L.A. voters recently approved Measure HHH, which will fund homeless services via the sale of $1.2 billion in bonds. Last December the City Council approved the creation of a citizens’ oversight committee to monitor the expenditure of this vast sum of money. That committee consists of seven people, three appointed by the Council and four appointed by the Mayor. The Mayor doesn’t seem to have nominated anyone yet, but last Friday the Council, in CF 16-1060-S1, nominated their three. The only weirdo in the bunch is Blair Besten, executive directrix of the Historic Core BID downtown.
Of course, anyone who follows the bad BIDness propagated by our City’s business improvement districts knows this is a bad, bad idea for any number of reasons. It was therefore heartening to see, tonight, explicit opposition to Blair Besten’s appointment coming from a coalition of Skid Row organizations and service providers. Their eloquent and well-argued letter hit the Council file mere moments ago. You can read the whole thing after the break if you don’t like PDFs. Now, I have to say that I agree with their reasoning, and from the point of view of sound public policy, I completely agree that her appointment is a terrible idea. However, for for purely selfish reasons I kind of hope she makes it on, because the potential for chaos is high. Note that this is up for a vote TOMORROW.
January 24, 2017
We the undersigned Skid Row-based organizations and service providers write you to express our deep concern with the proposed appointment of Blair Besten to the Proposition HHH Civilian Oversight Committee. This appointment is expected to go in front of City Council on Friday, January 27, and we strongly urge you to reconsider this appointment and instead propose someone who is more qualified and has more experience in working with homeless policy and programs.
Our organizations worked tirelessly in last year’s election to ensure that every voter we engaged voted “Yes” on Proposition HHH. LA CAN’s work on HHH alone through door knocking, phone banking, and GOTV efforts resulted in us contacting more than 35,000 unique voters to support HHH. Now that it has passed, proper implementation is key, and the civilian oversight committee is critical to ensuring that these funds are spent wisely. It is also an opportunity to bring experts and advocates on homelessness and housing to the table to provide the valuable input required to make sure Proposition HHH funding is delegated appropriately. Lastly, we believe that there should be representation from those impacted by homelessness. Expertise comes in many forms – and those with lived experience in homelessness and/or working directly with homeless populations is extremely important.
For these reasons and others, we strongly oppose the appointment of Blair Besten to this committee. Besten is a business leader in Downtown LA whose work has actually contributed to the displacement of low-income and/or homeless residents in our community. As opposed to the other two proposed appointees, she has no expertise on homeless services, policy or permanent supportive housing development. Additionally, in recent years she has been opposed to opportunities to get people off the streets and into housing, like the failed Cecil Hotel Home for Good proposal that would have seen 300 homeless people put into housing.
There are far more qualified individuals within Downtown and specifically Skid Row who would be better candidates for this committee. We would be willing to submit potential names, as our organizations have been serving the homeless population in Skid Row for decades.
In closing, we urge you to not appoint Blair Besten and instead make a greater effort to create a committee of individuals who are qualified and fully committed to getting homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent housing.
Church without Walls
Los Angeles Community Action Network
Los Angeles Poverty Department
United Central City East Prevention Project
Image of Blair Besten is a public record and I cropped it from this image here.