Publishers Corner Clifton Harris
Publisher of The San Bernardino AMERICAN News
Supervisor Robert Lovingood wants us, the voters of San Bernardino County, to impose a crime tax on ourselves. Passage of this tax will require a two-thirds vote of the people. In order to achieve this supermajority, Lovingood needs to engage in a meaningful discussion with voters regarding the causes and prevention of crime. The solution can’t be to just add cops and prosecutors. It’s never that simple and quite frankly that would never pass.
Here’s a thought about what might actually work:
First of all, let’s stop playing the blame game and let’s look at the facts. Let’s start with one of Lovingood’s pet peeves, AB 109, the realignment law. Defendants who are convicted of less serious felonies now go to the county jail to serve their sentences instead of to state prison. Calling out Sacramento for AB 109 may be comforting for some people, but here’s the fact: federal courts ordered California to significantly reduce its state prison population. Read that again, it was a Federal Court order.
The legislature adopted AB 109 to comply. The only other option would have been to build more prisons, a financial and political non-starter. Lovingood knows that and he should publicly acknowledge it. So does Joseph Brady, who has recently called for a regional crime summit. Any politician who wants us to vote to increase our tax burden needs to be straight with us.
Then there’s the other favorite bogeyman, Proposition 47. In 2014 California voters passed Proposition 47 which reduced several drug possession felonies and low-level thefts to misdemeanors. Lovingood, Brady, and Daily Press editorial staff have recently gone on record blaming Sacramento for this initiative but here’s another fact: Proposition 47 was approved by an overwhelming majority of California voters (60 percent to 40 percent). It’s not just Sacramento, the majority of voting Californians now realize that the solution to our drug epidemic is not incarceration but treatment.
Proposition 47 was not some nebulous evil Sacramento conspiracy. In San Bernardino County, 139,000 people (49 percent) voted for Proposition 47, a virtually even split with the no vote. Lovingood’s crime tax is going to need a large segment of these 139,000 yes on 47 voters if he hopes to garner that two-thirds vote.
If Lovingood is serious about passing a tax measure to address crime issues, he needs to craft a measure that addresses the issues that cause criminality in our county. He can add cops and prosecutors if he wants to, but the tax measure needs to include a significant increase in funding for treatment of addiction and mental illness. For over 30 years I have been speaking to inmates in our local jails. I’ve seen the effects of mass incarceration on generations of families, and if we are going to stop the cycle we are going to have to address the problems, not just throw people in jail for a little while and then send them on their way.
A vast majority of the people in our county jails are suffering from addiction, mental health issues, or both. A crime tax that funds mental health treatment, addiction services and maybe homelessness and poverty, is worth a serious discussion. I like Brady’s concept of a crime summit. It should include moving toward mental health and substance abuse solutions. Let’s avoid the demagoguery and let’s start talking to each other.
Mark Shoup is an Apple Valley resident.