Measure H Only Ballot Item for Malibu Voters on March 7

MHS Library polling location, 2015

Anyone in Malibu who votes by mail has probably already noticed the ballot for the upcoming election on March 7 only has one item on it. That item is Measure H —  a quarter-cent sales tax for LA County that would expire in 10 years, and be used to “prevent and combat” homelessness.

Molly Rysman, the housing and homelessness deputy for LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, came to Malibu City Hall last Thursday evening for a public forum on how the tax revenue from Measure H would be used. She was invited by a coalition of the Malibu Democratic Club, the Community Assistance and Resource Team (CART) and the Malibu Task Force on Homeless (MTFH); and introduced by City Council Member Jefferson Wagner and MTFH co-chair Pamela Conley Ulich.

Rysman first reminded everyone how bad the homeless problem has become throughout the county — a problem that no one could have predicted. In 2009, Rysman said there were 38,602 homeless individuals in LA County, and by 2016 there were 46,874. The increase came despite efforts to step up homeless programs to help get people off the street. 

“There’s been a disconnect between income and rent not only in LA, but in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago,” she said. “But LA is unique by not having a shelter system. Our homeless are more on the street, literally. In New York, two-thirds of the homeless are in shelters.”

On Feb. 16, 2016, the county adopted its widely publicized “homeless initiative,” which laid out 47 strategies to address homelessness, which were clustered in six key areas: Prevention, subsidizing rents, increasing income, funding case management and services, establishing a coordinated system (where law enforcement, hospitals, rehabs, etc. would share information)          and building more affordable housing.  

“When we talk about housing for the homeless, there are actually four different types,” Rysman explained. “Permanent housing, rapid re-housing — which tries to get people who are recently homeless back into housing as soon as possible — emergency shelter and prevention. Prevention is paying someone’s rent to prevent an eviction.”

Homeless support services that would be funded by Measure H include mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training and transportation. The ballot write-up reminds voters that the homeless include “children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors and the disabled.”

The county made a one-time $100 million commitment to funding its 47 initiatives, but actual costs will be about $450 million per year (not counting construction costs). That’s where Measure H comes in — to help address that shortfall. Even Measure H is only expected to bring in about $355 million annually, so there’s still a gap in funding that will somehow have to be compensated for. 

Measure H tax revenues would be dedicated only to the county’s homeless initiative, and would have a citizen’s oversight board and an independent auditor.  

“There will be a 40-member planning body to distribute the revenues from the tax,” Rysman explained. “They will determine how much money should go to each of the 47 strategies, and their recommendations will go to the County Board of Supervisors for adoption after input from the community.

“The best argument for Measure H is a moral argument around homelessness,” Rysman said. “Letting some people die on the streets is not good for our community in terms of health and safety. Nobody is okay with the status quo in terms of homelessness. I don’t think anyone wants to continue on the current trajectory.”

“LA County/City is now funded to build housing for the homeless,” said Carol Moss, founder of CART, in an interview (referring to the City of L.A., which voted overwhelmingly for Measure HHH to invest $1.2 billion in housing for the homeless in November). “To insure that program is effective, Measure H money gets them into those homes and helps them stay there. It also provides homeless prevention.”

There is no official opposition campaign to Measure H, but its outcome is still uncertain because only about 10 percent of voters are expected to turn out, and the measure will require 67 percent (two-thirds) of the vote to pass. 

A joint written statement in favor of Measure H issued by LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and other officials said: “The growing homeless crisis is disrupting nearly every community in the county — compromising public health and safety and hurting local businesses. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to help the homeless population.”