Garcetti Calls for New Education Tax in State of the City

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his State of the City address at Abraham Lincoln High School on April 17, 2019. (Nathan Solis/CNS)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – In a packed high school auditorium, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti presented a set of lofty goals for the city that includes a new education tax, forging a green economy, combating climate change and ending homelessness.

The State of the City address was made on the same week that Los Angeles announced it would develop its own Green New Deal separate from the proposed national program that aims to combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions and shifting the job market to green jobs.

“What will future generations call us?” Garcetti asked the audience at Abraham Lincoln High School outside downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday evening. “I believe that when they are asked what we did to meet the challenges of our age, they will answer: the generation that secured our future.”

Garcetti’s State of the City address was made at a high school in a predominantly Latino neighborhood where he made the case for a ballot measure that would put in place a parcel tax to fund local schools.

Last year, Garcetti laid out a set of goal markers for the City of Angels, like building 10,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.

The city’s Bridge Home program aimed to open temporary shelter spaces across all 15 council districts in Los Angeles, but that goal has been deflated and so far only a handful of locations have been opened with pushback from local residents.

On Wednesday, Garcetti admitted that it hasn’t been an easy challenge to open those shelter spaces.

“Yes, we can point to the barriers we didn’t see coming. NIMBYism that’s slowed down projects, lawsuits focused more on keeping people’s stuff on the streets than how quickly we can move them indoors, a statewide housing crisis that hasn’t gotten any better,” Garcetti said. “But I’m passionate about this. There’s no issue I work on more deeply than homelessness and I can tell you this: we will get there. We will get there.”

Garcetti, 48, flirted with the idea of making a run for the White House and visited several cities that could be viewed as campaign stops over the last few years.

Then there was the teacher’s strike in January 2019, where some 30,000 educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District went on a week-long strike and brought the nation’s second largest school district to a halt. The United Teachers of Los Angeles and school district officials publicly traded barbs and Garcetti’s office provided the neutral arena of city hall for negotiations to resume.

Shortly after a deal was reached, Garcetti said he would not run for office because he felt that there was too much work to do in Los Angeles.

The setting at Wednesday’s night’s speech was symbolic because more than fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln High School was among several East Los Angeles schools where students staged walkouts to demand fair treatment for the Latino student body, who argued that an Anglo-centric curriculum often excluded and disparaged them.

“With their peers from across East LA, they protested failing schools, low expectations, unequal conditions, racist teachers — an education system that was supposed to work for them, but that too often worked against them,” Garcetti said. “In standing up and speaking out, these students — many of them immigrants and children of immigrants — wrote a heroic new chapter of American history.”

After the walkouts of 1968, college enrollment for Latino students went up exponentially across the University of California system.

Outside the auditorium, homeless advocate Gabrielle Castleberry-Gordon and several members of the local Black Lives Matter chapter said they were barred from entering the event because they did not RSVP. The group wanted to discuss police shootings of unarmed people of color.

“This event is supposed to be addressing the city. Aren’t we part of the city? We’re the ones who are actually trying to solve the problems in the city on the ground,” said Castleberry-Gordon. “It is going to embolden me more to keep working.”

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