Man holding a sign up in protest

Three Years After Its Passage, Measure J Remains Largely Unimplemented in LA County

Key Takeaways from Knock LA's Measure J Reading

In 2020, Measure J passed in Los Angeles County with 57% of the vote. The measure resolved to divert 10% of the county’s unrestricted funding away from the carceral system (prisons, jails, etc.) and toward community-based organizations (CBOs), with the expectation of $1 billion in funding by the end of Q2 2024.

These CBOs provide community services like career pathway programs, housing services, pretrial services, mobile medical care, and mental health services.

Three years later, little has been done to implement Measure J, now known as Care First Community Investment (CFCI). County budget allocations have remained remarkably consistent with pre-passage allocations.

Why has Los Angeles County been so slow to respond to the will of the people in this matter?

Measure J Ruled Unconstitutional

Measure J was actually ruled unconstitutional by County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel in June 2021. Judge Strobel ruled that the measure unreasonably restricted the prerogative of the County Board of Supervisors to allocate funding as they see fit.

The ruling is under appeal. If it gets upheld, future Boards of Supervisors will not be constrained by the limitations of Measure J. In the meantime, however, the same Supervisors that pushed Measure J are still in power. Nothing is stopping them from following the peoples’ mandate and making the 10% reallocation.

In fact, the current Board did vote to implement the 10% reallocation of its own accord … but the funds have been slow to materialize.

Slow Appointment Process for a Third-Party Administrator

Measure J includes provisions that shield CBOs from having to haggle directly with the county departments that fund them.
Instead, it creates a 24-member Care First Community Investment Advisory Committee, administered by a third-party administrator (TPA) to advise the County CEO, who has ultimate authority over the allocation.

So what’s the problem? The county has been slow to appoint this TPA. The County CEO finalized the contract with the chosen TPA, the Amity Foundation, in March 2022, four months after they were selected.

Before their selection, protracted negotiations with a consortium of nonprofits to act as TPA burned up the better part of two years, before disagreements about the solicitation agreement caused the negotiations to be scrapped with little notice.

In the absence of a TPA, CBOs have been left to negotiate with the county offices directly — a slow, inefficient, and exhaustive process that the TPA was meant to expedite.

Disagreement On How Much Funding

Even those who support the CFCI reallocation cannot seem to agree on how much money the county owes the CBOs.

The Board of Supervisors has argued that full funding for Measure J would come out to about $300 million, while the advocacy grounds that backed the measure argue that the 10% figure would call for at least $900 million by 2024.

Despite the clear mandate of Measure J, Los Angeles County has shown no hurry to respond to what advocacy groups describe as an emergency situation. Public pressure has led to a greater role in community advisory groups in the budgetary process. It will take more public pressure from CFCI advocates to break through the bureaucracy and hold public servants accountable to the will of the people.

Read the full article from Knock LA here