Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had a rough week with the defeat of school parcel tax Measure EE, which he championed, and a report revealing a dramatic 16% increase in homelessness in the city despite his successfully convincing voters in 2016 to raise taxes to overcome the problem. And, you can pile on the recent radio and television campaign that criticizes the mayor for his proposed Green New Deal for Los Angeles, which opponents’ claim will cost the city jobs.
Garcetti’s optimism about a resurgent L.A. (which he once planned as his platform for a presidential run) has taken a number of hits. While not all reasons for the problems can be laid at his feet, the high profile position the mayor has taken on the above issues makes him the target for reproach.
Along with the teachers union and the school board, Garcetti was all for rushing the tax on a special election ballot hoping good will earned toward teachers during the recent strike would translate to voters supporting the tax. He said he based his thinking on recent tax increases supported by voters for transportation and homeless issues.
But perhaps that was part of the problem—the voters are wondering what all this new tax revenue is buying them.
Especially when it comes to homelessness.
Garcetti was prominent in persuading voters to pass Proposition HHH in 2016, a $1.2 billion bond measure to support affordable housing for the homeless. He was also behind a Los Angeles County tax increase for homelessness.
The affordable housing has been slow in coming—and not at a very affordable price: up to $500,000 per unit. While Garcetti points to 20,000 homeless finding housing, the stunning surge in homelessness despite the city’s efforts was not only disappointing but also unexpected. The City of Los Angeles has 36,000 homeless by the recent count.
The problem for the mayor is there is no quick fix and he has to deal with the negative press. It can turn ugly if L.A. can’t shake the reputation of a city occupied by homelessness with areas that are rat infested and fear of the rise of medieval diseases like typhus and typhoid are present. Remember how long a cloud hung over Cleveland as the city bordered by the river that caught fire.
Garcetti has followed the formula of throwing money at a problem in attacking both homelessness and school financing. The homelessness problem has shown little signs of responding to the money formula. Voters turned down the school tax when the campaign ran off the rails with miscues and concerns of how past school revenue has been spent. The LAUSD budget is actually larger than the City of Los Angeles budget.
The mayor needs to gain traction again on these problems by focusing on results and reforms before assuming money is the answer.
At least he has the consolation of not having to face these issues in a presidential campaign.