Restoring Equity to the City Budget
With two weeks to go before Mayor Eric Garcetti releases his proposed city budget for the next fiscal year, community members and representatives of nearly 18 Los Angeles organizations gathered on the steps of City Hall on March 21 to voice their concerns about the sluggish economy, and to call for greater investment in waning public services. Garcetti’s administration had previously organized three of their own forums where the public could, in theory, tell city officials how public money should be spent. Yet, those meetings mainly served as platforms for stale talking points issued by the administration rather than open discussions centered on community solutions to the problems we face.
But this time, folks came out “to tell our stories about the quality of our lives to decision makers and to the press,” said Elsa Barboza, SCOPE’s campaign director, to a roaring crowd of organizers and activists from the Korean Resource Center, CARECEN, InnerCity Struggle, Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, SEIU Local 721, the Black Worker Center, LAANE, the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, UFCW Local 770, AFSCME DC 36, and POWER.
Manok Cha, a senior living in Koreatown, said she moved to L.A. for a chance to “have a better life,” but has been in limbo for the past three years as her name lingers on a list of those eligible for city-subsidized housing for seniors on fixed incomes. “There are many who wait between eight to 10 years,” she added.
Entire communities have gone without access to resources such as affordable, clean grocery stores that offer a range of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, said Dayana Guillen, a mother living in Pico-Union, who addressed the crowd in Spanish.
SCOPE leader Maria Mercado spoke about access to career path jobs and job training programs as well as quality education for youth to help them become job ready. As a former teacher in South Los Angeles, she knows very well what it is like to look for jobs in this economy where the unemployment rate is now 8.7 percent. Due to complications during pregnancy, she had to quit teaching to take care of her health, and since then has advocated for more opportunities for living wage jobs with benefits for communities in South LA.
Roughly 80 people—from areas including Koreatown, Boyle Heights, South LA, the San Fernando Valley, and Pico-Union—attended the rally, which was organized by the Los Angeles Equity Alliance, a coalition of six community organizations. The Equity Alliance is spearheading a grassroots campaign to ensure that the new budget generates revenue that would be put toward rebuilding the public safety net and creating career pathways for Los Angeles residents.
“While these are the faces of the people most affected by the great recession, these communities are also the backbone of Los Angeles’ economy,” said Manisha Vaze, SCOPE’s organizing director. “And we’ve sacrificed enough.”
The Equity Alliance has been pushing for the institution of progressive and industry-specific taxes that close corporate loopholes and supports tax policies based on income. “We’re calling for ‘fairness,” said Gloria Walton, SCOPE’s president and CEO. “As well as stronger, more effective government, new jobs, better services, and a thriving public sector.”