LA City Council’s budget committee backs a compromise on Inside Safe funding

A week after Los Angeles City Council budget chair Bob Blumenfield said the council wouldn’t simply rubber-stamp Mayor Karen Bass’ spending plan for the next fiscal year, the committee backed a tweaked proposal which Blumenfield said would give Bass flexibility to pursue her signature homeless program — but give the council the accountability it’s seeking.

The issue that emerged last week was whether the council should give Bass the full $250 million she wants for her Inside Safe initiative upfront, or set aside some of it in a separate account to be released later, to ensure the council had more oversight of her centerpiece program.

On Friday, Blumenfield, who chairs the powerful budget committee, again stressed that the mayor and City Council “overwhelmingly” share values and priorities, including the need to tackle the homeless crisis.

“To the extent that there has been any disagreement, it’s been because we all have that same passion” to address homelessness, Blumenfield said at the hearing.

“It’s our responsibility as elected officials to legislate and to help shape policies on homelessness and other matters,” he added. “The council must remain at the table as partners in finding longterm solutions. We must, we can and we will do that.”

The mayor wanted maximum flexibility to spend $250 million on Inside Safe, Blumenfield said, while some councilmembers wanted more oversight and accountability from her office.

Last week, budget committee members discussed putting some of the money for Inside Safe in an “unappropriated” balance fund rather than directly allocate it to the mayor’s office. That money would not be released to her until the council acted.

But Bass raised concerns that not having immediate access would slow down her administration’s ability to act swiftly to address the homeless crisis.

This week, the budget committee ultimately approved a different option: Give Bass $65.7 million on July 1 – which Blumenfield said the mayor indicated she’d need to start the fiscal year. The remaining $184.3 million would be placed in the General City Purpose (GCP) fund.

Then each time the Inside Safe account dips below $25 million, the city’s chief administrative office would notify the mayor, councilmembers and city controller, and the fund would automatically be replenished to $50 million by withdrawing money from the GCP fund.

The council could also order the auto-replenishment to stop at any time.

“The mayor is very comfortable with this idea as well, because she understands that we need to have transparency and accountability,” Blumenfield said.

As a condition to automatically replenishing Inside Safe, the budget committee put in a stipulation that the mayor’s office must provide biweekly reports to the council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee – one report focused on expenditures and another detailing other aspects such as logistics. The first report must be submitted in June.

Zach Seidl, spokesperson for the mayor, said shortly after Friday’s budget hearing that Bass and members of her administration are reviewing the budget committee’s decisions.

“This is a step in a multi-step process and the Mayor looks forward to continuing her work with the City Council to urgently bring Angelenos inside,” he said in a text. “The Mayor is confident that the collaboration with the City Council established over the past five months will continue.”

In addition to homelessness, this year’s budget discussions have focused heavily on public safety.

While the budget provides funding to support robust police and fire departments, it also invests in unarmed crisis responses, Blumenfield said.

“The budget will continue and expand on our unarmed alternative crisis response,” Blumenfield said. “… I’m excited to see us really systematize and institutionalize new ways to respond to emergency calls with the best possible person to help.”

The approximately $13 billion proposed city budget for the new fiscal year is expected to be voted on by the full council during a special meeting next Thursday, May 18.

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