Student Opinion: Will LA Mayor Karen Bass’ $13.1 Billion Proposed City Budget Live Up to the Hype?

By Karen Bass for Mayor,

By Angel Cervantes


LOS ANGELES – Recently, with homelessness and public insecurity reaching all-time highs in the LA region, it seemed as if we were headed towards another year full of uncertainty on how our city’s legislators, along with our newly elected mayor planned to address many of the civic issues that were left unresolved by the previous administration. Just this past month, however, through a Fox 11 Los Angeles report documenting LA Mayor Karen Bass’ hopeful plans for the 2023-24 fiscal year, we finally got a glimpse of the future, and learned how LA Mayor Bass plans to use this proposed budget to tackle many of the important issues our past city mayors have ignored or struggled to address during their times in office. 


The proposed budget of $13.1 billion will attempt to fix major problems. The hope is that it will be enough to adequately tackle the homeless crisis while simultaneously addressing other necessary issues such as improving public safety, increasing police staffing, expanding the city’s mental health crisis, along with funding a new Mayor’s Office of Community Safety. LA Mayor Karen Bass says, will all play a role in helping advance our city to a “new L.A,” one filled with more affordable housing and public safety in the region. 


However, financially, Bass’ proposed spending plan projects short-term stability and will only generate city tax revenues of about 2.4%. Having said this, the proposed budget will also increase by 5.6% with $115 million coming from the city’s reserve fund. Considering the amount of inflation our city is currently experiencing since the pandemic, the proposed plan is worrisome.  


Nonetheless, it is great to hear that a good chunk of our taxpayer dollars (around $1.3 billion) funding this city budget is being allocated towards fixing what seems to be a broken cycle of homelessness in the city of Los Angeles. Dating back to my adolescent days, I cannot remember when was the last time I saw our streets clear of any debris or personal belongings that may have been left by a person experiencing homelessness . 


On top of this, Bass proposes that we must also commit an additional $250 million to fund the mayor’s Inside Safe program citywide, a program focused on bringing as many as 17,000 homeless Angelenos to tents and encampments over just one year. While these numbers may seem rather doable, these numbers become incredibly optimistic when you take into account a California Housing Partnership report that estimates that there is currently a shortage of roughly 500,000 affordable housing units for LA County. 


With a degree of perseverance, Affordable Housing in Los Angeles has reported that it is possible to make up that housing shortage, however, it can only be made up in about 35 years. If that is not pessimistic enough, Bass’ committed budget towards solving the homeless crisis looks minuscule at best, when you factor in the report of the state Regional Housing Needs Assessment’s estimate that about $134 billion is needed to solve the entire LA housing affordability crisis.       


In addition, LA Mayor Bass intends to resolve public insecurity by proposing the Los Angeles Police Department to increase its ranks by 400 officers, pushing the total number of LA police members staffed to about 9,500. Bass envisions that by persuading around 200 recently retired officers to come back for at least 12 more months, these numbers are achievable. She also plans on offering newly hired police officers a $15,000 signing bonus for signing on, which will also apply to city employees who can find any additional recruits.


It is no secret that increasing the number of staffed police officers in the county will deter any local public insecurity rates from continuing to spike, however, we must also take into consideration that none of this addresses the roots of why these acts of public violence are happening in the first place. This is why Bass intends to seek a 45% increase in funding (an extra $13 million) to fund a program known as the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, which will be overseen by community safety officers who are trained to oversee similar types of statewide programs.    


While Bass’ intentions seem to be optimistic when it comes to how she plans to resolve these city-wide issues, they nonetheless try to address some of the core issues that were left unresolved by countless mayoral candidates. Hence, I argue that she needs to carry on with that same mindset regardless of whatever annual results she gets and continue to focus on investing in fixing the roots of local homelessness and violence in the first place. ​​Only then will we be able to reflect on whether this budgetary proposal was worth it in the long run.

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