Fraser Hammersly | First 5 LA Digital Content Specialist

February 28, 2023

First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners convened in its first-ever hybrid meeting format on Feb. 9. The agenda included a vote to elect Board Chair and Committee positions, an update on mid-year budget adjustments and First 5 LA’s evolving fiscal context, and a presentation on leading with partnerships in the upcoming year. 

As is customary at the first Board of Commissioners meeting of the year, the Feb. 9 meeting began with a motion to nominate and elect chair and vice-chair positions. 

Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell who joined First 5 LA’s Board this year was elected as board chair, along with Brandon Nichols, who will serve as the Board’s vice-chair. 

“I just want to say how truly excited I am to join First 5 LA in this capacity,” Mitchell said when it came time for remarks from the chair.

“I am looking forward to working collaboratively with my Board members, to really engage in meaningful partnership … because we have an opportunity to continue to provide the amazing staff who call First 5 LA ‘home’ with policy-level guidance and direction,” she added. “I look forward to working with you all and getting to know some of you better, as we talk about the new evolution [of First 5 LA].”

For more information, see the press release announcing the chair and vice chair positions here. 

The meeting also marked the first as Karla Pleitéz Howell sitting in her new role as First 5 LA executive director. During her remarks, Pleitéz Howell took the opportunity to highlight Black History Month, sharing a quote from Rosa Parks: “I had no idea that history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.”

“Many of us have shared just how tired we are of the inequities that children face in Los Angeles County and throughout the state,” Pleitéz Howell continued, drawing a parallel between Parks’ words to First 5 LA’s work. “And we have shared that we are going to leave it all on the field to make sure we make it right. 

“And this is what the opportunity and this first meeting really mean to me, Pleitéz Howell noted. “We are going to write a new chapter together in partnership, and we’re going to leave it all on the field.”

The consent agenda was unanimously approved. For more information, see the agenda here. 

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to presentations, with the first two focused on First 5 LA’s FY 2022-23 mid-year budget adjustments, as well as the organization’s evolving fiscal reality in the context of Proposition 31. 

Chief Operating Officer JR Nino, Financial Planning and Analysis Manager Daisy Lopez and Finance Director Raoul Ortega provided an overview of FY 2022-23 mid-year budget adjustments, summarizing high-level changes to the Board policy limitations.

For more information, click here.  

To speak on First 5 LA’s fiscal reality in the context of Proposition 31, Nino and Ortega shared background on Proposition 31, a voter-approved measure that bans the sale of flavored tobacco in the state as of Jan. 1, 2023, as well as how it is projected to impact First 5 LA’s revenue. 

According to Ortega, Proposition 31 will reduce First 5 LA’s revenue faster than projected, indicating that dependency on the fund balance at the current expenditure rate is not sustainable in the long term.

“Between now and by the end of fiscal year 2027-28, we will have $24 million less than what we originally anticipated, than what’s reflected in our current strategic plan and our current long-term financial plan,” Ortega stated. 

Ortega also shared some next steps that First 5 LA would be taking to address this new scenario. These include aligning the current fiscal reality within the context of Proposition 31 in First 5 LA’s strategic plan review and refinement; updating the Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP) revenues and fund balance to inform future budget reductions and program investments for future fiscal years in alignment with First 5 LA’s 2020-28 Strategic Plan review and refinement process; establishing new spending limits informed by future budget reductions; and updating First 5 LA’s current investment guidelines to account for the changing landscape. 

For more information, click here. 

Next on the agenda was a presentation focused on the role that partnerships play in First 5 LA’s year ahead. To explore the topic, Executive Vice President John Wagner, Chief Transformation Officer Antoinette Andrews-Bush, Family Supports Director Diana Careaga and Los Angeles County Executive Director of Racial Equity D’Artagnan Scorza joined the Board for a discussion. 

As part of First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan review and refinement cycle, which began last July, First 5 LA has been engaging community and County partners as a way of reflecting and informing future work. Part of this process has been examining the role that First 5 LA plays in the early childhood ecosystem with the understanding that First 5 LA does not operate in a silo and that working in partnership is key to achieving First 5 LA’s refined North Star: That every child in L.A. County will reach their full developmental potential throughout the critical years of prenatal to age five. 

Prevention specifically within the context of First 5 LA’s long-standing investment in home visiting and implementation of the 2020-28 Strategic Plan quickly became the focus of the discussion. Wagner shared how First 5 LA’s unique vantage point at the intersection of public and private sectors can help promote prevention strategies that are tethered to community and family voice, particularly as momentum continues to build in terms of investing in this approach. 

“Though we don’t have the scope or scale of traditional County departments, we are connected to those systems by virtue of the fact that so many of those systems are led by many of you on this Board,” Wagner stated. 

To speak on prevention initiatives in the County, Scorza, who leads the County’s Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (ARDI) Initiative and the Prevention Services Task Force, updated the Board on the latest efforts, including how the County is utilizing an equity lens to guide its efforts. 

“We know affluence largely is what drives positive life and health outcomes. We know that really having access to more resources becomes a stronger predictor of how health can be improved in communities over time and that, often, stable poverty and social isolation lead to challenges and limit our ability to take advantage of opportunities that improve our life conditions,” Scorza said, explaining how a life course framework has been developed to understand equity and prevention in the County. 

According to Scorza, proactively examining how policies impact equitable practices has been part of the Countywide vision for prevention, and he explained how focusing on anti-racist practices is an important part of preventing entry into the carceral system. The County’s strategic goals, Scorza shared, are closely aligned with First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan, providing First 5 LA with an opportunity to work together to achieve prevention goals. 

Careaga shared examples of how working in partnership has been a critical strategy in system-building efforts within home visiting, citing the development of the Collaborative Leadership Council’s ability to address system gaps and support the building of an integrated and coordinated system within the County. Additionally, Careaga called out the role partnerships play in sustainability efforts, particularly in the face of declining revenues. 

Finally, Andrews-Bush spoke on the work ahead, sharing how changing public systems in partnership with others can create an at-scale impact that will advance longer-term systems outcomes for kids and families. 

“As First 5 LA continues to review and adapt its Strategic Plan, our intention is to make it a lot more understandable, a lot more meaningful and dynamic, so that our work to change systems meets the evolving needs of children and families,” Andrews-Bush shared.

This work, she noted, includes streamlining First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan, understanding the changing context and addressing the root causes of inequities, analyzing and incorporating lived experiences to inform strategies, and sharpening First 5 LA’s focus to increase impact. 

When it came time for Board discussion, Commissioner Jacquelyn McCroskey called out the ways in which First 5 LA is already working in partnership with County systems and how those learnings can inform Strategic Plan review and refinement. 

“We could really jump-start our Strategic Plan review with some case studies about what roles our different departments and partners are already playing, and what role First 5 plays, and where can we double down on where we’ve been learning and operationally,” McCroskey commented. 

For more information, see the presentation here.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for March 9, 2023. For more information, please visit 72 hours in advance of the date. 

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