Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, is sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve LA, a citywide, citizen-driven movement. With over 104,000 petitions signed and a record-breaking 500+ individual donations from regular people, the Coalition to Preserve LA is a wide and diverse movement of Angelenos from every neighborhood of our great city, who have come together to put an end to City Hall's broken and rigged planning system. We have held over a dozen town halls in all parts of the city, and earned the support of homeowners, tenants, property owners, homeless advocates, environmentalists, social justice activists and civic leaders.
The Coalition to Preserve LA is underwritten, in large part, by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a non-profit whose legions of doctors and nurses are caring for more than 600,000 HIV/AIDS patients in 37 countries.
For 30 years, AIDS Healthcare Foundation has fought social justice battles against governments that fail to serve the people, but are only too happy to help the powerful. We are engaged in that fight today in Los Angeles.
In the mid-1980s, AIDS Healthcare Foundation began with a few friends who fought an ignorant and fear-based statewide initiative to physically quarantine the earliest people with AIDS — they gathered 4,000 people to march in the streets with torches to the L.A. campaign headquarters of the right-wing extremist Lyndon LaRouche.
But they had to fight their own government — L.A. County was putting enormous obstacles in the way of those trying to help people with AIDS.
They have had to continually fight governments as they grew into the largest HIV/AIDS organization in the world, now treating nearly 700,000 people — regardless of ability to pay. They work in 15 states and 39 countries. They employ 5,400 staff, including hundreds of nurses and doctors. Starting with $50,000 in 1987, they now operate with a $1.4 billion budget.
"We must stand against the unmitigated greed and corruption that will forever change L.A."
AHF's holistic approach to fighting HIV and other public health threats takes on issues of race, gender, immigration, stigma and income inequality.
Each year, they lead a day of silent protest in South Africa, where women cover their mouths with tape to highlight the silence about the rape epidemic in that country.
They launched a ballot measure effort to remove the Confederate symbol from the Mississippi flag because the biggest burden we face in Mississippi is stigma against HIV/AIDS, and nothing is more stigmatizing than a hateful symbol of slavery
In 2014, they fought the Geneva-based World Health Organization's tragically flawed handling of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, having seen it first-hand through the eyes of our own doctors, two of whom died while treating Ebola patients.
The same thing is unfolding in Los Angeles.
The Board of Directors of AHF has chosen as one of their core values "fight for what is right," and they agree that Los Angeles is in the midst of a social justice crisis over what this city becomes, who the government serves and how to empower those without power.
How is it possible that L.A.'s economy is thriving, yet our homelessness for years has been growing?
How is it possible that billionaire developers from around the world are profiting in LA to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from deals they cut inside our own City Hall — while our working class, middle class and seniors cannot afford the gleaming, luxury housing towers they build?
How is it possible that we can lose 22,000 inexpensive rent-stabilized apartment units without any discussion about how to save them?
How is it possible that L.A. City Hall is rushing to encourage gentrification with no debate or thought over the human displacement they are creating?
How did we end up with so much government injustice in our own Los Angeles?
These urgent questions have not been adequately addressed by City Hall elected leaders, but are at the center of Yes on Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, for which AHF is the primary funder. We face the same powerful status quo that we have seen in every nation, rich or poor, where we fight for social justice.
In this case, we are fighting our elected government and their status quo political and corporate allies who are defending a broken system from which they all benefit.
Non-profit organizations such as AHF are critical to the fabric of life here and across the globe. Civil society should have every bit as much to say about civic issues as any developer, politician or private corporation. In fact, their opinion—unbiased by greed—is even more important.
In this great city where we were born, that we love and have thrived in for three decades, we must take a stand against the unmitigated greed and corruption that will forever change Los Angeles from a welcoming place to one that is only for the privileged. It would be irresponsible for AHF to simply stand by and let that happen.