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Alex Johnson Appointed to County School Board

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has nominated of Alex Johnson to the Los Angeles County Board of Education, the seven-member board that governs the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The Board of Supervisors appoints the members of the board, which exercises overall policy oversight and budget approval, hears appeals on student expulsions and inter-district attendance decisions, and authorizes charter schools. The board also governs the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, International Polytechnic High School and Juvenile Court Schools.

Johnson, a recent candidate for the District 1 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, formerly served as a deputy for education and public safety to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “Alex has successfully worked to deliver mobile health clinics, quality preschool education and literacy programming in county probation camps. He is dedicated to expanding early childhood education and preparing our county’s youngest learners for kindergarten.”

Johnson plans to work cooperatively with state and federal education officials to fund and implement innovative programs that support teachers paying special attention to reducing school dropout rates and preparing students for college admission or training for an occupational career.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “I could not be more pleased with his nomination and I look forward watching him at work on the board.”

Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He earned his Juris Doctorate at American University in Washington D.C. Mr. Johnson previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in The Bronx, New York.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve on the Los Angeles County Board of Education,” said Johnson. “I appreciate Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ support and encouragement. I am eager to begin working on issues that matter to Los Angeles school children including increasing our efforts with educating youth in probation camps and advocating for strong early childhood education.”

Johnson will replace Rudell S. Freer whose tenure on the seven-member Board of Education ends in September.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “I want to thank Rudell Freer for her service on the LACOE Board of Education. Her talents and rich experience in education served the people of the county admirably.”

Added, Dr. Arturo Delgado, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, “On behalf of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, I’m delighted to welcome incoming Board member Alex Johnson. I’m confident he will support our efforts to promote educational excellence for the students and families of Los Angeles County.”

Jobseekers Pursue Empowerment at Job Club

Sinaa Watkins, 43, is a single mother of two with a 19-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. Currently unemployed and living with her mother, Watkins says a job would allow her to get back on her feet.

“It’s all about supporting family for me,” said Watkins at a recent Job Club in Lennox. “If you’re out there and looking for employment, this is for you,” said Watkins.

The Job Club is a bimonthly job search workshop at the new Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center. Held in the Wiseburn Conference Room, the sessions are free to all community members. The program, powered by Community Career Development, Inc. and the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, offers opportunities for networking, job leads and interview techniques along with a sprinkle of hope. The workshop aims to help those who are underemployed, unemployed or starting in a new career by offering resources and employer referrals as well as job training opportunities.

“A just-trained candidate, is a just right candidate,” said Tony Jaramillo, Program Manager for Community Career Development, Inc., the non-profit, community-based organization that leads the workforce development training for jobseekers.

The unemployment rate in Los Angeles County currently hovers at 8.1 percent, exceeding the state average of 7.4 percent; it is nearly two full points above the national average of 6.2 percent according to the Employment Development Department.

The county lost 57,600 jobs in July, although 69,200 were added over the year with an annual growth rate of 1.7 percent. The jobless rate was down from 10 percent a year ago.

“Meaningful work is important because most folks are looking to sustain a living wage to raise the quality of their life here in Los Angeles,” Jaramillo said. “There is a gap in computer skills necessary to secure the higher wage jobs. There seems to be a divide between those that have the ability to be retrained and those that stand on their laurels,” Jaramillo said.

Curtis Blue, 47, from Los Angeles, is an information technology professional who has been unemployed for two years. He attended the job club for the first time to improve his interview skills and look for work.

Having been out of work for two years, Blue discussed the challenges of staying abreast of quickly changing technology.

“Technology is always changing, so not having the hands on experience is challenging. But I’ve learned that I’m not the only one struggling,” Blue said.

The next Job Club is scheduled for 11 a.m. on September 11 in the Wiseburn Community Room at the Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center located at 4343 Lennox Blvd., Lennox, CA 90304.

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County Unveils Pilot Program to Combat Sex Trafficking

Los Angeles County is moving forward to strengthen the safety net for children who have been victims of sex trafficking. After two years of work, county departments are working together to provide wraparound services for these young people.

“It is our job to protect our children,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And we will not empower sick unscrupulous pimps and johns who buy and sell children on our streets to criminalize our children as prostitutes. Our children are victims needing our support.”

1MZ_0150The Supervisor joined Board Chairman Don Knabe and representatives of multiple county departments to unveil the first Los Angeles County pilot program to establish a first responder protocol for sex trafficking victims.

Where once young people picked up on sex-related charges were treated as “prostitutes,” both supervisors, emphasized that no child should be given the label.

“Changing the culture, especially in government, can be very difficult, as we all know,” Supervisor Knabe said, adding “but these girls, who may be a neighbor or may be a relative are being tortured with physical and sexual abuse.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that Los Angeles is one of the nation’s 13 high intensity child prostitution areas, and it is estimated that, 3,000 children in the region are victims of trafficking. The average age these young people are forced or coerced onto the streets is between 12 and13 years-old, and increasingly, sex trafficking is a highly lucrative business run by gangs.

1MZ_0141With the new protocol in place, it is the county’s goal to see that underage victims of sex trafficking no longer are arrested, detained and released in what is often an unending cycle. With the paradigm shift, it is the goal of law enforcement, mental health officials, child protection agencies to surround the victim with care and treatment, ensuring, for example, that they are placed in a safe housing, enrolled in school and given proper physical and mental health services. And the program is only the first of many steps that will be coming to help these children.

The board of supervisors will receive quarterly updates on the results of the new system.

“The pilot is an important first step that establishes a strong response team that will be individualized—treating the needs of each victim, one child at a time,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “What we truly hope is that it creates a bond of trust between these children and the adults who do care about their welfare and have their best interests at heart. With trust, these children can heal. As they heal, they can begin to rebuild their young lives.”

Terracina Apartments Change Lives and a Neighborhood in Athens

Monique Rivers knows what it’s like to struggle. After returning home from a stint in the Navy, Rivers fell on hard times and became homeless. It was rough going—until she found the Terracina Apartments, newly built, affordable units in Athens that she now calls home. Now she has returned to school at the Art Institute and hopes to become a fashion designer.

“I have stability, it’s comfortable, beautiful,” said Rivers. “I like to have my coffee on my balcony and overlook the gardens. Living here has given me motivation and a new outlook on life.”

Indeed, the Terracina Apartments were meant to be just that—transformative not just for individuals but also the neighborhood.

The Terracina Apartments replace an old trailer park on a 3.5 acre brownfield site that was cleaned up. The apartment complex is a $25-million investment in Athens that includes a $5.8-million grant from the LA County Community Development Commission to help finance the project. There are 72 units of low-income family housing, with 15 of the units reserved for youngsters who have turned 18 and have recently left the foster care system. Residents can also receive mental health services and financial, social and educational services from Didi Hirsch and Women Organizing Resources Knowledge & Services (WORKS)

Residents can enjoy a large community room with computer lab, barbeque areas, children’s playground, and a community garden on raised beds where fresh fruits and vegetables can grow. The site is close to the Metro Green Line, Washington High school, Southwest College, Jesse Owens Park and the South Los Angeles Sheriff Station. In addition, the building is Gold LEED certified, meaning that it has high environmental standards with drought resistant landscaping and has solar power.

“I believe that every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This should not be considered a privilege. It is a right. This development represents the best of what government, the private sector and community organizations can come together to accomplish.”

Please click here for another story on affordable housing with services for residents: http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/affordable-homes-in-jefferson-park-now-open/

Economic and Community Development Plan Moves Forward

Increasing affordable housing and expanding employment opportunities has been a longstanding priority in Los Angeles County, but the elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2011, made it difficult for the county to fund these types of projects.  But the county will soon have a new economic plan to boost jobs, business growth and affordable housing projects.

At a recent board meeting, the Board of Supervisors took a major step toward creating an economic plan for the County by setting in motion a Countywide Economic and Community Development Program. The program, championed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, aims to make it easier for small businesses and light manufacturing to operate in the county by expediting the permitting process and waiving associated fees, expanding key trade industries such as aerospace and fashion in the region and streamlining foreign trade.

The program, also calls for the development of a $100-million public/private catalytic development fund that would be used to develop affordable housing and transit oriented development projects in low-income communities.

Before they were dissolved, redevelopment agencies reinvested a portion of tax proceeds into communities to financially support economic development and affordable housing.  The development of a Countywide Economic and Community Development Program is intended to help bridge the financial gap that redevelopment agencies formally fulfilled.