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A Good Idea From The Start

"I well remember 15-and-a-half years ago, when a beloved television and movie celebrity, Rob Reiner, addressed hundreds of child advocates at the ICAN Nexus conference. He pleaded for active support of Proposition 10, a measure that would bring resources to California's young children at a level never imagined. And, in order to do this, the Proposition would leverage a tax on a lethal product that was taking the lives of children and adults.

Responding to this inspiring presentation, I worked with child abuse prevention advocates from throughout the county and state to hand out flyers and call colleagues, family, and friends to spread this hopeful message. Late election night, I joined Mr. Reiner and a small group at the Checkers Hotel as the results were being tallied - a frighteningly close race that we followed through a hotel telephone (Prop. 10 wasn't election night TV headline news). We cheered incredulously as the passage of Prop. 10 finally was reported.

The Proposition had passed. Fifty cents on every pack of cigarettes! Next came the task of putting into motion a process to responsibly allocate the funds. Ultimately, a State Commission and County Commissions, including First5 LA, were created and began the exciting yet challenging process of bringing the hope of Prop. 10 into the lives and homes of children from conception to age 5. Because Los Angeles is the largest county in the state and nation, our challenges were greater than the rest. In a creative and important way, the Board of Supervisors directed that our Commission, limited to nine voting members, would be allocated four ex-officio members. That decision brought ICAN, the Commission on Children and Families, the Children's Planning Council and the Child Care Roundtable to the table. The 13 of us first met at the Hall of Administration, moved to rented office space and awaited the construction of the First5 LA headquarters, now well known for its location adjacent to the crossroads of our metropolis.

Now, we look back at 15 years of promoting healthy births, preventing harm to infants and children, promoting early education, medical, dental and mental health, as well as housing and a place to safely sleep. The dedicated staff and the programs we've supported have affected the lives of infants and preschoolers who have survived to be healthy teenagers. As a lifelong child advocate, I'm proud to have been a part of this journey.

Although the positive effect of the cigarette tax has gradually lowered the Commission's incoming funds, we celebrate this success. And we proceed with our commitment to make Los Angeles County a safer, healthier place for children and families with thoughtful measure of what we are able to promote and accomplish on their behalf. This is a great responsibility and a great privilege."

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