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When voters in Palmdale, Calif., approved a 3/4-cent sales tax in 2020, the money was supposed to go to a local fund to support essential community services. The tax program, called Measure AV, has successfully raised millions of dollars for a lot of good things — maintaining parks, helping veterans, fixing streets and potholes, providing mental health care, preventing crime and upgrading emergency communications. Measure AV was also meant to address serious problems like homelessness, hunger and at-risk youth.
One of Measure AV’s top priorities is to help local nonprofit organizations while keeping total local control over how the money is spent. As the City of Palmdale explains on its website, “100% of this revenue would remain here in Palmdale to keep our community strong and healthy into the future.”
But for many Latino and immigrant residents of this majority-Latino, immigrant-rich city in the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, that promise is false. A much-needed local food bank is in danger of closing this month, and other vital services are in danger, because of the loss of Measure AV funding.
Earlier this year, the City Council eliminated grants under the program for nonprofits that support the Latino and immigrant community — especially Salva, which provides literacy and civics education, civil rights and workplace safety workshops and mental-health and other services. Other groups that were denied funding were the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which supports community organizing, and CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
For Latino immigrants and their family members, the message from Palmdale and its City Council is clear. They are furious that a city whose population is 62 percent Hispanic or Latino has decided to freeze out local nonprofits that mainly serve Latinos and immigrants.
The city’s Latino and Hispanic residents, many of them immigrants, are a vital part of the community. Their labor is the backbone of the Palmdale economy, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To them it is plain to see the City Council’s decision as a backlash against support of immigrants and the undocumented. It is another example of the anti-immigrant fever that has worsened in the United States since the election of Donald Trump, and the refusal of Republicans in Congress to support any spending on immigration except for increasingly harsh enforcement and militarization along the southern border.
It’s no coincidence that other local organizations in Palmdale have been complaining about undocumented immigrants, and have allegedly been pressuring their allies on the City Council to cut off Salva’s funding.
A tax program built on local control that freezes out the local community is a misuse of local power. If a well-established and well-run organization gives essential support to a community that makes up a majority of the population, it deserves to be included. Latino and immigrant residents of Palmdale deserve justice, which is why a coalition of community residents and advocates gathered in the city this Wednesday, December 6, 2023 to pressure the City Council to do the right thing.
The City of Palmdale’s website includes a page explaining Measure AV with the headline “Palmdale Cares.” It says, “The City is committed to strong community partnerships, safe neighborhoods and parks, quality services to support residents, and respectful and responsive city employees, all which make Palmdale a strong, caring and safe community for all residents.”
“All residents” includes Latinos and immigrants. It includes documented and undocumented. It includes everyone, including the vulnerable and the poor.
Palmdale needs to listen to its residents and restore Measure AV funding to the organizations, and the people, who need and deserve it. Otherwise, Palmdale is a city of empty promises.