine LA County motion. Here are some reactions on the social media platform: One user spoke in support of the program to tweet: “Pretty sure there’s only one gang that the city of LA is scared of and it’s @LASDHQ so yes, #ReimagineLA without dangerous cops and with a properly funded education and social work system.”

Another named Katia Oloy said: “#ReimagineLA Redistribute LAPD militarization budget towards: free mental health services, free healthcare, free dental care, affordable housing, more money for LAUSD, the ARTS, pavement of roads, helping homeless people get on their feet, more parks and libraries, and trees.”

Another called Mary Silver tweeted: “I stand with @LACountyBOS in their support of #ReimagineLA and defunding @LASDHQ.  My only disappointment was that @kathrynbarger voted against since she represents my district.”

Actor-producer James Woods, who is known to be a supporter of President Donald Trump, criticized the idea of Reimagine LA County to tweet: “If you can’t quite visualize #ReimagineLA, this may help. #Antifa and its Democrat backers are all for it…”

Journalist Alisha Grausho tweeted: “Hell yeah! Finally some good news.”

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