From Staff and Wire Reports
LOS ANGELES — “No Going Back,” a report issued last week by the Committee for Greater L.A., calls for sweeping changes to policies on housing, the economy, health care, immigration and internet access as a way to attack systemic racism.
The Committee for Greater L.A. is a collaboration of civic, business, labor and community leaders and a joint team of researchers from UCLA and USC, backed by local nonprofit organizations and philanthropists.
The committee was formed to coordinate the response and recovery from COVID-19 and ensure that the communities most impacted by the pandemic — which has hit people of color the hardest — are at the center of those recovery efforts.
Researchers tasked with assessing the impact of the pandemic say that when protests broke out in response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, they expanded the scope of their research to better understand systemic, institutionalized racism.
Miguel Santana, who chairs the committee and previously held various city and county posts, including as the city’s chief administrative officer, said change is imperative.
“Many of us have spent our careers enabling broken, racist systems and this moment calls us to create something better,” Santana said. “This committee’s research clearly illustrates that the old status quo was failing millions of Angelenos in terms of health and housing, education and employment, jails and policing, with the disparities falling along clear racial lines. We can’t go back to the way things were before. We need a more inclusive and equitable new normal.”
“No Going Back” includes a 15-chapter policy report detailing a comprehensive platform for change. It offers dozens of policy recommendations, including establishing high-speed internet as a civil right, promoting California “citizenship” to ensure immigrants have equal access to services and a regional “housing-for-all” strategy.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas praised the committee for its work on the report.
“I thank this diverse and inclusive committee for its holistic, insightful and timely efforts to meet the moment by outlining a range of solutions for rethinking public service and investment to be more equitable, just and effective,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We must take a deep dive into these recommendations and get to work on the system changes needed to truly build a Greater L.A.”
Researchers, who combined preexisting data with new research, found that more than one-third of both Black and Latino school-age children lack computer and high-speed internet access at home, an insurmountable obstacle during a time of widespread online learning. Black, Native American and Latino students already had the lowest graduation and highest dropout rates prior to the pandemic.
An estimated 18% of Los Angeles County residents are either undocumented or living with a family member who is undocumented, leaving about 200,000 children with mixed-status parents ineligible for federal COVID-19 relief, according to the report.
Researchers point to disparities in death rates from the coronavirus as more stark evidence of racial inequity. The death rate from COVID-19 among Black residents is double that of white residents, in part because nearly half of white residents hold lower-risk jobs that require less contact with people, the report found.
The committee argues that change is not just a moral imperative, but makes economic sense. The Equity Research Institute at USC, which contributed to the report, estimates that more than $300 billion in annual gross domestic product is lost annually in Los Angeles as a result of racial disparities.
A community activist says the report is well meaning, but warned that it will take a lot of effort — and money — to put the report into action.
“This is a much-needed proposal given the magnitude of the crisis of poverty, homelessness and economic misery among a growing army of persons in the city,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the head of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “The problem with this, like so many other well meaning sweeping reform programs, is without massive funding, a firm time table for implementation and a total commitment of officials to enact the proposals, it’s nothing more than a great sounding paper wish list that will die on the vine.”
Fred Ali, president and CEO of the nonprofit Weingart Foundation, said a new paradigm is needed.
“We can’t let our sense of what’s possible be limited to what we’ve been able to do so far,” Ali said. “Philanthropy can be the laboratory for an agenda to overturn racial injustice, challenge white supremacy and nurture equity. It can also build support for new funding streams and new governance structures.
“Making real change requires courage. But going back to the policies that got us to this point is not an option.”
The Committee for Greater L.A. set out 10 principles for “reinventing” Los Angeles. The first is to “address anti-Black racism in all its forms” and notes that “statistic after statistic on homelessness, education, family wealth, health and well-being and the criminal justice system show ample evidence of the systemic racism impacting Black Angelenos.”
Other principles include: building an economy that centers around those who have been left behind and excluded in future strategies; enhancing the physical and mental health systems that can support communities and individuals living with the trauma of systemic neglect and oppression; creating housing for all and ending unsheltered homelessness; ensuring access, mobility, and voice for immigrants regardless of status; supporting education access for all children and all communities; celebrating and supporting youth leadership and empowerment; strengthening the nonprofit sector as a key part of civil society; developing both community power and accompanying metrics to hold systems accountable; and promoting leadership and alignment for equity across business, community, philanthropy and multiple levels of government.
In addition to data, the report includes many stories and quotes from people impacted by racism who participated in focus groups. Researchers said this personal testimony helped inform their recommendations and create a sense of urgency.
The next steps include generating awareness around the findings and building consensus around the need for change. Meetings with officials and grassroots organizations will focus on setting priorities for what to tackle first, how much it will cost and who has the power to enact change.
The group is asking residents, policy makers and candidates for elected office to sign up at nogoingback.la to make “a commitment to build a more equitable and inclusive Los Angeles.”
“The COVID-19 disease has revealed our underlying illness: too many are at risk because of structural racism, income inequality, and our broken immigration system,” said Manuel Pastor, the director of the USC Equity Research Institute.
“The current crisis has reminded us of a basic public health principle — to protect ourselves, we need to protect everyone — and that should be our policy guide going forward. The good news: Los Angeles, at long last, is ready to attack these issues head-on and grassroots community organizations are ready to lead, shape and sustain the change we need.”
The committee is funded by the Annenberg Foundation, the Ballmer Group, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes Foundation, the Smidt Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.