Diagnosing a Way Out of Jail Time

I’m doing research on mental health and reading “Is There No Place On Earth For Me?”, a book by Susan Sheehan. I picked it up because it gives an insider look at Creedmoor, a psychiatric hospital in Queens that I passed often on Grand Central Parkway as a child coming back from family visits in the Bronx and Queens.

Aside from main story, an insightful view of the system by following a patient, was an odd story of a New York police officer who shot a 15-year-old black boy in the head after the youth asked him a question. No threat. No gun. No argument. Just asked him a question.

At trial, a defense psychiatrist said the officer had a “psychomotor epilepsy” and had had a seizure during the unprovoked shooting. The officer was acquitted due to “mental disease or defect” and sent to Creedmoor. A year and half later, he was released because the psychiatrists treating him could find nothing wrong with him. Since they could only keep him if he was a danger to himself or others, they had little choice.

After being released, he also tried to get disability from the NYPD, which was denied.

It reminded me of a recent story when a psychologist suggested that a young, drunk man who killed four others might have psychological afflictions because he was too rich to tell right from wrong. He was dubbed the “affluenza teen.” He served two years.

LA Homelessness an Unprecedented Challenge

This article was originally posted at Hub.com 

Los Angeles is facing an unprecedented challenge with more than 34,000 people suffering homelessness. The city is the latest municipality struggling to end the heartbreaking and vicious cycle in the face of residential and business opposition, high-housing costs and lack of available housing.  

Over the past few years, the number of homeless has skyrocketed. In 2016, the count was an estimated 28,000. By 2017, the number topped 34,000, with Los Angeles County hitting 57,000, a spike of 23 percent from the previous year. The city has the highest number of “unsheltered” homeless people, living on sidewalks, in cars, campers and tents in the country. This year’s Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count numbers have not yet been released, but it’s expected to be higher. 

A recent UC Irvine study found that the top causes of homelessness were unemployment, the high cost of housing and family problems, including domestic violence. Alcohol and drug abuse and mental health problems followed. It also found that it’s twice as expensive to care for a homeless person on the street as it is to get them into permanent supportive housing.  

Mayor Eric Garcetti called homelessness “the moral issue of our time,” saying the city planned to “end homelessness once and for all.”  

What Others Are Doing  

In the face of such high numbers, Los Angeles is looking at what other municipalities have done. 

San Diego and Houston, Texas, have pursued the “Housing First” concept, which prioritizes permanent housing and added services. At a recent meeting in San Diego, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker said that approach and other programs dramatically reduced the number of homeless in her city.  

She also said cities need to create specific solutions for each person, all of whom have their own individual problems, and not treat all as a group.  But she dismissed the idea of ending homelessness all together.  

“You cannot end homeless,” Parker said. “You can manage it. It’s like a chronic disease, and there are new people falling into homelessness on a regular and repeat basis.” 

Orange County has kicked off a campaign, called “United to End Homelessness.” Launched in February, it has brought together leaders from business, philanthropy, faith, and government. According to the Voice of OC, it’s aligned with an effort by Orange County’s association of cities to double the number of housing units with supportive services for homeless people – from 2,700 to 5,400 – within the next three years. It’s a similar approach that officials in Orlando, Florida took, which placed an estimated 3,400 homeless people into permanent housing during 2015, according to the Orlando Sentinel. 

In Seattle, Washington, the city was the first in the country to offer public land and funding to support permitted encampments.   

According to a city report, “the model is successfully serving people who have been living outside in greenbelts, on the streets, in cars and in hazardous situations.” In addition, crime hasn’t spiked near encampments, and neighbors have come to accept them. 

Part of the reason for the success is that people are not constantly moving. “In the past encampments, or tent cities, were only permitted to stay in one location for a 90-day period. The disruptive nature of the 90-day limit placed a burden on the encampment community,” the report said.  

Despite the success, critics of official encampments say it wastes funds on ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of the people living within the encampments and prevents funding from being directed to supporting and creating permanent housing and service options.  

“The formation of encampments does not represent an end to homelessness, and strategies that focus on making encampments an official part of the system for responding to homelessness can serve to distract communities from focusing on what is most important—connecting people experiencing homelessness to safe, stable, permanent housing,” said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.  

Resources  

Funding approved by voters will help Los Angeles. Proposition HHH will provide $1.2 billion in bond proceeds over a decade to build permanent housing, and Measure H will provide an estimated $3.5 billion over 10 years for rent subsidies and services. The expectation is that the funding will create or subsidize 15,000 housing units and pay for services to support those living in them. There is also an Assembly bill proposing $1.5 billion in budget state surplus money to address homelessness across the state.  

Los Angeles City Council members are also pushing for each district to approve 222 units of homeless housing by the summer, though even if that figure is met and built, which is questionable, it is dwarfed by the units actually needed. 

The city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee recently approved proposals to streamline the building of units for the homeless population and allow participating motels and hotels to be renovated and used for supportive and transitional housing. Both would need to be approved by the City Council.   

“The bottom line is we have to accelerate our efforts to provide more long-term supportive housing and temporary, emergency housing,” said Councilman José Huizar. “The need is great on both ends and we simply must do more to meet that demand.”   

Campaign Against “Not In My Backyard” Attitude  

City officials say neighborhoods and community members throughout the far-flung city need to work together and accept that more homeless housing needs to be built throughout Los Angeles.  

“We are not going to solve or even make a significant dent in homelessness unless we are all part of the solution,” said Councilman Mike Bonin. “All of us — every elected official, every part of the city, every demographic. It’s either all-hands-on-deck, or this ship is going to sink under the weight of this crisis.” 

The city also plans to use public land, including parking lots and other places, as official, albeit temporary, homeless shelters. One pilot program will provide trailers as temporary shelter with services in a parking lot near the El Pueblo Historic Monument Downtown. That proposal has already met with swift opposition by residents.  

Olvera Street vendors blasted the plan to put the trailers on a city-owned parking lot at Arcadia and Alameda streets for up to three years, according to published reports. Vendors complained that the homeless population would increase in the area and discourage tourists from visiting. They also questioned why trailers were not being placed in other areas.   

As part of the campaign to get buy-in from community members, a United Way-led program, similar to Orange County, began on March 9 in Los Angeles. The “Everyone In” coalition will advocate for new housing and services for homeless people in their neighborhoods. Elise Buik, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, cited a recent survey showing that 70 percent of Los Angeles residents polled said they would support housing for the homeless in their neighborhood.  

“There’s a lot of talk about NIMBYs (not in my backyard) but we want to start talking about YIMBYs (yes, in my backyard),” Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. “Everyone In means we’re all responsible for this.” 

City News Service contributed quotes to this article.

Years of Teaching Grade School, Prepared Blanca Rubio for CA Legislature

For Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, 16 years of teaching in elementary school prepared her for the California Legislature.

“The amount of learning you have to get through in a single day to understand the issuesbr is crazy. If you’re not prepared for it, you could be overwhelmed,” said the West Covina Democrat in a recent interview about her first year in office. “Thankfully, I was a teacher. That’s the dynamic a teacher has to deal with every day. I’m used to it.”

Elected in 2016, her district includes Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bradbury, Industry, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Irwindale, Monrovia, West Covina, and unincorporated areas such as Bassett, Charter Oak, Citrus, East Arcadia, Ramona, Valinda and West La Puente.

With 20 years of elected office, serving on the Valley County Water Board and Baldwin Park Unified School District Board, she built many relationships in Sacramento over the years. But once elected to the Assembly, Rubio said, she met with every member in both houses to expand on those relationships. She also learned about issues that were important to Northern California members so that they could work together.

The results: six of Rubio’s bills were signed into law in her first year. During budget negotiations, she obtained millions of dollars for San Gabriel Valley transportation projects. This included $33.7 million for a pavement preservation project to add and upgrade lanes, guardrail and improve roads on the 605 freeway from the 10 to 210; $2.8 million to resurface parts of the 605 between El Monte and West Covina; and $2.9 million for a bridge project on Peck Road.

Chairwoman of the Human Services Committee and Select Committee on Domestic Violence, Rubio has authored bills that support victims of domestic violence, help children in foster care and assist immigrant communities.

In addition, Rubio and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, recently introduced a bill to combat the growing youth homelessness problem. The proposed legislation would use $60 million from the cannabis tax fund and general funds for rapid rehousing, rental assistance, transitional housing, shelters and other assistance for minors and youth.

It’s an issue that reminds her of why she ran for Assembly. She estimated that she had more than 500 students come through her classrooms, but it was two young girls, Alicia and Aveena, she remembers often. They had to overcome major obstacles to even get to school, let alone succeed, including being hungry. Once she realized they didn’t have any school supplies at home to complete assignments and put together a take-home box of pens, pencils and other items.

“I will tell you, I have a hard time asking for myself. But if I’m advocating for a cause, I can ask for anything,” she said, when discussing the challenges of running for office as a Latina and single mother of two as well as raising money from donors. So “why am I doing this? I’m advocating for the Alicias and Aveenas of the world. There are many kids just like them.”

She has also generated some criticism from liberal groups. The California Environmental Justice Alliance and the Courage Campaign essentially gave her C grades on her voting record.

Rubio said that while she was aligned with the groups’ goals, she didn’t agree with all of their legislative aims. She said she would continue to advocate for the residents and businesses of her district. It’s critical for businesses to stay in California, she added, because they pay the taxes that fund important programs.

While Rubio bristled at the description of her 2016 Assembly election being an “upset,” she said she knew she was going to win as did many community members, she acknowledged that the lack of establishment endorsements in the campaign turned out to be a good thing.

“I can look at all sides of the issue” without worrying about being beholden to special interests, she said. She noted that the same qualities that helped her win elections, work in the Legislature. “They might have the money and the endorsements, but no one will ever outwork me.”

Published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune 

Ed Hernandez and the Lieutenant Governor Bully Pulpit

Ed Hernandez has begun a five-month sprint to the June primary for lieutenant governor. But why?

Ed_hernandezThe 60-year-old West Covina state Senate Democrat has more than a decade of California legislative accomplishments behind him, a prosperous San Gabriel Valley optometry business, a daughter who has entered politics and grandchildren. As for the lieutenant governor job, the current occupant derides it as a ceremonial post with no real authority.

But Hernandez disagrees.

“I believe lieutenant governor is the most important constitutional office in the state of California, outside of the governor, and I think previous lieutenant governors haven’t taken advantage of that,” he said in a recent interview. “I want to take all those years of legislative experience and business experience into that office and make something of it.”

First elected to the Assembly in 2006, Hernandez won a seat in the state Senate in 2010. As chairman of the health committee, he was one of the primary architects behind the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California. Recently, he took on Big Pharma by passing a groundbreaking transparency law to help combat the skyrocketing and unsustainable prices of prescription medicine in California.

As an optometrist, he knows how important health care access is and how difficult it can be for some. He supports the goal of universal health care, but says there needs to be the political will to take on difficult choices:

“The real, true conversations are about market reform, and how do we control cost. The second is our two-tiered health care system, where poor people don’t have access to healthcare, and wealthy people do. Those are the conversations we have to have.”

The political climate has been especially contentious lately. The grandson of Mexican immigrants, Hernandez said the anger in the Latino community reminds him of when Prop. 187, which he fought against, was approved. The 1994 proposition cut off state services, including health care and public education, to those in the country illegally. It was later overturned.

“I’ve never seen so much political activism. I started traveling the state to talk to people about the Affordable Care Act, and there were hundreds and thousands of people showing up at town halls,” he said. “And we had done town halls before that, for Covered California, and you would get maybe at most 100. Now, these were packed houses, in gyms and high schools. There is a lot of anger out there, but also among the Latino communities and population.”

An unprecedented number of strong minority candidates are on the ballot, he noted. If all win — Antonio Villaraigosa, running for governor; Kevin de León, for U.S. Senate; Xavier Becerra, for attorney general; Ricardo Lara, for insurance commissioner; Fiona Ma, for state treasurer; and Betty Yee and Alex Padilla, running for re-election as state controller and secretary of state — all the offices would be non-white for the first time ever in California.

“I’m predicting that you are going to see a large voter turnout of Latinos that could propel these candidates to higher office,” he said.

Hernandez also said he expects that the current movement exposing and ending sexual misconduct in California, and across the country and industries, will change the culture forever.

“No one, male or female, should ever be subjected to any kind of inappropriate advances, and no one should take advantage of an individual because they have some type of influence over them for any inappropriate reason,” he said.

If Hernandez wins, in eight years, he would still be younger than Jerry Brown when he ran for governor in 2010. Would the La Puente native run for an office that has more “real authority”?

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he said. “Right now, I’m totally concentrating to be the next lieutenant governor and supporting whoever our next governor’s going to be.”

Published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Los Angeles Daily News and Pasadena Star-News

SGV Senate Seat Money Hunt

It costs, on average, $1.1 million to win a seat in the California Senate, according to Maplight.org. As of the reporting period ending in 2017 for the San Gabriel Valley race to replace Sen. Ed Hernandez, Mike Eng has $1.156 million; Susan Rubio $306,000; everyone else either has dropped out (Vicky Martinez) or not reported any contributions (Monica Garcia, Michael Adams, Ruben Sierra). The only other money in the race is in a fund controlled by disgraced Roger Hernandez. I hear he’s chasing the cannabis train, but who knows.

UPDATE: This is cash on hand. The candidates have spent some of the money they have raised.

Candidates Circling State Sen. Mendoza, Central Basin Generosity

Montebello mayor says she is ‘seriously considering’ run against embattled Sen. Tony Mendoza

With state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) on a leave of absence pending a sexual harassment probe, Montebello Mayor Vanessa Delgado said Tuesday that one reason she is considering a possible election challenge to the incumbent is that there is no one standing up for the Senate district with him absent.

Other names being bandied about for SD 32 (the southern part of SGV) are former Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, Cerritos College trustee Sandra Salazar, and Angela Acosta-Salazar, a former Rio Hondo Community College trustee. March 4 is the filing deadline, unless Mendoza either resigns or doesn’t run again. Then the deadline is March 9.

He worked at a water district for just seven days. But it ended up costing $1.5 million

By last fall, Beilke had found work at a company that operates a solar farm in El Mirage in the Mojave Desert. It’s run by a former Central Basin executive.

His job involved finding local governments willing to do business.

Will Mike Eng Bring Back Redevelopment Program To Create Affordable Housing?

Mike Eng held a popular “Coffee With Mike” event in Covina this week. Despite the State of the Union Tuesday night, and the acrimony toward President Trump, Eng had more than 50 people attend, first giving a short speech and then answering questions. One interesting topic he mentioned was bringing back redevelopment agencies to fund affordable housing.

Redevelopment was killed in 2012, criticized as a giveaway to developers. Legislation passed in 2015 bought back portions of the program, but apparently it’s not doing enough. We’ll track where this goes. Eng is running to replace state Sen. Ed Hernandez for Senate District 22.

MEng