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Federal judge requests investigation into the mayor’s signature program, Inside Safe

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Mayor Karen Bass’ signature initiative, Inside Safe, is under intense scrutiny as a federal judge and the city controller seek to audit the program. Inside Safe is aimed at moving unhoused individuals from encampments to indoor facilities such as hotels and motels.

During a recent court hearing related to a motion filed by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter called for an audit of the program. The L.A. Alliance has accused the city of failing to meet the terms of a settlement agreement that dates back nearly two years, which required the city to build shelter beds and clear homeless encampments. The alliance is seeking $6.4 million in monetary sanctions from the city.

Judge Carter expressed concerns about the transparency and accountability of public funds allocated to fight homelessness. He specifically questioned the effectiveness of the nonprofit homeless service providers involved in the Inside Safe program and requested a detailed account of their work.

City Controller Kenneth Mejia also asserted his authority to audit homeless programs overseen by the mayor’s office, contradicting earlier statements made by the city administrative officer. Mejia announced plans to conduct a “focused audit” of Inside Safe, which received $250 million in the city’s budget this year.

Mayor Karen Bass, who is currently in France with a city delegation, was not available for immediate comment on the audit request. However, City Council President Paul Krekorian offered to have an independent auditor appointed by the court to investigate Inside Safe.

The L.A. Alliance has accused the city of missing deadlines and negotiating in bad faith regarding the settlement agreement to shelter a certain percentage of individuals living on the streets in each council district. The group’s attorney, Elizabeth Mitchell, highlighted the city’s shortcomings in complying with the agreement.

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Chief Assistant City Attorney Scott Marcus acknowledged the city’s failure to communicate effectively with the alliance but defended the city’s progress in creating shelter beds. Judge Carter indicated that he is inclined to rule in favor of the alliance, citing a lack of good faith on the city’s part.

In light of the increased scrutiny on homeless services, the City Council also voted to seek a performance evaluation of the services provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in how city funds are utilized by LAHSA.

As the case unfolds, the spotlight is on Mayor Karen Bass’s Inside Safe program and the city’s efforts to address homelessness effectively and responsibly. The audit requested by Judge Carter and the actions taken by City Controller Kenneth Mejia demonstrate a commitment to accountability and transparency in managing public resources dedicated to helping unhoused individuals in Los Angeles.

Times Staff Writer David Zahniser contributed to this report

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Immigration in Maine Addressing Labor Shortage Could Set Trend for U.S.

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A significant labor gap in Maine’s lobster industry is being filled by immigrants, shedding light on the critical role that foreign-born workers are likely to play in the U.S. economy as the native-born population ages. Maine, known for its abundant lobster population, is grappling with an aging workforce that is increasingly unable to sustain the demands of the thriving lobster industry, valued at $1 billion.

Ben Conniff, a founder of Luke’s Lobster, underscores the importance of immigrants in sustaining the natural resources economy of the state, as many native-born workers are not inclined towards manufacturing work in food processing. Since its establishment in 2013, Luke’s Lobster has heavily relied on immigrants to staff its lobster processing plant, highlighting the vital role played by foreign-born workers in filling labor gaps.

With Maine boasting the oldest population in the U.S., with a median age of 45.1, the state offers a glimpse into the economic future of America, where immigrants are poised to be a crucial source of new workers and economic vitality in the coming years.

As immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in the country, the influx of immigrants has been instrumental in boosting the American economy’s potential. The Congressional Budget Office has revised upwards its population and economic growth projections for the next decade, attributing the growth to the wave of newcomers entering the workforce.

Maine’s initiatives to attract and integrate immigrants into the workforce, such as the creation of an Office of New Americans, reflect the state’s proactive approach towards addressing labor shortages. Private companies like Luke’s Lobster have also taken steps to diversify and supplement the aging lobster fishing industry by training immigrants and minorities in lobster fishing and licensing processes.

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Chadai Gatembo, an 18-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, exemplifies the success story of immigrants finding opportunities in Maine. Despite facing challenges on his journey to the U.S., Gatembo is now on the path to becoming a full-fledged lobsterman, showcasing the potential for immigrants to thrive in new industries.

The influx of immigrants is not without its challenges, with issues of work authorization and economic stability confronting many newcomers. Adriana Hernandez, a mother of four from Venezuela, highlights the economic hardship faced by immigrants awaiting work permits, underscoring the barriers faced by unauthorized workers in integrating into the labor market.

Despite these challenges, the overall impact of immigration on the U.S. economy is significant. Immigrants have helped to bolster job growth, insulate the economy against downturns, and contribute to a more diverse and innovative workforce. Economists predict that immigration will play a crucial role in addressing labor shortages and demographic shifts as the native-born population ages.

The entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants like Chenda Chamreoun, who has risen from lobster cleaning to a quality assurance supervisor and now aims to start her own catering business, showcases the economic potential of foreign-born workers. Immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial, adding to the innovation and productivity of the American economy.

J. Edward Moreno contributed reporting from New York, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington.

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