Investing in who we are: a just, compassionate city


By Mayor Eric Garcetti

Contributing Columnist

If I were asked to use just three words to describe who we are as Angelenos, I would say we are compassionate, creative and resilient.

This past year, those characteristics have been more apparent than ever. Our lives were turned upside down. We all experienced anxiety and isolation. Some of us lost loved ones to this cruel virus, yet we couldn’t mourn them with others. Too many of us found ourselves out of work, forced to endure countless sleepless nights worrying about how to make ends meet.

But now, for the first time since this global nightmare began, we have reason to hope. Our COVID case rates are among the lowest in the country. Hospitalizations are dropping and, best of all, so are deaths. Angelenos are helping to speed up our recovery by rolling up their sleeves for a safe, effective vaccine.

And we are on a path to recover, rebuild and reimagine our city with $777 million in American Rescue Plan money reaching our public coffers this year alone, helping fuel the biggest budget I have ever presented as your mayor — and the most progressive fiscal plan of any city in America.

My proposed budget focuses our dollars where they will do the most good: on restoring vital city services and investing in young people, communities of color, low-income families, struggling workers and Angelenos who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing.

This is a recovery budget that deepens our COVID-19 response efforts, delivers tests, personal protective equipment and vaccines to Angelenos, and allows our businesses to reopen and hire up.

This is a back-to-basics budget that restores our city services — everything from arts and culture programming, to gang reduction and youth development, and youth employment, to vital investments in our infrastructure, clean streets, and safe neighborhoods.

Most of all, this is a justice budget that targets $1 billion at efforts to deliver housing, services and support to our homeless neighbors; to untangle the inequities that have strangled our city and our nation for decades; and to lift up people and communities most impacted by COVID-19 — folks who have too often found doors of opportunity closed to them.

With these investments, we will deliver a massive anti-poverty initiative by enacting the largest guaranteed basic income pilot in America.

We will kick off a new program to send clinicians instead of cops to respond to non-violent mental health emergencies.

We will start to make up for the wrongs of the past by planting trees in underserved neighborhoods. We will lift up our young people and families with a new Youth Development Department, a new Community Investment for Families Department, and a standalone Housing Department. And we will hire youth from zip codes too often locked out of prosperity.

All told, we will invest $151 million more to programs and pilots to advance racial justice and economic progress.

This budget is a roadmap that heeds Angelenos’ advocacy and brings back what we love best about Los Angeles. As much as it’s an investment in services and infrastructure, it’s an effort to translate our values into action.

Trauma showed us who we are in Los Angeles

This is a city whose people never run from tough challenges — we rise together to meet them. That’s why our rate of mask-wearing was higher than the national average and why more than 10,000 Angelenos donated $66 million in direct cash assistance to their neighbors.

This is a city unafraid to acknowledge where we’re falling short and committed to doing better. That’s why I signed an executive directive to study and promote racial equity across our city departments.

Above all, this is a city in a state of becoming — becoming more equal, more kind, more just and resilient.

And I know we will get there because I know who we are.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.

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