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Metro Board to Look at Expanding Express Lanes

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Seeing improved travel speeds, increased transit ridership and new revenues, the Metro Board of Directors has decided to pursue a plan to place more toll roads on other freeways throughout Los Angeles County two years after the first toll program began.

The motion, recently approved by the board and co-authored by Board members Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Director John Fasana, calls for a study to expand the High Occupancy Tolls to other Los Angeles County freeways. The proposed strategy to add toll lanes will be brought back to the board early next year.

Research over the past two years has shown that the toll roads have increased the use of public transportation, including a 27 percent increase in Silver Line ridership and the formation of 117 vanpools. The toll roads have also brought in more than $18-million, far surpassing the goal of $10-million, with 259,524 transponders issued by Metro during the pilot period exceeding the goal of 100,000. In addition, travel times for commuters on both the Harbor Freeway and the El Monte Freeway were reduced.

“Nobody likes traffic,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But with these toll lanes we are seeing some positive results that benefit residents. This is one critical tool in our attempts to reduce congestion and pollution.”

Los Angeles County’s first ever High Occupancy Toll lanes opened on November 1, 2012 on the 110 Harbor Freeway, between Adams Blvd and the State Route 91. The second toll lane opened on February 23, 2013 on the 10 EI Monte Freeway, between Alameda St and the 605 freeway.

Moving forward, the Metro board will continue to operate the existing toll road program while also ensuring that all residents regardless of income have access. In addition, Metro plans an increased effort to improve outreach and public education about the Express Lane program, including more signs with a clear message for motorists to avoid confusion and an additional investment to improve customer service for residents with questions.

Statement of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Diversion as an Alternative to Incarceration

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Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey recently presented an update in the county’s effort to prevent mentally ill people from going to jail and instead receive much needed services.

No one can dispute that jail is the worst place to treat people with mental illness. However, our commitment to diverting this population will require education and training. First responders, such as dispatchers, paramedics, and law enforcement officers, need crisis intervention training in order to know that there are alternatives to incarceration. People often go to jail because they are directed to the criminal justice system at the first responder level.

Too often, we resort to locking up our mentally ill people because of the perception that there is no alternative. But there are alternatives. And now we are well on our way to developing a roadmap for diversion before we embark on building a new, very expensive county jail.

In 2015, this Board will vote on whether to construct what is believed to be a $2-billion new jail. Only $20-million has been set aside toward diversion—a paltry sum in comparison.

The District Attorney will present her comprehensive written report early next year, in response to my May 6, 2014 diversion motion asking for a roadmap the Board of Supervisors can use to make funding decisions as it integrates a countywide diversion plan.

District Attorney Lacey’s diversion plan will seek to coordinate partnerships between county officials and departments, the community, law enforcement officials, defense attorneys, families, health and substance service providers, as well as work source centers and housing providers. Everyone will be at the table.

Clearly, this report will reveal the need for a greater financial commitment from the Board beyond the seed money set-aside this fall. So I make the commitment to advocate for diversion of the mentally ill on the Board and have this be a top priority in terms of county resources and funding.

We have an urgent need to respond to this crisis in our treatment of mentally ill people and I intend to follow through.

Paving the Way for LA to Become a Biotech Leader

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In a move that positions Los Angeles as a leader in the burgeoning biotechnology industry, the Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with the Los Angeles County Biotech Master Plan and to identify biotech opportunities at all five Los Angeles County medical campuses, including Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View Medical Center and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.

The motion recently approved comes on the heels of a 2014 report from the Battelle Memorial Institute which sought to advance the bioscience industry in Los Angeles County. The motion, authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, calls for the creation of a bioscience working group comprised of public and private bioscience experts including representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services medical center campuses, Workforce Investment Board, local academic institutions, and other key biotech and business stakeholders, such as LA BioMed, SoCal Bio, and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

From 2001 to 2010, the biosciences industry in Los Angeles County grew nearly 12 percent, outpacing the national bioscience industry by 6 percent. However, despite the presence of a strong base of research and innovation businesses, the county is losing talent to other thriving biotech job markets due to the lack of venture capital investment and a limited real estate market for commercial lab space.

Modern biotechnology is a growing field of science developing products and technologies to combat rare diseases, improve the environment, reduce world hunger and establish a cleaner energy footprint.

“It is critical that we invest in our future by creating a biomed hub in Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We are an intellectually and creatively rich region and we need to make sure we are maximizing our talents.”

Several experts, and the first ever partial leg transplant patient, spoke at a recent  board meeting in support of the motion.

“It is because of the kind of scientific innovation that is being done around that world that I am able to walk,” said Denise DeMan, who is also the CEO of Bench International one of the nation’s top life science, pharmaceutical & healthcare recruiters. “I was only going to be in a wheelchair but when you see me walk away today, you’ll see me walking in 5-inch heels. That’s the kind of innovation that we also have here in the United States—especially in L.A. County. But we are not exercising it to its fullest and we need your support. Thank you.”

David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations for the University of Southern California, testified that the county could now begin to look at the potential of a biotech industry in a comprehensive way.

“This motion is important not only to the county but to all other biotech stakeholders including the university and other regional academic institutions and businesses because it forces everyone to begin looking at biotech from a broader regional perspective and one of increased cooperation and communication,” he said.

The board is expecting a report back by February on the selection of a consultant, establishment of an advisory group, work plan and timeline for delivery of the implementation plan.

November 2014

November 19, 2014
November 17, 2014
November 15, 2014
November 13, 2014
November 12, 2014
November 11, 2014
November 6, 2014
November 5, 2014

Cornel West to Keynote 2015 Empowerment Congress Summit

Cornel West, the insightful and outspoken, provocative culture critic and professor, will be the keynote speaker for the 23rd annual Empowerment Congress. The Summit, which brings together more than 1,500 Los Angeles County residents, elected officials, community advocates and neighborhood activists for a plenary session and workshops, will again be held at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium on Saturday, January 17, 2015. Stay tuned for further program updates. Registration for the summit will open in next month’s newsletter.