Setting Cyber Defense Standards

Determined to thwart cyber attacks, the Board of Supervisors voted to establish strict security standards for confidential and sensitive information handled by Los Angeles County contractors and subcontractors. It is the first in the nation to take such comprehensive step in data protection.

The new policy comes just months after Los Angeles County encrypted all 88,392 of its desktop computers.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored the motion that prompted both of those efforts to safeguard personally identifiable information and protected health information.

“Efficient, reliable, useful, modern, quality and secure Information Technology systems are a critical component of good government,” he said. “Our security and quality safeguards need to keep up with the increasing cyber-security threats.”

County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai recommended the new policy, saying it “reduces our overall risk of a data breach.”

Sophisticated encryption software and tools will add security layers to protected Personally Identifiable Information, which includes social security numbers, names, home addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and biometric records. It will also secure Protected Health Information, which applies to data about a person’s physical or mental health condition as recorded by a healthcare provider, health plan, public health authority, employer, life insurer, school and other entities.

Over the years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has put in motion several efforts to upgrade and secure the County’s Information Technology systems, including:

•  requiring regular audits for IT safety

consolidating 49 separate data centers into one centralized location

• creating a centralized electronic health record system for the Departments of Health, Public Health, Mental Health and Public Safety; and

• fostering accountability and transparency by creating a state-of-the-art Open Data website where residents can access information ranging from restaurant ratings to crime statistics to county expenditures.

Small Businesses Get A Boost

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Advocates for small business who testified in favor of the motion during the Board’s Jan. 12, 2016 meeting.

Many local small businesses, as well as those owned by disabled veterans, are about to get a new customer: Los Angeles County.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Chair Hilda Solis, the Board of Supervisors approved the Small Business, Disabled Veteran-Owned Business and Social Enterprise Utilization Plan. Its goal is to ensure that by 2020, at least 25 percent of the County’s procurement contracts are awarded to local small businesses, while 3 percent go to businesses owned by disabled veterans.

Currently, the County spends $3.9 billion on procurement contracts every year.

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas listens to a representative of Homeboy Industries testifying in favor of the motion at the Board’s Jan. 12, 2016 meeting

“Supporting small businesses is good business for the County, as these enterprises provide half of all jobs in the region,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“Growing small businesses generate more tax revenues for local governments to provide critically needed services,” he added. “Small businesses also offer our youth the entry-level jobs needed to develop essential skills that provide a pathway for moving on to higher paying careers.”

The County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs said it is critical that the County expand its pool of certified businesses from the current level of 1,280 to a level comparable to the State of California, which has a pool of more than 5,000 certified small businesses in the County. Plans are underway for the County to streamline the certification process.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the plan also includes the County doing its fair share of business with social enterprises that provide training and jobs to disadvantaged members of our community. He added that the County and the community benefit by gainfully employing those who would otherwise be dependent on taxpayer-funded social safety net programs.

Funding the Homeless Fight —
Let the Voters Decide

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Faced with what may be the most critical moral, civil rights and social justice issue of our time, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering asking voters to approve a tax to fund the fight against homelessness.

Ongoing revenue – as opposed to one-time-only funding – would go far towards implementing the comprehensive 47-point strategy of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative, which seeks not only to house the homeless, but to provide a full range of supportive services that are vital for homeless persons to achieve stability and eventually become self-supporting.

We are in a crisis and, sadly, it is growing. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the current homeless population of 46,874, would fill every seat at the downtown Staples Center, USC’s Galen Center and the newly renovated Forum in Inglewood – combined. This is the largest number of homeless men, women and children in a local jurisdiction anywhere in the United States. It’s hard to believe but the trends strongly suggest there will be another 2,000 homeless individuals by this time next year. Needless to say, this is not only unsettling but patently shameful.

The disturbing increase in homelessness in LA County over the past three years is part of a statewide problem. The Board of Supervisors recently called on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide emergency on homelessness, which would make funding available immediately to assist California’s 115,000 homeless —the most of any state, and more than 20 percent of the United States’ homeless population. The California State Assembly answered the Board’s formal request last month, passing HR 56, which also urged the governor to make that emergency declaration. The general public has spoken as well, with some 14,000 people signing a petition urging the governor to act. People are paying attention to this inescapable crisis and the number of concerned citizens continues to grow.

Without abandoning its pursuit of state funding, the Board of Supervisors is also focusing its efforts on placing a sales tax, parcel tax or marijuana tax on the November ballot. Our deliberations are informed by 10 surveys conducted by diverse pollsters from February through July, which showed the electorate consistently and emphatically views homelessness as a top concern, second only to jobs and the economy. The polls also indicated an unprecedented willingness by likely voters to tax themselves to finance solutions to the crisis. The question is: What kind of tax would work best to fund the County’s response to the homeless crisis? There are three proposals to be considered on Tuesday, July 12th. They are as follows:

General Sales Tax

The sales tax proposed to the Board is equivalent to one-fourth of a cent, which would raise about $355 million a year. For the average taxpayer, that amounts to about $1 a month, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. A County-commissioned survey in April showed 68 percent of likely voters already in favor of a half-penny sales tax dedicated to homelessness – double what the Board is considering. These and other data make it clear that the people of LA County want something done and they are ready, willing and able to pay for it.

Parcel Tax

Another proposal for the Board’s consideration is a parcel tax that is projected to generate $185 million a year. At 3 cents per square foot, a property owner would pay about $45 annually for a 1,500 square foot parcel. At this rate, the parcel tax would generate less than half of what is required to address the homeless crisis with sufficient resources.

Marijuana Tax

This proposal may be a promising new source of revenue for the County, but at present, it is unclear how much revenue it would generate and when the County would start seeing returns on the upfront administrative costs. Although using marijuana for medical purposes is permitted under state law, recreational use remains illegal, although voters could change that in November. Even if California legalizes recreational marijuana use, federal law makes regulation and taxation a bit murky at this point. Further, public health and law enforcement officials, environmentalists and land use experts have all expressed concerns about the potential impact of legalization, and the overconcentration of dispensaries in some areas of the County.

While each funding option merits consideration and they all generally fared well in the polling, I believe a general sales tax levy provides the best opportunity to secure most of the funds needed on a yearly basis to effectively deal with this crisis. No other option comes close to generating as much revenue as the sales tax.   A projected annual yield of $355 million is nearly 80 percent of the total funds needed to put us on a path to ending homelessness, and sales tax revenues are more predictable than the other options.

It is unconscionable that Los Angeles County – one of the largest economies in the world – has nearly 47,000 human beings living on the streets. We can and must take action to provide decent housing and restore dignity to those forced to live in such unsafe and deplorable conditions, no matter how daunting the task. It is time to put a viable measure on the November ballot and let the voters demonstrate that they are serious about addressing this worsening tragedy.

 

Click here to view this Op-Ed in the Huffington Post.

Board Considers Ballot Options to Address Homeless Crisis

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stands with advocates for the homeless who testified in support of his motion.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and amendments from Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Michael Antonovich, the Board of Supervisors called for drafting three potential November 2016 ballot measures asking voters to consider a parcel tax, a sales tax or a marijuana tax to pay for programs to address Los Angeles County’s crisis of homelessness.

The most recent poll commissioned by the County concluded more than 69 percent of likely November 2016 voters would support an annual 3 cent per square foot parcel tax to generate ongoing funding to address homelessness. Specifically, voters support a ballot measure that would provide prevention and emergency support services, including job training, rental subsidies, counseling, and treatments for mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction; as well as create permanent and temporary affordable housing for children, seniors, families, foster youth, veterans, the disabled and homeless adults, with citizen oversight and independent audits.

“The quest to end homelessness has become the defining moral, civil rights and social justice issue of our time,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in the motion. “Now is the time for the Board to identify an ongoing funding stream to put before voters in November that can finance the strategies to meaningfully prevent and reduce the number of homeless in communities across the County.”

The electorate’s growing concern about homelessness has been highlighted in more than 10 polls conducted since March by conservative and progressive pollsters, academic and philanthropic institutions, think tanks and municipal governments. The same surveys also indicate the electorate’s unprecedented willingness to increase taxes – whether through a tax on high-income earners, a parcel tax, sales tax or marijuana tax – to generate ongoing revenue to address the crisis.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has calculated at least $450 million is needed annually to provide the County’s homeless population of 47,000 with supportive services, rental subsidies and other needs. Studies have confirmed that successfully housing the homeless and linking them with support services and employment save taxpayer dollars in avoidable health, law enforcement, property devaluation, and other costs.

“These are really scary times – every neighborhood has encampments of people living on sidewalks,” said Lisa Payne with the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing or SCANPH. “This calamity calls out for government action. We urge you to seize the opportunity to seize a parcel tax or other funding measure on the ballot.”

Ann Sewill with the California Community Foundation said various polls showed “an outpouring of support from voters” for going to the ballot to raise money to address the homeless crisis. Addressing the Board, she said, “The pragmatic idea is we should do what wins. The visionary idea is we should do what’s right. I think you have an opportunity before you with this motion to do both.”

Chris Ko with United Way of Greater L.A. said, “Inaction is unthinkable, especially when lives are on the line.”

The Board directed Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai to present the draft tax initiatives on July 12. The Board could then vote to adopt one or multiple ballot measures for placement on the November 8 ballot.

 

Metro Transit Plan To Ballot

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On Thursday, The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved the updated Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan for placement on the upcoming November ballot. The sales tax measure calls for a sustained funding approach that, if approved by the voters, would accelerate and pay for a wide variety of transit and highway projects, roadway improvements and pedestrian and bike paths.

“Today’s action paves the way towards building and sustaining a world-class, 21st Century transportation system here in Los Angeles County to accommodate the region’s growing needs,” said Metro Board Chair and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The placement of this important measure before the voters in November is a giant step in order to improve mobility, create jobs and improve the quality of life for all of L.A. County.”

“This plan includes hundreds of local and regional capital improvement projects,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “But this plan goes far beyond building and delivering projects. It includes operating and maintaining the system we build, developing new services that meet
the shifting needs of our region and it creates a smarter system that takes full advantage of the technology that is out there today and technology of the future that has yet to be developed.”

The Board also adopted an ordinance that included the expenditure plan that will implement the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan through a transportation sales tax measure and also adopted a resolution requesting that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors place the ordinance on the ballot with specific ballot language for the November 8, 2016,
countywide general election. The Board also approved a Metro staff recommendation to add $10.9 million to fund election related and public information activities.

The new Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan is available at www.metro.net/theplan.