Now you may think I am a special kind of stupid for being homeless and voting against a proposition that is supposed to help me. But once you hear me out, you may understand why. First of all, I am not a pocketbook voter. When I walk into the voting booth, my thought is not how this will affect me personally but how it will affect society at large and if it will hurt them even though it will benefit me, I will not vote for it.
This week we had two measures that dealt with housing in Los Angeles City and County. I voted no on both of them. They were Proposition H and Measure S. I will explain what each one was and why I voted the way I did.
Proposition H: Homeless-services advocates on Wednesday cautiously celebrated the apparent victory of Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would fund housing and support for thousands of people currently living on the streets. That sounds all well and good until you take a closer look at it.
- We already have have the one of the highest sales tax in the nation. Right now it is 9 percent and the tax would make our tax 9.5%. However you also have to remember we have to pay for our grocery bags which are 10 cents each and don’t go for helping anyone but the grocer. We are taxed to death in California and while the homeless population doesn’t pay income tax, by and large, (though you would be surprised, a lot of the homeless do work and do pay income tax) we pay every other tax. Enough of it already.
- Years ago we voted for the lottery because it was supposed to help schools. All these years later, we are 41st in the nation. We have not climbed up the ladder of educational success. And even though we have some of the best universities in the world in California, our K-12 public education system is failing our students. So why would I believe that is going to be any different with the homeless? They have not proved themselves with me with education, I am certainly not going to trust them to dispense that money wisely to curb the homeless situation in Los Angeles.
- They talk about independent audits as if that helps. The lottery has independent audits as well, still don’t see it helping the schools. I have heard the “independent audit”tune ad nauseam, yet somehow the money manages to become mismanaged. Until I see more ethical behavior with politicians I am certainly not going to trust them with more money.
- I will be fine, others will not. I am by no means rich or even middle class but I will get by. I always do. However, there are those who make far less than I do who will impacted greatly by this. For instance, since only 10 percent of homeless live on Skid Row and the funds will be distributed more “evenly throughout Los Angeles County.” Translation: The richer areas will get their “fair share” while the people who desperately will still receive less funds. Basically Proposition H gives the finger to the Skid Row residents.
- They had just voted on a proposition to help the homeless in November (HHH). Proposition HHH gave money to the city of Los Angeles for the homeless while Proposition H gives it to the County of Los Angeles. In either case, it hasn’t been that long since we taxed ourselves to help the homeless and even though I became homeless in December, well let’s say January that is when I showed up at URM, there hasn’t been enough time for Proposition HHH to take effect and we are already looking for another handout? That is absurd.
Measure S: An initiative to change the city’s laws governing changes to the general plan and development projects, Measure S, was on the ballot for voters in Los Angeles, California, on March 7, 2017. It was defeated.
This initiative was known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. A “yes” vote was a vote in support of imposing a moratorium on construction that increases development density for up to two years, prohibiting project-specific amendments to the city’s general plan, requiring a public review of the city’s general plan every five years, requiring city staff—not developers or project applicants—to perform environmental impact reports, and establishing other changes to the city’s general plan laws.
- When I first heard of this, that whole pocketbook part of me came out: “Are you kidding me? I am homeless and you want to stop construction on building homes, are you insane!” Then when my unselfishness ended I started thinking about how this would affect people worse off than me. And I grew more enraged. According to Measure S affordable housing would not be affected:
- Any development project that is restricted entirely to affordable housing units and that could be completed through zoning or height limit changes without amending the city’s general plan.
- That sounds great, but given the past behavior of politicians it won’t be long until every affordable housing project won’t meet zoning or height limits and will have to be amended to the general plan, while the richer neighborhoods will be okay.
- More people will be homeless. According to Measure S, this was supposed to help with evictions but they didn’t really incorporate how. Yes, we have a pretty corrupt housing system, but the plan didn’t do anything to stop the corruption. Putting a ban on housing when we are in such desperately need of housing doesn’t do anything to stop corruption but it will drive people out of their homes as rents go up.
Freezing construction—even temporarily—in one of the priciest housing markets in the U.S. would only worsen LA’s affordability crisis, housing advocates had warned. And, critics said, Measure S would have hampered efforts to build more affordable units.
3. The endorsers were Progressive Democrats. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the main financial backer of Measure S, an effort to block some real estate development projects citywide in Los Angeles. Those behind the measure have claimed it would benefit AIDS patients, many of whom are struggling to pay the bills as LA’s housing costs skyrocket.
But on Friday [March 3], the Los Angeles City Controller and the head of the Los Angeles LGBT Center pushed back, arguing the March 7 ballot measure would only exacerbate the area’s affordability crisis. It wasn’t just Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that was pushing for it but people like Diane Watson who is a former Congresswoman. Along with groups like Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles Grassroots for Obama (LAG4O) and Progressive Democratic Club.
With all these progressive Democrats saying this was a good thing for poor people, I knew immediately it was not and I could not in good conscience vote for a bill I knew would only create more homelessness in Los Angeles.
4. Lastly, the majority of the people who endorsed it were rich and therefore the two moratorium would have little impact on them. Now, I am not some rich-hating Dem but the first thing you learn in Poli Sci 101 is to follow the money. So if you have a lot of rich people backing legislation, it is obviously going to benefit them. The same would hold true if it was a bunch of poor people, Hispanics or gays. Once I saw that the majority people were neighborhood councils from Beverly Hills, Encino, etc. Once I saw they had pretty much every environmental attorney in the state on board, I became more suspicious about its intent.
Michael Weinstein mentioned how many AIDS victims are struggling to pay the rising cost of living because of their medical bills. However, one thing you have to remember about gay men (who are the majority of people with HIV/AIDS) is that they have higher incomes than straight couples. Married gay couples, with an average household income of about $115,000, make slightly more money than unmarried gay couples, whose average is $111,223. For straight couples, the gap between married and unmarried couples is much higher. Married straight couples make $101,487 per year on average, compared to just $69,511 for unmarried straight couples. This was taken from the Census. While there might be plenty of low income people with HIV/AIDS, knowing this fact does make me doubt his credibility that he is trying to help low-income people with HIV.
So for these reasons I voted no. So did the majority of Californians. Measure S was defeated. We will see how Proposition H works out but I am not holding my breath that the homeless that need the money will see a dime of it. However, this I know when I walked in that voting booth, it wasn’t just about me, it was about what would benefit all. People call me a purist as if that is some kind of insult. I find it the highest compliment. It means I will not compromise my ethics for the Almighty dollar. Even if I am in desperate need of that dollar. It feels good knowing that.