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L.A. County Supervisors Vote To Support Earlier Re-Opening Of Theme Parks

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Six Flags Magic Mountain
Photo Courtesy of Six Flags

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to support a bill to re-open theme parks sooner. 

Supervisor Kathryn Barger motioned to support Assembly Bill (AB) 420 authored by Assemblymembers Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita. 

The bill would amend the state’s industry guidance to allow amusement and theme parks to open once a region is in the moderate or orange risk tier rather than the lower minimal or yellow tier.

Barger sent a letter of support to the bill’s sponsors earlier this month.

“With full outdoor operations and the ability to maintain physical distancing, theme parks across the country have proven that they can safely reopen,” Barger wrote. “Large theme parks nationwide began reopening last summer and there (have) not yet been any outbreaks or spread from these establishments.”

Barger said that densely populated counties such as Los Angeles would have a very difficult time meeting the minimal risk tier criteria of less than one daily case of COVID per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of less than 2%, which she said was unwarranted.

“Six Flags Magic Mountain in my district has been closed for nearly a year, while parks in other states have been open to the public and serving them safely. By opening our theme parks, we will trigger a ripple effect to our local economy, and in turn, create more jobs,”  Valladares said in a statement. 

The bill is expected to be heard in committee on March 7, according to the state. 

The supervisor cited a Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation report that the amusement, gambling, and recreation sector has experienced the highest percentage of job losses in the county, with more than 98% of jobs lost in the earliest months of the pandemic.

Most of those impacted are low-income workers with an average salary of $32,000 per year, according to the LAEDC study.

Earlier this month, Six Flags announced the company is aiming to open all North American theme parks, including Magic Mountian, in the Spring.

Once allowed to re-open, Magic Mountain is expected to have COVID-19 protocols in place, including a face-covering requirement and social distancing guidelines. 

Six Flags also expected to put a reservation system in place to ensure the number of parkgoers does not exceed the 25% capacity allowed. 

In addition, the park is also expected to provide contactless temperature and security screenings.

A date for the full re-opening on Magic Mountian is still unknown as of Tuesday.

Note: City News Service contributed to this report.

Politics

Revisitation Of Cannabis Ban In Unincorporated L.A. County Considered By Supervisors

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Cannabis Marijuana Weed

A revisitation of the current ban on commercial cannabis production and distribution in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County is being considered by the Board of Supervisors. 

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday to support a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis that directs the Office of Cannabis Management to revisit the regulations.

Shortly after the passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the supervisors enacted a ban on the commercial production and distribution of cannabis in unincorporated areas of the county. 

The ban was intended to be temporary until the County could develop and establish proper regulations, according to Hahn.

The board established the Office of Cannabis Management which convened a Working Group on Cannabis Regulation to develop recommendations for the board to consider. After conducting extensive community outreach and eight public convenings, the Working Group presented a report to the Board of Supervisors with 64 recommendations.

However, in June 2018, the Board of Supervisors chose to accept the report but not take any action to remove the cannabis ban. 

At the time, Hahn said the intention was not to rush the issue and felt there were “too many unanswered questions and uncertainties.”

In the three years since then, much has changed and evolved in the area of cannabis legalization. Multiple additional states have legalized recreational cannabis and the county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach are now allowing commercial cannabis.

“It has been three long years since we decided to keep the cannabis ban in place in the unincorporated area and a lot has changed,” said Hahn in a statement. “We’ve seen how legalization has played out in cities in our own county and we have seen states across the country move in the direction of legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis. It may be time for us to join them.”

The illegal production of cannabis has proliferated in unincorporated areas of L.A. County, including the Antelope Valley. 

Last month, over $1 billion of marijuana was seized in large-scale operations, some of which are connected to drug cartels, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva. 

County officials hope to curb the growth of illegal activity in unincorporated areas by possibly lifting the current ban on legal production. 

The Office of Cannabis Management is set to report back to the board with updated recommendations for cannabis retail, manufacturing, distribution, growth, testing, regulation, and enforcement in Los Angeles County in 120 days.

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L.A. City Council Approves Plan To Divert $56.6 Million From LAPD

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Crime LAPD Slider

The Los Angeles City Council approved a plan Tuesday to divert $56.6 million from the police department’s budget, investing the funds in community programs and alternatives to policing. 

Last year following the death of George Floyd and the movement to defund police, the City Council announced a plan to divert a total of $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). 

The funding is now expected to go toward anti-gang initiatives, homeless services, universal income programs, jobs initiatives and education.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved $32.2 million of the diverted funds. Mayor Eric Garcetti initially vetoed the proposal, however, later signed off on a revised plan the council approved.

Funds from both of the approved diversion plans are expected to be distributed equally across all districts of Los Angeles. 

City Council President Nury Martinez, who represents the east San Fernando Valley, has heard mixed support of the plan from the community.

Some communities “do want additional police officers. They feel safer that way,” Martinez said. “Some other communities don’t.”

In addition to the community programs, the plan allocated funds for “reimagined public safety” programs citywide, grant programs and quality of life services, according to the City report. 

The mayor still needs to sign off on the plan approved by the City Council.

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Los Angeles County Approves $1,000 Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion Tuesday to develop a guaranteed basic income (GBI) pilot program.

The motion, co-authored by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl, was passed by a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger opposing. 

Barger cited concerns that the pilot program was not fully researched and vetted to be implemented in a large county. 

Within 30 days, the county CEO is expected to establish the pilot program to serve at least 1,000 county residents for three years, according to the agenda.

A target population is set to receive, at a minimum, monthly income support of $1,000. Those in the pilot population are expected to include women living at or below the poverty level who were released from incarceration in the last seven years, transition-age youth head of households and domestic violence survivors.

On Monday, supervisors also passed a similar motion authored by Chair Hilda Solis aimed at creating a roadmap to implement the program.

“As the county transitions out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to support the recovery of our residents coping with the disproportionate financial impact brought on by this past year to help rebuild our communities,” Solis said in a statement. “A well-crafted GBI program spearheaded by (Department of Public Social Services) has the potential to assist vulnerable populations to meet basic needs and be placed on a path to economic mobility.”

Governor Gavin Newsom’s May Revision Budget includes $35 million over five years to pay for universal basic income pilot programs. These pilot programs would be locally administered, require a local-match commitment, and target low-income residents, according to Solis.

The passage of the motion instructs the county’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), and in consultation with other departments as appropriate, to report back in 60 days on the process for implementing GBI, coordination with the state’s universal basic income program, what it takes to fund this program, any funding considerations, approvals needed, any required waivers, wrap-around services to enhance program outcomes including financial coaching and the populations that could be served.

To read the full motion by Mitchell and Kuehl, visit here. Solis’ motion can be found here

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